Meet The MD: Tech Will Save Us founder and CEO Bethany Koby on the importance of nurturing a new generation of 'digital creators'
Tech entrepreneur Bethany Koby is on a mission to transform the next generation into ‘digital creators’.
Founder of London-based educational toy and game company Tech Will Save Us, Bethany has grown the firm from a kitchen-table concept to a worldwide operation across 97 countries.
Bethany took the time to talk with Bdaily about how her business began, the challenges of pivoting to digital and the future of educational play.
Can you tell the readers about yourself first of all - i.e. your background, where you are from etc?
“I like to say I was born in Los Angeles, grew up in New York, educated in Rhode Island, learned how to live in Italy and was enlightened in London!
“I came to London to build my career and met my husband at a communication and research centre called Fabrica which was started by the Benetton group. I left my job at innovation and branding agency Wolff Olins to set up Tech Will Save Us with him.
“Our mission is to help children develop valuable digital skills by empowering them to become digital creators, rather than simply consumers of technology.
“We offer hybrid online and offline learning experiences designed to encourage creativity and play, while sparking an interest in science, technology, engineering, art and maths (STEAM).
“Our products range from Electro Dough Kit, designed for kids aged 4+, to our more advanced games design & coding system Arcade Coder.”
What does your role entail?
“As the CEO I am responsible for the strategic direction of the business, ensuring we have a high performing and driven team.
“I also get pretty deep into our product development and product road map to ensure it is driven by customer need and has exciting learning opportunities.
“I love going to product testing sessions to see kids try out our prototypes and gain valuable feedback as it ensures we create fun and educational experiences.
“In addition, I am responsible for all investor communication and I do a lot of press and public speaking about the future of education and, in these times, the future of learning at home.”
When was Tech Will Save Us set up, and how has it grown since then?
“We started Tech Will Save Us around our kitchen table and have now grown it to a business serving hundreds of thousands of kids all over the world with sales in over 97 countries.
“We have grown from four core products to 25 unique product experiences and a digital platform full of thousands of hours of content, interactive manuals, coding, community, games and badges.
“We’ve won numerous awards from industry experts in toy, education and business and our products have been acquired by the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and the London Design Museum as icons of play-led learning using technology.
“We’ve also raised £7.6m of investment from amazing investors like Initial Capital, who invested in Space Ape and Supercell, as well as edtech specialists Brighteye Ventures.”
What is it about your organisation that motivates and excites you the most?
“Our mission is the reason we all get up in the morning and love what we do.
“Our whole organisation is about creating fun and empowering experiences for kids and helping their parents feel confidence and positive about the future they can provide for them.
“I can’t think of anything better at this moment in time!”
Looking back on the past year, what has been your biggest achievement?
“We made a big decision as an organization to focus on our digital sales channels. We saw that retail was becoming increasingly volatile and we had some great traction on digital so we restructured the team and pivoted to focus on this.
“This was very hard to do but it has been highly effective and it positioned us well for the COVID-19 pandemic (which has seen bricks and mortar retail shutdown entirely).
“In fact, we have seen 105 per cent sales growth since the lockdown as parents shop online for fun and constructive ways to keep their kids occupied. This is a huge achievement and I’m extremely proud of the team for all their hard work.”
What have been your biggest challenges during your time at Tech Will Save Us so far, and how have you overcome them?
“Our pivot to digital was probably the biggest achievement and the biggest challenge. We had to make changes to the team to ensure we had the skills we needed to succeed.
“This was tough but it was a huge help to have well defined values and purpose. We were able to keep the team focused on the mission, something they all care deeply about.
“Indeed, I firmly believe that being a purpose-driven business will be increasingly important post COVID-19, both in terms of getting those most from your team as well as attracting consumers.
“We’ve all been through a period of reflection over recent weeks and we have all reassessed what’s important to us.”
What does the future hold for your company? Any exciting projects in the pipeline we should know about?
“Our goal has always been to become the most optimistic and empowering brand for kids focused on creativity and technology. With 1.5 billion kids out of school globally (11.5 million in the UK alone) we have been working hard to ensure we can serve families well.
“We’ve launched various resources including free homeschooling activity books which have been hugely popular - I use them at home with my two boys and love them. We also just released our Games Designer Club to keep kids inspired and help them develop key skills.
“And finally, we have launched a Seedrs campaign where for the first time we are making it possible for our community to own a piece of Tech Willl Save Us and be a part of our journey, as well as share in our success.
“Hundreds of customers have already taken up the opportunity to invest - doubling what we initially planned to raise.
“This has been enormously exciting for the business. For me personally, equity crowdfunding is a fascinating model for business where the most engaged customers are rewarded but also become part of the governance structure.”
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