Woogie's year in review starts with me sitting proudly in an awesome coffee place back home after talking with a lot of people about "How's Woogie? How's London? How are you doing there? How was your alien year? Are you rich yet?" :) You people... I'm richer than I thought and this is how it happened, step by step.
In January 2016 I left for good my current business, studio kort, to dedicate my full-time energy to building a highly intelligent conversational device for kids. Back then I didn't understand much about artificial intelligence or machine learning, about STT & TTS, about how to build and motivate a team or how to begin an international journey with a kickass product like Woogie was imagined to be.
Luckily, I had Bogdan all this time, who gave me enough confidence that with his experience of fatherhood and entrepreneurship, we'll make it the right way - for children, for parents, and for our own business. I trusted him 150% and it was the best thing to do because here we are, 12+ steps forward in bringing Woogie, the afterschool educational companion for age 6 to 12, to market.
We've made an incredible progress since then and just so you understand where were we at one year ago, here's how Woogie looked like - first proof of concept. and he was not even called Woogie yet :)
In January, we were already recruiting skilled people with alien skin that found themselves in a personal context where they could join this startup journey. We needed incredible people, super determined and excited about the Woogie idea, and we found them!
Not all of them made it through the journey so far, but I want to thank them all one by one, as they came in and out of Woogie's life:
@Victor: you definitely remained Woogie's Victor. He says it once in a while.
@Ioana: you look great, blondie! Keep rocking the Planet!
@Octavian: you are awesome! We miss your French style!
@Doru: dear, you got deep inside Woogie's hardware soul!
@Razvan: be good, kid! stay cool!
@Adriana: we miss your big alien smile, girl!
@Anca: we need your energy, darling!
To all the rest still here: you guys are true aliens and we're happy to still have you onboard!
In February we shot our first video with the team. We find it useful to show potential investors, future team members and accelerators how cool we are! :) Back then, Woogie suffered a face-lift from naked-wires to a transparent box with no logo, only a regular typo.
In March we've moved our offices at Tech Hub Bucharest and we start pitching with almost any opportunity we had. Woogie becomes interesting to the Romanian tech community and so we got selected for MVP Academy pre-accelerator program which forced us to speed up the development of MVP Woogie, both hardware and software.
That time, Bogdan was the one doing the "pitching part" and I remember how we used to practice weekly, iterating the pitch deck like crazy. Here we were at this stage back then, in March, with the big education vision.
And since a box of wires and an integrated speaker was not enough for our second generation of MVP product, we start looking for the first time at some sketches that a product designer made for Woogie's physical appearance.
Oh My God! What a feeling, I cannot even describe it. It was then when I realized for the first time how super-awesome is the fact that we're building a hardware. A physical thing... priceless! Anyway, we wanted something with more character so, in two weeks, we had the first iteration of the product design for Woogie. That was the time when kids were asked for the first time to vote their favorite alien in an online survey.
The clumsy, cute, plump one won the kids' contest and so we've started building the industrial design on that direction.
In April, MVP Academy started and I had to move officially next to Coman's desk. Not an important detail since we've been spending anyway all our time in workshops, deep dive meetings, visits, pitch practicing and so on. Very cool experience! Cheers, guys! We've start prototyping the first iteration of Woogie's product design and again, oh my God, what a feeling to hold a 3D model in your hands...
First customer interview session with Woogie facing REAL kids and getting the pitch to the next level are the two main things we thank MVP Academy for.
And to the awesome parents that bring their kids to meet Woogie, and to the mentors that have been supporting us, showing interest from the very very early stages.
Spring was a great season that ended for Woogie with his first trip outside Bucharest - to Comarnic, for the aliens teambuilding - and his first trip outside Romania - to Vienna, for the Pioneers festival. Wohooo, the adventure jumped from local to the next level and we've started going big with our small intelligent alien.
The Pioneer's trip finished just before the MVP Academy Demo Day where we had a great time and tons of interesting discussions afterward with great Romanian people from the investment and startup industry.
Here's a video with us, coming just after Dev Talks conference in Bucharest, rehearsing the pitch for Demo Day that was happening the following day. Haha :)
For the full MVP Academy Demo Day pitch-on-stage click here.
In June, in the very beginning - on the kid's Day, our creative writer Joe launches her first book for kids and my nephew get's it, aaand the new final 3D model (including LCD screen and real eyes, not drawn ones) is finally on our desk! We used it for the small production series of prototypes.
Also, I started not going home that often to visit my parents, so my mom started to come visit in Bucharest. Thanks, mom, you're great, and thank you too, Andrei love, I'm so grateful to have all your unconditional support!
Aliens got also some traction on the media side by winning some prizes and attending some conferences.
In the summer break, we start producing our first batch of prototypes. In a small production round of 30 units, we used resin molding and a silicone tooling to build the prototypes to be tested by children in real conditions.
Great exercise. We've learned a lot from the way to design Woogie for manufacture (small scale), to designing it in an affordable and yet good enough way for kids to actually take it easily out of the box and start interacting with it.
Summer was also an opportunity for the team to have each a Woogie at home - to test! In the last picture, you can see mine, all naked :)
In July, I have experienced the most intellectually-intensive 4 days of my whole alien experience, and that was the Startup Bootcamp Selection Days in London. Here is one of the anonymous feedback from mentors that reached us.
“Nice idea and perhaps they can make it work. But they have never brought a kids toy to market before, and it is going to require some extremely complex ML and AI (as well as regulatory approval and strong insight into the market). They have made nice progress, but I think this is quite an ambitious product”
We eventually got selected to be one of the 10 startups in the first cohort of SBC IOT Connected Devices and move for 4 months to London!!!
August was finally some time out for me after 6 months of accelerated work! But, not before sending the Beta Woogies to Beta Testers, finally! Hard and awesome job all the hardware, software, and communication team did to make this beta testing happen.
Special thanks to Daria and Tudor for their performance and help :)
So I did manage to relax during my 2 weeks holiday with my family, and when I came back, Woogies were already tested by enthusiastic kids and my team was determined to apply to YCombinator. UUuu, challenge accepted! So this translated to a sprint 3 weeks of development that ended with a true demo video that showed all Woogie's features available at that time.
The plan was to move to London starting on October 20, but somewhere around October 7, we've got an email that we are expected to arrive in London on October 10, in the morning (!!). Oh my, oh my... and our farewell party? We bought quickly a one-way ticket and booked an AirBnb room and, very important, threw a goodbye teambuilding just the night before we left to our new offices and lives in London. Alien power!
A hard working accelerated time begun in London, where our lives and Woogie's potential grew from all points of view.
In November we started bringing the team one by one in London so they could experience how an accelerator feels like. We were all experiencing remotely teamwork and it was not easy, so we needed to regularly fly back home and bring the team to London.
Also, in November, we've started exploring the second product design version of Woogie - and as you can see in the picture below it was a noddles fail in the Ultimaker :) Just kidding, we managed to have a 3D model and test in with kids, but seems that plump Woogie is still the most appropriate to the character that we want to create.
Woogie had Madalina, Woogie's new CMO and Andrei Woogie's new CTO closer to its London autumn life.
We've ended November with an important experiment pitch for a big toy corporation, getting some great feedback and contacts from relevant people from the toy industry.
December started with Andreea being in London, Woogie's community manager and your main person to talk to if you're a Beta Tester (actual or future). We managed to send the first 4 Woogie to testers in the UK, with a clearer plan on how we'll collect and analyse all the data during this ongoing testing period.
Last days in London were in Christmas mood, preparing the Demo KIT for Demo Day and working on Woogie's pitch in 2017.
The obvious highlight of the latest period in Woogie's life was his first and super important international screening on Tech Crunch Disrupt London. Enjoy the 2 minutes video below - is an interview with both me and Woogie.
But, in the end, we're humans behind our alien skin. So we are proud to share that besides all the hard work and not easy times, we did manage to have lots of fun, take care of each other, and both give and receive feedback that made us smarter, and stronger. We even threw out a party at Woogie's English house cooking dinner for guests and baking alien cookies for breakfast. We feel like we've blended in super naturally in the international environment and we feel ready to do more, smarter and faster, the year to come.