With a background in finance and media, Estelle Lloyd’s second start-up combines socially responsible business with profit. Azoomee, the kidtech app that provides educational and age-appropriate curated content for children, is expanding internationally at a rapid pace. Estelle shares her growth business insights.
The motivation behind Azoomee
Increasingly, parents recognise that the online environment as it currently exists is completely inadequate for kids. The impact of this poorly curated environment is clear: children are bullied online and viewing inappropriate content on user-generated platforms. The long-term effects are just beginning to be understood and seen – particularly the impact on mental health for children and later in life for teenagers and adults.
We are all glued to our devices and we cannot yet judge the long term impact. As adults, we are equipped to make decisions for ourselves but it’s not the same for children. It was my view that something needed to be done to protect children online.
What is Azoomee?
Essentially, Azoomee came from the idea of editorialising and putting together highly entertaining educational content that is great for kids and gives peace of mind to parents.
We are at a moment in time where the need for our product is completely understood by the user. We are solving a pain point, a need that parents have. The question is whether parents realise that they have this need: do parents understand what’s happening online with their kids, do they understand that free isn’t really free, that free services profile their children who actually become a product?
Parents know how to make good decisions and they need to be trusted. We start working with parents from that relationship of trust.
Our content is curated around the curriculum of 21st century skills and the 4Cs of lifelong learning: critical thinking, creativity, collaboration and safe communication. Our video content ranges from very well-known brands and kids TV shows to more indie productions and hidden gems. We advocate science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) in our content, which parents and kids respond well to.
The platform also adapts to the age of the child; when a child grows older, the content changes accordingly.
Today we also have a portfolio of about 100 games in the app. These are managed on the same principle: we like games that have soft learning components in them — such as fractions, puzzles or maths problems. We have a game on recycling, testing how to dispose of paper, glass or cardboard. We launched it just before Christmas — bizarrely (or not) we weren’t expecting this to generate a huge amount of engagement but it did. Parents are looking at Azoomee together with their children and treating it as a family experience.
Our motto is ‘play to learn, learn to play’ and the emphasis is on parents seeing concrete benefits — it also assuages the guilt so many parents feel, unreasonably, when giving a device to their child.
Growth through partnership
Our expansion has been predominantly through working with partners. Our founding partner was the NSPCC. We work closely with them on best practice, as well as sharing research.
Our second partner, O2, is a distribution rather than a research partner. O2 bundled a two-year subscription to the app with a family tablet sold instore or online in the UK. This enables them to not just sell the device but also the family experience, and it gives us a massive reach. For us, starting as a disruptive company in the edtech industry, this was very important for our long term growth.
On the back of that original partnership with O2, we signed a global partnership with Vodafone, opened an office in Luxembourg as part of that relationship, and began distributing Azoomee in several of the 40 countries where they have a presence around the globe. It’s a huge opportunity for us to grow our footprint.
We are also available via the Appstore, Google Play store and Amazon play store and are frequently featured in the children’s education sections. Azoomee is currently available in 40 countries, in 9 languages and we’re close to signing a number of very large partnerships with telecommunications companies and in the hospitality industry. Today, it’s easier to sell an experience than a device, not only from a marketing perspective but also from a CSR angle. We are offering something to parents who may be looking for a solution like this — or who might not be — but just the fact that it’s available makes them aware of the wider context and issue.
We’ve had great success growing the app, through B2B2C partnerships. Our original approach was direct to consumer, which for an app can be quite challenging. Industries are searching for ways to be more relevant to their consumers, particularly families, which made the B2B2C partnership and distribution route much more attractive to us.
The difficulties facing female founders
My co-founder is male – it would be wrong to call ourselves a female-only led business. We are defined more by our vision than the make up of our management team.
In the UK, there is still a preconception that female founders are not as focused on profit and numbers, and that perhaps their financial projections are not reliable — that businesses created by female founders are more lifestyle businesses than ‘real’ businesses with a real potential of creating a nice return for investors.
That preconception makes pitching for funding even harder — particularly when combined with Brexit, which is already making things quite tough. For example, the current fundraising conditions for us are less favourable than four years ago when we launched.
The only way that misconception will go away is by seeing more and more businesses achieving a successful exit and providing a good return. It may take some time. However, there have been some very successful businesses that have exited recently that are women-led, and every single data point works towards a collective change in thinking
By necessity, this briefing can only provide a short overview and it is essential to seek professional advice before applying the contents of this article. This briefing does not constitute advice nor a recommendation relating to the acquisition or disposal of investments. No responsibility can be taken for any loss arising from action taken or refrained from on the basis of this publication. Details correct at time of writing.