Quick Thoughts from TC50: ToyBots

It’s a bit strange that I’ve picked another “kids targeted” startup from the second batch of  startups as my favorite – kids are a notoriously difficult market to acquire online.  But in the case of ToyBots, I believe they are targeting a fantastic opportunity. It is likely that connected toys will be the next generation in toys and I love their example of having grandma read a story to the grandkids through the toy. 

I believe Webkinz laid out a good marketing roadmap for this type of startup.  My kids couldn’t walk into a Justice (previously called Limited Too) without asking for another Webkinz.  I didn’t mind buying a stuffed animal, but am a little more hesitant to offer the kids my credit card for online purchases.  From a business perspective, I was intrigued when my kids ripped off the virtual currency and threw the toy into the corner – never to be played with again.

ToyBots can create a tighter link between toys and a web experience than Webkinz, but leverage the same types of marketing channels. My recommendation would be to link the licensing to the marketing opportunities.  The toy makers already have great distribution, but very few subscription opportunities.  ToyBots can improve the ongoing engagement with kids for each toy manufacturer – increasing monetization opportunities and possibly creating a direct customer acquisition opportunity for manufactures to cross promote new toys.

It’s difficult to know how much progress they’ve achieved, but announced partnerships suggest that this isn’t a half baked idea.

4 thoughts on “Quick Thoughts from TC50: ToyBots

  1. I’m so surprised by your reaction. I thought they were unprepared and didn’t understand either kids or the fundamentals of the retail kids market.

    if they had — as i mentioned in a comment on techcrunch right ahead of you :) — built the “storytelling pillow” that his daughter wanted, they’d have something simple and compelling. I’m imagining a Kindle for kids with a web-based interface (a la Netflix/Roku player). A pillow with some touch controls to select and play/pause streamed audiobooks.

    As it is, they seem to suffer from whiteboarding-itis. Too many features, muddling up their value prop.

    I would argue that a company pitching a “platform” is a company that has no idea who their customers are or what their business model is.

  2. Hey Tim, good points. ToyBots may be trying to boil the ocean with their approach… We’ll see how it works out – we’re all guessing at this point.

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