founder

Founder Profile: The Female Founder Creating Family Connection Through Tech

Summary

At time of publication, June 18th, 2019, Caribu is available to reserve a spot in the $1,070,000 offering.

It’s funny, we live in an age where there seems to be endless options when it comes to communication tools and yet there are still so many situations where traditional Skype or Google Hangouts just doesn’t work.

For instance, any grandparents out there probably know the struggle of having your small grandchildren get on the phone and jettison the conversation in a myriad of directions as they get lost in their own thoughts and distractions. However, that type of communication between kids and grandparents or kids and parents is one of the most important there is, which is what makes Caribu so exciting.

Maxeme (Max) Tuchman, an incredibly resilient and bright founder herself set out to solve this problem by creating a fun and engaging communication tool that lets kids and adults interact in a way that makes calls to the grandkids a bonding moment rather than a chaotic one.

We sat down with Max to learn more about the how Caribu came to be and where it is headed!
Chris Lustrino

Max can you give us the short story on how Caribu came to be?

Maxeme Tuchman

We saw a picture of a soldier trying to read a book to his daughter through a webcam and it broke our hearts. How is it that he was out there possibly giving his life to keep our families safe and this was the best technology available for him to make sure his daughter got a bedtime story?

 Experts recommend that children read or be read to for at least 20 minutes a day but millions of family members like grandparents, traveling or divorced parents and our US Military are separated by distance and they use smartphones and tablets to stay connected. But video-call technology wasn’t built for children and it doesn’t really lend itself to reading a book together, so we built Caribu. And because our company was inspired by the US military we’ve partnered with the non-profit, Blue Star Families, to donate free subscriptions of Caribu to all currently serving US military.

Chris Lustrino

As a female founder who has raised millions, what would you tell other female entrepreneurs who have struggled to raise capital?

Maxeme Tuchman

Less than 2% of Venture Capital goes to companies based in Miami, less than 2% goes to female-founded companies, and less than 1% goes to companies founded by women of color, so all the odds were against me. This is why I gathered my airline miles and started throwing my hat into the ring for any pitch competition I could find.

 I have an amazing consumer product so every time I pitched we got tons of downloads from the audience, tons of free marketing from the organizers of the competition, and in some cases non-dilutive cash! In our first year we won over $100K in cash and prizes and kept the company afloat until we could raise our $1.3M seed round. Now I’m the 59th Latina to raise over $1M in funding.

 For women who would like to be investors, I think equity crowdfunding is the perfect first investment for getting your feet wet. The due diligence has already been done by the platform and the check size is manageable. We’re hoping to turn hundreds of women into angel investors with our campaign this summer.

Chris Lustrino

For those that don’t know, what is Caribu?

Maxeme Tuchman

Caribu is an interactive video-calling platform that helps parents and grandparents to read and draw with children when they’re not in the same location. A trusted adult and child call each other through a Caribu video-call, choose a book, and read or draw together in real-time on a shared screen. There are hundreds of books, and educational workbooks to choose from in seven different languages. We have customers reading together in 164 countries and have high-quality globally recognized publishers like Mattel, Highlights, and Sesame Street.

Chris Lustrino

How has the business evolved over time and what have you learned about how families interact with your platform?

Maxeme Tuchman

When we did a Product Market Fit survey earlier in the year we found out that our core customers were Glammas (glamorous grandmas). It made total sense. Glammas are 50-70, they’re tech-savvy, this is their first grandchild and they want to build a relationship with them, they have the most disposable income of any age group, and make 4x what a millennial mom makes.

 So when we think of who drives the engagement for the multi-generational family to connect, it was Glamma. Again, kids want to do an activity together. The weekly video-call with grandma can feel like the Spanish Inquisition if it’s just going back and forth with questions and answers, so adding a book or a coloring sheet or playing tic-tac-toe becomes an icebreaker to longer and more meaningful conversations which create lifelong memories for the whole family.

Chris Lustrino

What type of feedback do you get from customers of the platform?

Maxeme Tuchman

We get “Thank you!”, a lot. This is a game-changer. It’s the FaceTime kids don’t run away from.

Chris Lustrino

Can you talk about the monetization model of Caribu?

Maxeme Tuchman

Our platform is an app that is sold and distributed through the Apple and Google Play app stores. Our basic subscription allows unlimited access to the library and video-calls for $6.99/month, we plan to increase the price soon, and we do a 50/50 revenue share with our publishers.

 We also are rolling out a yearly and lifetime subscription, and we have multi-month gift subscriptions available for holidays which are perfect for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Grandparent’s Day, and the winter holidays.

Chris Lustrino

What has user growth looked like to date and how do you plan to scale the business?

Maxeme Tuchman

Until recently, we had been trying to build and market Caribu for everyone. The reality is that Caribu is a better video-call alternative to FaceTime or Skype for any situation where a child spends time away from family often, such as military families, parents who travel for work, divorced parents and so on. However, when we set out to nail down our product market fit, we narrowed down our most engaged demographic – grandparents.

 Being an emotional product with a game-changing experience for families, we have benefited from great organic growth and have also had great results with paid advertising, primarily on Facebook with the grandparents. Our scaling plan is to actually take a step back and focus on one or two key demographics at a time. Make sure we understand what is the best approach to reach them and that also ties into pricing and product strategy. Owning one market at a time, we can have a more predictable and sustainable growth rate given that we are still a small team.

Chris Lustrino

What challenges do you face in scaling the business?

Maxeme Tuchman

We’ve mitigated some of our bottom of the funnel challenges by building out our product team but we must continue fortifying and improving the platform and building IP for groundbreaking technology. Another challenge is finding the right mentors and advisors to build the best evidence-based and research-driven technology for children and seniors to use. The last challenge is, of course, funding to aggressively scale adoption and growth.

Chris Lustrino

Are there any competitors to what Caribu does today and how do you stand out from those competitors?

Maxeme Tuchman

Truly, the main technologies that glammas use to build long-distance relationships with their grandchildren are FaceTime (if everyone in the family is iOS) and Skype and WhatsApp.  Facebook Portal is the only video-chat with a little more interactivity. Larger incumbents (FaceTime, Skype…) have been focusing on their enterprise offerings and are unlikely to diversify into markets for children or glammas.

 The lack of interactivity and engagement for young children on these platforms is the source of the problem Caribu solves but these companies could be potential acquisition exits.

Chris Lustrino

What do you see as the exit strategy for Caribu?

Maxeme Tuchman

We build for global domination but are very aware that we’ll be an attractive acquisition target in a couple of years. Acquisition by a large strategic buyer in the children’s publishing or distribution space. Edtech company looking to expand into the books or early childhood education category. We are continuously thinking of how to best position ourselves for a successful exit down the road, and the value that a buyer could gain from us — such as our publishing and author partnerships, data, team, and technology.

Chris Lustrino

How do you plan to allocate funds raised in this round to grow the business?

Maxeme Tuchman

We need to keep growing the team in engineering and marketing and scale our marketing efforts to reach more glammas.

Max is an energetic, passionate and bright founder who is building an intriguing new communication platform that could solve a real need in keeping families closer together.

 If the concept resonates with you, Caribu is available for investment

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About: Chris Lustrino

A Boston College Eagle for life, on a mission to democratize startup investing for all people at KingsCrowd, with a passion for Fintech, investing, social impact, doing well and doing good, and an avid runner, cyclist and writer.

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