Movers & Shakers Interview with Elnaz Sarraf, CEO & Founder - Roybi RobotPublished Date: 1/29/2021
Elnaz Sarraf is the CEO and founder of the award-winning Roybi Robot – the world’s first AI-powered smart toy to teach children language and STEM skills. It also has been named one of TIME Magazine’s Best Inventions in Education, on the 2019 CNBC Upstart 100 list as one of the world’s most promising startups, and on Fast Company’s 2019 World-Changing Ideas. Elnaz is also a Board Member at the Consumer Technology Association, Small Business Council, and member of Forbes Technology Council.
Growing up as a woman in Iran, Elnaz witnessed the limited opportunities, leading her on her journey in the U.S. to become an entrepreneur and create a technology that would empower children by providing universal access to personalized learning and an education that prepares them for a better future. With 15 years of experience as a serial entrepreneur, Elnaz leads ROYBI (creator of Roybi Robot); an investor-backed EdTech company that raised $4.2 million in its seed round focusing on early childhood education and self-guided learning through artificial intelligence.
Before starting ROYBI, Elnaz co-founded and led a consumer electronics/IoT company, iBaby, serving as the company's President. As an immigrant and female founder, Elnaz has made worthy accomplishments in a short duration of living in the US. Honors include being selected as Nasdaq Entrepreneurial Center Milestone Maker, named the Woman of Influence through Silicon Valley Business Journal, and Entrepreneur of The Year in Silicon Valley. She has been a speaker at several conferences such as the Mobile World Congress, ASU GSV Summit, Consumer Technology Association, and more.
Vishal Sapru (VS), Co-Founder, Cognitio Research Inc. had an opportunity to conduct a Movers & Shakers interview with Elnaz Sarraf (ES), CES & Founder, Roybi Robot
VS: Can you provide a brief overview of the company including the vision behind its formation?
ES: Our children’s education needs to change. There are over 250 million children globally at risk of not reaching their potential by age five because the education system is one-size-fits-all and it is not expandable. On top of that, the world has a 69 million teacher’s shortage.
Our mission is to provide a personalized learning experience to highlight every child’s ability and interest rather than one-size-fits-all. We provide an infinite learning opportunity to set children apart for future success & promote active learning, creative thinking, and problem-solving skills.
VS: Please, describe your ROYBI Robot solution? How does it work and what is the unique value proposition of your solution and its key competitive differentiators?
ES: ROYBI is an AI-powered educational robot for kids aged 3-7 in language learning and basic STEM. ROYBI utilizes AI to personalize learning based on the child’s learning ability and interest. ROYBI has facial detection to say hello and initiates friendly conversations.
It is conversational and detects what the child says during practice time. It detects if the child is happy or sad. It also evaluates their emotions during the practice time.
ROYBI Robot creates smart reports for parents and educators to track learning progress, pronunciation scores, and much more. Parents can play, schedule, and check their favorite lessons on companion iOS and Android apps. ROYBI is the best educational toy for homeschooling and remote learning to make learning fun through play and innovative engagement.
VS: What are some of the likely challenges ROYBI Robot is expecting to face in the market and what strategy do you have in place to overcome it? Challenges could be real time data, accurate data, customization, changing lessons, etc.
ES: I think the most challenging part is diversifying our data sets. We need people from different socio-economic backgrounds, accents, genders, and racial profiles to be included in any set of data that is going to be used for training our systems. We need to strongly discredit any data set that lacks diversity in its collection. Also, we need to have a set of regulations for data collection that, while protects the consumers, also can allow scientists and developers to not fall behind the research. If we’re too slow to collect data because of strict regulations, we will not have enough data to advance in the field, so we need more efficient rules for the consumers and scientists. The challenge is dealing with very strict rules takes time which generally slows us down. Therefore, our technology will take a longer time to evolve and mature.
VS: What is your strategy in regards to offering best value to children for the price, compared to similar offerings from competitors? if any?
ES: The value ROYBI brings to children is more than just a device or its price. ROYBI is a life-long companion tutor that can grow with the child and teach them many skills during different stages of their life. As we add more languages and make our AI engine more powerful every day, we predict that we would be able to make ROYBI one of the widely used education tools both at school and at home. I also need to mention that one of our biggest differentiating points is that we reduce the passive screen time and replace it with interactive learning that helps children with brain development as well as social skills.
VS: What do you want the company to accomplish in next 5 years and how will you define success for ROYBI Robot?
ES: Because of the pandemic and the rush to find practical tools for remote learning, professionals in the education sector are now more open and willing to use technology. So, we predict that with the addition of users and more engagements with the technology, we will be able to improve and enhance our technology even more to benefit education.
That said, our goal over the next few years is to create a global community of users and provide various tools and content to make learning more accessible whether through in-person classrooms or virtually. We believe learning can continue anywhere and we put a high emphasis on making learning fun through our intuitive content.
VS: Could you elaborate on the acceptance or adoption of your AI-Powered ROYBI Robot in the marketplace and are there any client testimonials that can be shared with us? Also, do you foresee the acceptance of your solution to have influence (trend setter) on the overall direction of the market?
ES: We’ve gained a tremendous number of awards, and recognition for our approach in changing the way children learn. From being featured on Time Magazine to receiving awards such as Parent’s Choice Award, STEM.org Authenticated, to even receiving award from Finland Education Alliance for our high-quality pedagogy approach.
We now have thousands of customers worldwide and expanding continuously. Our goal is to make at least 1 million ROYBI Robots available to children over the next couple of years to help children learn through our interactive system based on their learning ability.
VS: Are there any unique features of your solution that address unmet customer needs and competitors are unable to replicate and replace?
ES: There are many factors that make ROYBI very unique. First is its friendly design. Our team has spent over 4 months to create a friendly robot that is gender neutral and can build trust. We continuously get awards and recognition regarding our one-of-a-kind design especially that it comes with different hats and accessories so children can dress it in a way they like.
Second is our technology. ROYBI is the only robot in the world that has Automatic Speech Recognition Engine that is developed primarily for kids. Many other voice AI technology companies only focus on adults or ages 13+. This adds a high value to our robot because it’s only focus is to improve children’s learning experience.
And least but not the last, ROYBI is the first-ever robot to focus on communication, speech, and language skills. There are 1 out of 12 kids in the US alone who experience some sort of speech disorder. ROYBI is designed to support children by focusing on their communication and languages skills while teaching them many subjects through our vast library of content.
VS: Do we have any vendors in the market with complementing or similar products. How do you compare yourself with such competitors in regards to offering Best-in-Class solution?
ES: ROYBI has always been at the forefront of education technology. That is one of the reasons that we were featured two times on the cover of Time magazine as one of the best inventions in education. That said, ROYBI is the first-ever bilingual robot to focus on personalizing learning experience for children utilizing artificial intelligence and machine learning.
We work with many educational institutions as well as teachers and experts in the fields of early childhood education, social emotional learning, ELL (English Language Learning), speech disorder and many more to ensure our technology and content hold the highest standards. Therefore, we are constantly improving our content and evolving our technology to suit the 21-century skills and learning needs.
VS: What are your marketing and product positioning strategies? Do you plan to form any strategic alliances and/or partnerships? How do you plan to build and strengthen the brand?
ES: We are continuously looking for new partnerships in content, distribution, technology, and even partnerships with government entities and schools. We are on the path of making ROYBI the household name as we expand our global outreach and gain more users through our marketing efforts. We currently have thousands of customers in more than 30 countries and expanding. Now, with pandemic, our focus has shifted mainly to online sales and virtual learning rather than physical stores. But post-pandemic we will see a good balance again in our online and in-store availability.
VS: As a general conclusion, what do you think the future holds for your solution? Is this content upgrade free for customers or is there a subscription model?
ES: Currently, ROYBI comes with over 500 free lessons, songs, and stories that include over 70 categories and topics. The topics range from math to science, tech, art, biology, chemistry, and many more. These programs will stay free forever to ensure serving the need of a larger community. However, we just launched our marketplace with the new language addition, Mandarin (Chinese), which will be on-demand purchases. Our Mandarin content has received a tremendous amount of traction since many of our customers want their children to become bilingual. As we grow our content programs, we will be focusing on adding more modules to enhance the learning experience of our users.
VS: As a general conclusion, what do you think the future holds for your product?
ES: We’re strongly focused on creating a connected community where learners, parents, and educators can come together to make a larger ecosystem. This help us to make ROYBI and its technology available to as many children as possible and to provide quality education through an interactive learning experience.
VS: Any other information you may want to share with our readers that may be important and we missed asking?
ES: If you are interested in working with ROYBI, shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org