Ubooly Interview

Carly Gloge tells us about a highly interactive smart stuffed animal that works with iPhones and iPods, Ubooly.

Transcript

Marcus
Well, hey, we’re here with Ubooly and can you tell us your name and your role in the company?
Carly
Yeah. I’m Carly and I’m the CEO and Co-Founder.
Marcus
So what is Ubooly and am I saying it correctly?
Carly
You are. It’s Ubooly and it’s a stuffed animal that’s powered by a SmartPhone.
Marcus
Can you give us a quick demo?
Carly
Yeah. He’s actually talking to me right now. It’s a little noisy in here, but—so, he’s playing a play, pretend game right now. So, I’m supposed to act like I’m a barber for the President. So I’ll walk you through a bunch of games. I’ll double-tap. [Ubooly is talking.] No [Carly is talking to Ubooly.] So essentially he’ll go through a menu of different items; he’ll ask you, “Do you want to play a game?”, “Do you want to hear a story?” And, the kid knows to say that, so he’ll say, “I want to hear a story,” and he’ll move into that. And the new piece that we just launched yesterday is called the Ubooly Laugh, and that allows parents to customize all the content, so they can say, “I want my kid to learn Spanish,” and it automatically syncs the toy over Wi-Fi.
Marcus
Very interesting. How long has the company been around?
Carly
We just launched to the public in August and this was pretty much the prototype last year, so it’s moved fairly quick.
Marcus
What are you guys hoping to accomplish here at Launch Conference?
Carly
We’re actually looking to meet with partners so we’re really thrilled, we just formalized teaming up with the National Wildlife Federation, so we’re gonna have a Ranger Rick path, and that’s----
Marcus
Wow! Very cool.
Carly
Yeah, I’m really excited. So it’s actually going to be treasure hunts for kids to go outside. So, we’ll use Geo-coord and say, let’s see the nature outside and since we have Wi-Fi access, we can actually tell what season it is so we’ll know what the different wildlife will be in the area.
Marcus
So what different sensors, so there’s voice activation----
Carly
Uh-huh.
Marcus
----there’s a screen app, does it use the accelerometer----
Carly
Yeah.
Marcus
----Tell us about those things.
Carly
So if you throw him up in the air, he says, “Wheee!” And with the new app, if you turn him upside down, he gets really uncomfortable and he really doesn’t like being dropped on the floor. The nice thing----
Marcus
And how does he express that?
Carly
So if you shake him he goes, “Whoo whoo whoo whoo whoo whoo whoo whoo,” if he goes on the floor, he’ll say “Ouch!” and he actually gets a little sad. So we want kids to understand that’s not okay.
Marcus
I see. And what kind of response have you had, just for the product in general?
Carly
It’s actually been really strong, I mean Dave LeClaire last year at the show said, “Launch when you are uncomfortable.” We definitely were and we were like really worried, we were like “what are people going to say,” but the community’s been really supportive and kids love it. They sleep with him at nighttime when the phone’s not in there so now we’re really focusing on creating more depth and engagement.
Marcus
What gave you the idea to do this?
Carly
So we made mobile games before and what we were seeing is that a lot of kids were playing our games but they were just throwing—like they thought of apps as disposable, so they were like, download one, throw it out, download another, and what we thought is like, what if we merged traditional toys to build that emotional engagement and we just did a quick prototype and we tested it really quickly and got a great response so we knew we were on to something then.
Marcus
So Ubooly is the product, right?
Carly
Right.
Marcus
And then what’s the name of the company?
Carly
Ubooly.
Marcus
Okay.
Carly
We actually—we trademarked Smart Toy, so that’s kind of our bigger vision and we’re still figuring out whether we’ll keep the company name as Ubooly, but----
Marcus
So this is part of a family of products you are releasing?
Carly
Yeah, we’re going to have a mini-version come out, it’ll also be available for Android in about a couple of months and then we’ll have other characters down the road.
Marcus
What’s the price point on these?
Carly
Twenty-nine ninety-five ($29.95).
Marcus
And can people get them today?
Carly
Yep.
Marcus
Where at?
Carly
Ubooly.com, Amazon.com, and Toys-R-Us.com.
Marcus
Okay. Great. If Ubooly was a Super Hero, what would its super power be?
Carly
Oh my gosh! Uh—surprise! Surprise attacks.
Marcus
Surprise attacks?
Carly
Yeah, he’s a pretty random guy, so I feel like that would be his skill and I’m trying to think of which Super Hero does that, I don’t know.
Marcus
Okay. And now----
Carly
He’s a friendly guy.
Marcus
----you’ve referred to him as a “him,” so is Ubooly a boy?
Carly
Mine is a boy. The girls tend to make theirs girls and that’s why we launched with like the orange color, because it’s gender neutral.
Marcus
And the name as well?
Carly
Yeah. We actually wanted one that wasn’t an English word that was a very specific word, because we are already distributing overseas.
Marcus
Does the name have meaning?
Carly
It doesn’t. We actually found a whole bunch of short domain names and then—that sound like toy companies and then we had kids vote on it and what we got was a really fun thing to say, a little hard to spell, but hopefully everyone will know the name Ubooly in a few years.
Marcus
Yeah. What is your background?
Carly
Design.
Marcus
How do you connect with your target audience to find out what really resonates with them?
Carly
So, we call them. We talk to our customers on the phone, we were actually really explicit about making our 1-800 number like huge, because we want people to talk to us, and then we also have monthly play sessions, so we post on Craigslist, we say, “Come play with a toy, you get to keep it afterwards,” and we actually record all the content for internal purposes to watch how kids are reacting with the product.
Marcus
Basically, user testing?
Carly
Yeah, yeah. And then talking to the parents about what they want to see next.
Marcus
And how many people on the team?
Carly
Right now, six.
Marcus
And you’re in charge?
Carly
I am.
Marcus
All right. Well, thank you very much.
Carly
Thank you. It was really fun.