By Nancy Dahlberg
Maxeme Tuchman’s appearance on the Today Show Nov. 12 helped set off a flurry of holiday orders for her Miami-based edtech startup Caribu. That was to be expected because Caribu’s video-calling solution brings kids together with their friends or relatives to read, draw and play games toether. But the national media exposure also helped reel in new strategic investors, which resulted in a capital boost from a group of female and minority funders.
That’s not all. November saw Caribu become an e-commerce company for the first time, because the startup bundled subscriptions for Caribu with physical books from one of its publishers. Children received a book they could touch and feel as well as a way to connect on Caribu and read together with their loved ones anywhere, anytime. Sales on Black Friday alone brought in half of November’s revenue, said Tuchman, Caribu’s CEO who co-founded the company with Alvaro Sabido.
Caribu’s new investors – a group made up entirely of women, Hispanic and Black investors -- were eager to jump in after one of them saw the 4-minute feature story on the Today Show. Amid the surge of interest for the startup, which also 10Xed its growth early on in the pandemic, Caribu raised $2 million from the investors in December, as part of the $5 million it has raised since 2019. Tuchman plans to raise a Series A round this year.
“I'm excited about diversifying our cap table and also they're just all fantastic strategic partners who just are so bullish on Caribu,” said Tuchman, a strong propoent of gender and racial equity in venture capital, which has sorely lagged. “I'm so excited about 2021 with them on board.”
Then on Dec. 2, Caribu was recognized by the Apple App Store as 1 of 15 apps and games that inspired the world in 2020. “I am so proud of our incredible team, without whom this award would not be possible, and we'll continue to work hard to make Caribu the best app for families to stay better connected during these trying times and beyond,” Tuchman said at the time.
Caribu’s team has grown from 4 to 12 since the pandemic, with families seeking out interesting and fun ways to bring far-flung family members closers through technology. Virtual baby-sitting use cases developed, as grandma in another state canbe entertaining the kids on Caribu, while mom’s on a Zoom call for work. Caribu also made a series of opportunistic moves during the pandemic, such as offering teachers a virtual Caribu library and expanding its games content.
With the vaccine rollout slow and not including children until more studies are completed, Tuchman sees no letup in pandemic-related demand well into 2021 and perhaps beyond.
“We’re not just an app – we’re building out this educational and family entertainment platform.”
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