First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Elnaz Sarraf: Thankfully, we’re doing well and trying to use this time to reconnect with each other more and create memories together.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded ROYBI.
Elnaz Sarraf: I am what some would call a serious entrepreneur. I have always had an interest in building a business from scratch, and seeing an idea come to fruition with a team of like-minded people. So I started ROYBI in 2017 to address a gap in educational technology for children in PreK and preschool.
How does ROYBI innovate?
Elnaz Sarraf: We have created the first-ever interactive learning tool for children aged 3-7 that engages children in learning languages, communications, and simple STEM concepts with artificial intelligence. Certified teachers, professionals, and academics design our lessons. Our product allows children to practice self-guided learning with the aid of AI.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Elnaz Sarraf: Demand has gone up for our product, but production and shipments have slowed down because of the pandemic. We have all gotten more involved in helping our customers with concerns about shipments. And as for demand, we now have a much larger community of families, which because of the lockdowns, are much more available to meet us while they’re at home to give us feedback—that is very valuable to our growth.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Elnaz Sarraf: When you’re building a business from scratch, you face hard choices almost every day. I’ve learned to allow myself a brief moment alone at night to review my day and think about these decisions and whether I could have made better choices. You can’t be afraid of making the wrong choice because then the fear holds you back. To succeed, you need to trust yourself and allow yourself to make the wrong decisions every once in a while.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and ROYBI in the future?
Elnaz Sarraf: I go for walks when I feel overwhelmed or stressed. Being outside, getting some fresh air, and walking have always helped me think better and relax. We want to democratize education for young learners worldwide and introduce them to the latest technological advances at an early age. We believe that with self-guided learning, children can become lifelong learners.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Elnaz Sarraf: Interest in education technology companies is booming now because of the pandemic, both from the consumer and investment sides. But we believe that we have a strong foothold in the industry because most other tools are designed for older children, while our product is uniquely created for children in PreK and Preschool. Also, we are one of the few companies that focus on communications and interactive learning, rather than following a passive model that requires the child to sit for long hours in front of a large screen. We want children to learn social skills, listening, and speaking skills while also getting introduced to STEM concepts with fun and playful lessons.
Your final thoughts?
Elnaz Sarraf: I think we are now in a unique moment when students, parents, and educators are forced into adopting digital tools in education. I think we should all be observant and, with a sharp focus, look at how we can improve the technology to work for us better in the future and enhance the science of learning.