Teddy the Guardian Talks Post-CES About the Future of Their Huggable Tech
In January, CRDF Global brought Croatian startup, Teddy the Guardian, to the U.S. to exhibit their latest innovation at the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. As winners of the 2013 VentureOut Challenge, an initiative by World Bank’s infoDev in collaboration with CRDF Global, Teddy the Guardian received $10,000 in seed funding and a sponsorship to present their product during the electronics show. Two months after their CES exhibition, Teddy the Guardian is as busy as ever having received both international attention and recognition. Lucky for us, we were able to catch up with Teddy the Guardian Founder, Josipa Majc and Co-founder, Ana Burica, to talk about their experiences at CES and what the future holds for Teddy the Guardian.
CRDF Global: First, for those who aren’t familiar with Teddy the Guardian, if you could tell us a little bit a about it. What was your inspiration for the startup? Where did the idea come from?
Josipa Majic: Teddy The Guardian is not our first start-up. We have been involved in the field of med-tech for two years now. We have put great focus on developing high quality, dedicated communication with medical staff in the clinics we have collaborated with in order to deliver completely tailor made software solutions that save their time and optimize business results at the end of every year.
At some point, we noticed that nurses in pediatric departments were using plush toys to calm children down or distract them in order to take their vitals. It was easy to no ice and conclude that interacting with traditional medical devices is something most of the children are not willing to do. The solution we suggested was Teddy the Guardian, a toy that combines medical sensors with a child-friendly, plush design and takes kids’ vitals seamlessly while they are playing, avoiding unnecessary excitement and frustration.
CG: How did you get to CES 2014?
JM: We applied to the VentureOut Challenge organized by CRDF Global and InfoDev that took place in Moldova, at the end of the last year and won. That was definitely one of our favorite challenges we had a chance to be a part of. The emphasis on regions that possess enormous potential but are not yet given that much space to prove themselves, like Africa, Caribbean or Eastern Europe, really did result in impressive entrepreneurial stories. One of the awards of the Challenge was CES 2014 attendance and that seemed like a perfect fit for Teddy the Guardian. So, a part from winning the Challenge we also got the opportunity to exhibit at CES together with CRDF Global’s representatives, which was definitely the biggest chance Teddy had ever got.
CG: Can you describe your experience there (at CES)?
Ana Burica: Our CES experience was unique. We had prepared ourselves for Teddy’s first official landing in the US, but CES was a lot more than we expected. The fact that this event is the biggest consumer electronics show in the world became clear only after we realized that 20,000 new products were presented there, one of them being Teddy the Guardian, the first smart plush toy of its kind.
CG: How did you find out about the VentureOut competition?
AB: More than a year ago we participated in an infoDev sponsored Mobile App Camp in Macedonia with previous start-up, IDerma. The organizer of that event was Aleksandar Filiposki from Youth Entreprenerial Service (YES) Foundation, a very capable young gentleman whom we stayed in touch with after we left Macedonia. He called us one day saying that there was a VentureOut Challenge coming up and that we simply had to apply to that. Fortunately for us, we did!
CG: Teddy the Guardian has received a lot of news coverage in the U.S. and abroad since CES. What kind of connections did you make at the show, and how have they helped you?
AB: Without the assistance of Yuritzi Acosta [Associate Program Manager for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at CRDF Global] and Carole Russo [CRDF Global’s Development Manager] it would have been impossible to handle the amount of interest Teddy generated in that short period of time. It was simply incredible to see how many opportunities this concept could have in the future. Completely new markets opened up for us, new leads were generated and the word was spread throughout the US, which helps us significantly to build our community and validate the concept we are introducing.
CG: To my understanding, you have been trying to set up your first hospital product tests. Tell us about that process (if you can). How is it going?
JM: Teddy the Guardian is intended for both B2B [business to business] and B2C [business to consumer] markets and the demand coming from the B2B direction includes hospitals and pharmaceutical companies. We were contacted by one of the largest hospital chains in the US to set up a clinical trial and prove the hypothesis we have set. Besides that, we have a list of kindergartens and child development centers where we will test the first batch of Teddies as well. That is a rather complex process that will be crucial in revealing a lot of potential space or needs for optimization prior to entering the market. Therefore, we will put a lot of time in conducting the first testing cycle.
CG: The word is that you were planning on making a move to the U.S. How is that coming?
JM: The United States is undoubtedly the type of a market that is absolutely ready for Teddy the Guardian. In that sense we realize that being close to our customers is very important. We will establish our presence there in the matter of months once our sales team identifies the right moment to do so.
CG: What does Teddy the Guardian's future look like? What are your plans for the future?
AB: We really do have big plans for Teddy in the next couple of years but we are also focused on the small steps in this phase while releasing the first version of Teddy, which is our top priority. There are other markets interested in adopting this concept and there are other plush toys as well we plan to introduce at some point. Opportunities really are numerous and we are here to set new standards in pediatrics.
CG: What things has this experience helped you do that you wouldn't have been able to do otherwise?
AB: It is a big confirmation that what we are doing has a real purpose just as we thought it would. The chance to exhibit at CES with this kind of support provided by CRDF Global, InfoDev and The World Bank really was an eye opening experience that shaped a lot of decisions made right afterwards. This experience has definitely been one of our biggest milestones so far.