SaaS Founder Interview with Elnaz Sarraf, Founder & CEO of ROYBI Robot
Tony Zayas 0:07
Hello, welcome everyone. It’s the tech founders show on. We’re excited about this week, we, you know, we really enjoy our conversations talking with tech founders, who have, you know, are leading the charge of rapid innovation and using disruptive technologies, learning all about those technologies, how they took the product to market and the kind of the journey that goes along with that. So I’m Tony’s is joined, as always by Andy halco. Andy, how you doing today?
Andy Halko 0:37
Sunny, shining, shining, life is great. And I’m excited, you know, you know, I’ve got a five and seven year old daughter’s. So this is such a cool little product for us to be talking about that. I’m super excited to hear more on the journey and all that stuff. So this will be great.
Tony Zayas 0:55
Yeah, for sure. So, without any further ado, we’ll bring in our today’s guests, we have Elena Seraph. She is the CEO and founder of royalty robot. So let me bring her into the screen. Hey, all nuns. How you doing?
Elnaz Sarraf 1:12
today. Good. Thank you. Hi,
Andy Halko 1:14
I’m dini. Hey, thanks for joining us today.
Elnaz Sarraf 1:18
Thank you for having me on. And little robots today.
Tony Zayas 1:24
Yeah, that’s awesome. So before we dive into the whole story about how you brought this to life, and to market and all that, I want to hear how did your pitch with Mr. Wonderful go?
Elnaz Sarraf 1:38
He was actually really awesome. You know, he was the very, very first time you know, we pitch to somebody who is really influential, you know, when it comes to investment in tech, and he was quite different than, you know, Shark Tank. He was like, you know, we had to answer a lot of questions. He asked me a lot of numbers, but he gave us really good feedback. He said he really liked the product. And he also said, you know, it’s a very special space in education. So it was very exciting. Thank you.
Tony Zayas 2:12
That’s fantastic. Yeah, what a great experience. Very cool.
Andy Halko 2:18
Tell us a little bit about the product. What is it? And, you know, and who is it for?
Elnaz Sarraf 2:24
Absolutely. So this is Roy Irby. It’s an AI powered educational robot for kids aged three to seven in language learning and basic stem. So what he does is our focus with gobies, language teaching communication skills and some basic STEM activities. In this conversation, also, every time a child works with royalty or plays with Roy B, it goes through certain lessons on a daily basis. We have like many categories, math, science, you name it more than 73 categories. So they talk me through a B and it allows the child to actually practice their communication skills. I don’t know if you know, but it’s a one out of 12 kids in the US alone. They have some sort of speech disorder because they’re constantly glued on tablets, phones, TVs, right. So they don’t talk that much. And Roy B really helps them to communicate well, and it teaches them many subjects right now. It comes with over 500 free lessons. And in two languages. We have English and Mandarin Chinese.
Tony Zayas 3:34
Andy Halko 3:36
Yeah. Can I get one of those little helmets for myself?
Elnaz Sarraf 3:46
Yeah, it’s funny. You mentioned last year, when we went to the CES show, it’s you know, as you know, it’s the largest consumer electronics show. And I had his hands on my head, and everybody was stabbing me, what is this? So he was really good.
Andy Halko 4:05
That’s fantastic. Cool. So how did you come up with the concept? What, you know, what’s the origin story for? You know,
Elnaz Sarraf 4:13
I think, you know, first and foremost is my personal story. You know, my personal experience when it comes to education. I mean, I moved to the US about 15 years ago, I’m from Iran. And even back then, you know, I was really fortunate that my parents paid a lot of attention to my education. I started learning the English language very early age, no, and I started Oh, I Tech, I was like assembling computers, you know, so many things. And I when I moved to the US, I was already able to, you know, communicate the language and it’s really helped me to become the person I am today. So when I saw all the great opportunities education gave me and I remember my parents would always say, if you have a good education You know, you can lose all your dreams. And that is really true. But not everybody has access to all this right. So what I wanted to do is to give children Yeah, bat to actually learn based on their abilities and interests, and also provide them with quality education. But if you look at the education system is really one size fits all, it is still very traditional, it really takes time for the education system to change. And that’s why we wanted to start our leader robot with advanced AI technology, to start the change from home environments and gradually take that towards the education system. And that’s where the idea came, you know, I, I was talking to my co founder, he also has three keys. And we kept saying, Oh, my God, this is a huge problem, we have to find a fix for it. And that’s how Robbie was born on everything individually, you know, companies very passionate about education, and truly making a change.
Tony Zayas 6:04
That that’s fascinating in the point on education, you know, our educational systems have kind of been the same for generations. I love that. How you how you stated that you said, you know, what could we do basically start from home to influence that because you know that the educational system is so massive to have changed there, it’s going to be very slow and take time, but you saw a path to influence change sooner than later. So that’s fantastic. Now, as far as the, as Roy B actually goes, what he said it’s AI. So what power is that? Is that like language processing and language learning?
Elnaz Sarraf 6:49
Yes, so we have ASR engine, which is an automatic speech recognition engine, specifically designed for kids. We know there are not many companies, I would say we are literally, probably one company in the world is really working on speech recognition for children in early childhood education ages between two to eight. And it says very, very complicated area. And that’s one of the most powerful aspects of Ruby, because it can recognize what the child says during the practice side, it can recognize if the answer is right or wrong, it can motivate the child, we’ve been working on this technology. For the past three and a half years, we also acquired the company last year in February, which added over five years of technology over 150,000 children’s data, of course, COPPA compliant. And it’s really helped us to start training our machine and be able to really recognize better. And as you know, you know, the way children talk is very different. There’s so many variations or even one vocabulary. So it’s a work in progress. But that’s the brain of Ruby. And then we have other technologies that we use these, we use face detection to initiate conversations and attraction with the chart, we also utilize a motion detection. This far we haven’t deployed publicly yet, but it is under development, that once we do it is patent pending, what we do is actually we analyze the child’s emotions during the practice time to understand if they’re excited, if not, if they’re not excited, that means maybe that category is not really part of their interest. And our goal is ROI. These actually teach kids based on their interests and abilities. So we use a lot of different technologies, and then gradually machine learning comes in. And what we want to do with that is to analyze the child’s progress and be able to adjust the content based on that. Wow,
Tony Zayas 9:02
that’s fine. I just like this is, this is obviously a very complex. How did when you came up with idea? How did you identify the technology and build it? Like, do you have a technical background? Did you find someone who did? I would love to hear about that?
Elnaz Sarraf 9:24
Absolutely. It is the kind of thing of any company’s product. And, you know, actually, Ruby three and a half or four years ago, when we had the idea was totally different. Even it looked totally different. And I’m glad you made the changes actually. And what to do was yeah, we wanted to disrupt the education, but it was more like entertainment system, you know, not necessarily educational, but we need a lot of focus group and I always suggest this to a lot of founders. Do your research. Talk to people don’t be scared of, you know, talking about because a lot of people think if they talk about their ideas, people are going to steal it. Not really, because ideas are great, but execution is the most important part. So that’s how we did it. You know, we started talking to friends and family, then I started going guys and talking to people. And we realize that, you know, we need to narrow down our technology in order to be successful. And after a lot of research, we realized language learning is such an important area. Because if you can talk if you can communicate if you can learn about any other skills in the world, right. So that’s why we narrowed it down. And that was me and my co founder. He’s our CTO, and we, I was really fortunate to work with him even before Roy B. So that’s how he got started. And he started building the team, the r&d team around Roy B. And I mainly focus on business development, marketing and sales, and then we gradually expanded the team.
Andy Halko 11:08
That’s very cool. I’m kind of curious, you know, what it was like to create a physical product, like what’s it look like to design that and go through that process and try and find, you know, get a prototype. And, you know, that has to be an interesting experience?
Elnaz Sarraf 11:28
Yes, it was quite complex. Actually. It took around four months to actually come up with a design a current design of Ruby, we thought about everything, for example, like the robots have can be changed easily. And the reason is that we wanted every child to have a unique robot for themselves. And also, for example, there is a button here on Roby, and every time the child presses the button, you know, Robbie would start talking. The reason we have a button, we don’t have a wake up Ward is because of the privacy. So all these we have to consider I always even make a joke even back off Roby, the way that these dots are designed looks like diaper actually, because we wanted really me to look like a child. So so much goes into it. And it took about eight months to actually be the very first prototype, there is a lot of changes, a lot of sometimes just even limitations in order to go into mass production, because you want to make sure whatever you design at your prototype stage can get into mass production, because may join at halftime prototypes are designed with 3d prints. So it’s easier the the 3d printing scan, you know, print anything, but when it goes to mass production is totally different. And for for mass production, it also took about six months, but we were pretty much six months ahead of schedule, which is crazy, you know, it takes at least one year to get into mass production. But because we had a really experienced team, we were able to put everything together. And within six months, after a lot of testing, we went into mass production. But how we started was that from we had three prototypes, then we had 50, then 250. And then we went into towels and 5000 even more.
Andy Halko 13:31
Wow. Yeah, I mean, that’s got to be How about, you know, digging in? Like, is it a hard process? To get down to the like, picking the camera and picking each of the pieces? And how does that actually, you know, you’ve got to build software? I’m kind of curious, which came first to is it thinking through the software in the platform? Or is it thinking through the hardware, and then then the software
Elnaz Sarraf 13:56
actually goes on to get there because the abilities you want to put into your hardware, you have to think about the software because there are some elements that you have to actually hard code that software VTX in your CPU. And there is no way you can change that after mass production. So you have to think about a lot of things. But we do have a hardware engineers at Roby, we started by creating the PCB, which is basically the brain of the hardware and it consists of so many chips in there are like so many of them even I don’t remember all of them. But more than probably 100 components and being able to match every one of these together. It’s very time consuming guy and as I mentioned, it’s the most critical part and it takes a six to eight months. You have to constantly test these components together in different environments. You know, even the there are some issues issues after you going to mass production. For example, one of the issues we had was that we have to test that our Wi Fi chipset in our production is in China, in China, we tested in the US, we tested in some different regions. But when we launched the product, I remember the very first two to three months, oh my God, it was a disaster because it went to so many other homes with different environments, different routers, and it wasn’t working. And you know, you spent so much money on components and hardware, there is no way you can change it. So like all of a sudden, you could lose one or $2 million. So it was really, really scary. But fully we were able to resolve it through software updates by again, it takes a very long process. And a lot of times you just miss things, you know, you have to fix step by step.
Andy Halko 15:55
I can see how like a couple of company like Apple can, you know, has the resources. But for you as a startup? What did that look like the find the people and the experts and go through the testing? You know, what do you think is that difference for established companies versus a startup in trying to create a device?
Elnaz Sarraf 16:18
Well, the difference is, as I mentioned, you might encounter a lot of problems. Because you know, even myself one day I act like a business development person. And other day, I’m a QA person, because you know, we were a very small team. In the beginning, we were only six people actually. And every individual was doing so many different things from testing to developing to launching the product. So the differences of course, when you have more resources, you know, you you can find a lot of ways to to do the q&a, you know, QA and quality assurance, and making sure the product is almost perfect before it launches, but for startups is very different. But generally what we try to do is even, you know, before launching a software product or any update, we actually send our products to our beta users. And that was one of the reasons we launched our crowdfunding campaign before even launching the product into the market in order to have like, 1000 2000 people as early customers in order to help us find the box, you know, fix the features, or even some of the hardware problems. So that’s how we try to fix the resource issue.
Tony Zayas 17:43
So how many iterations of the product would you say you went through I saw behind you there the that maybe was named Well, 100 best inventions by Time Magazine. And that was in 2019. So obviously, you you create, you created something that really was well received, how many iterations? How did it get to that point? Because it seems pretty.
Elnaz Sarraf 18:09
I almost think I I really don’t even remember. Because, um, you know, if instead we fix one thing, we found another problem, you know, and again, if it’s a software problem, generally it is easier to fix it. But when it comes to hardware, it’s so much more difficult. And I think we got really lucky, you know, we without seeing the experienced people, we really didn’t have much issues on the hardware, we did have, for example, a very small issue. You know, the there are two microphones here. The very first generation actually, these are, these were a little bit small. So it couldn’t take the voice as clear as we were hoping. So it had delays or it couldn’t recognize people, you know, so we had to make just a tiny, tiny change just for the small, you know, holes here. And then and this is just a small example. We have some other issues as well. But the good thing is all of our components and PCB, again, which is a brain off Roy viewers was working fine. But many, like probably more than 100 versions.
Tony Zayas 19:24
Andy Halko 19:25
kind of curious about the user testing and feedback during the process because you’re dealing with kids who are honest, but sometimes maybe not as articulate about their thoughts and feelings. So, you know, for you specifically in producing a product for that market. You did you rely on parents, did you focus on kids and then, you know, how did you you know, feel like you got to the point of how people felt and what their true feedback was.
Elnaz Sarraf 19:57
Um, I shouldn’t both and It started internally because you know, some of our team members, they have kids in the same age group, which, again, we were really lucky about that. So we were getting feedback from both kids and parents. And even today, it’s the same thing. And sometimes when the parents, you know, tell us something about the product, we always ask, Do you know how your child actually feels about it, because it’s very different. For them, it’s a toy, you know, they, they want to have fun, we hear that they they see Roy B, actually, as a trusted friend, which is really cool. But sometimes parents perception towards product is very different. So we what we did was that we went to our, you know, close friends and family members, that’s how we started getting feedback. And then gradually, we started forming small focus groups. So we could actually monitor children for a duration of, for example, three to six months. And that’s how we were able to come up with some of the features or content, I remember, the very first time we we started testing, we realize that oh, my god, kids are much smarter than actually we think. So we had to redesign and redevelop some of our content, because they they seem really basic. And the reason for that was that, you know, we were able to do focus groups and get feedback early on before actually going into huge mass production or launch into the market.
Tony Zayas 21:34
I’d like to hear about I believe you said that you crowd crowdfunding? What was that? Like? How did that work for you? And, you know, those those initial crowdfunders? What was their involvement in the development and the process?
Elnaz Sarraf 21:50
Right? So we actually had only two months for our craft funding, we launched it on Indiegogo, it was quite an interesting journey. You know, it’s, it was quite difficult. There’s so much work that goes into it, a lot of people think, you know, if you launch your product on the system, there are going to be a lot of people coming out buying No, it’s really not like that. It’s, it took us five months before actually launching the product to gather, you know, users, email addresses, you know, actually talking to people and knowing why they would buy a product like this in order to prepare a landing page marketing messages. And immediately when we launched, we were able to make some sales that was very exciting to be Fogle, but in terms of the people involved in that process is really helped us to show voiding in terms of some of the content and some of the functionalities today, because when they received their product, first of all, we found out some hardware issue, as I mentioned, three cases of Wi Fi connection issues. So we had to immediately fix that. And it was really challenging, because all of a sudden, we sent our products to over 30 countries. While we wanted to find the problems, fix the problems, it was like crazy, it was nightmare. But it was also very, really fun. Because it helped us to really grow the team grow Roy B. And even to this state, we have customers from our crowdfunding time. They reach out to us they request features at us feedback. So it’s really actually exciting. I feel like they they’ve been truly part of building the company.
Andy Halko 23:39
I’m kind of curious back to the like feedback piece. And this may get into privacy a little bit. But how much do you use data and analytics that come in from usage for thinking about, you know, to try and measure how people are interacting with it and the features that work and, and just generally how to use data and analytics, right?
Elnaz Sarraf 24:00
So we can’t collect a lot of data because the privacy problems and the reason is that you know, we our customers, our children’s names a lot more sensitive than adults. But some of the the data we collect, for example, the progress of each account, so we don’t know exactly. You know who is working with Roy B. We just have some accounts and IDS assigned to those accounts. We get like average progress reports pronunciations for scores. We give like suggestions in terms of how the child can improve in terms of studying pronunciations. Again, some of the words they need to work on. Those are some of the recordings that we have. But we also in the back. And, you know, we also work on some data to understand which of our lessons are more exciting, and that really helps us to build the next generation of our content but When it comes to machine learning, of course, we really need to gather more that and for that we have private focus groups. And we have permission from parents in order to gather more data. And that’s how we actually train our machine.
Andy Halko 25:18
I’m kind of curious who the target audience for you is, is it? One? are you marketing to parents versus kids? And how much? But then, you know, is there the ability of the accessibility for, you know, maybe people that don’t have access to better education versus those that obviously have the capabilities of buying a, you know, technology product? How do you look at that.
Elnaz Sarraf 25:47
So the markets, the audience is, of course, as you mentioned, parents, but we also recently started working really schools in order to provide rabies technology to children that actually they don’t have access to these type of technologies for schools is going to take a longer time, because, you know, we have to go through a lot of process, for example, they’re getting approval in terms of the technology to privacy and even content. But we are also working with the schools and teachers in order to create specific content for royalty, that is really, you know, have for for the classrooms or students. And that’s how we think and we believe that Roy B is going to to expand globally within the school system. And then of course, they’re also looking into partnering with government entities or districts, for example, to purchase Roy B. and distribute those two areas, for example, like daycares. We also had some requests from foster carers, you know, they they really want to give these royally to the case that they do not have access to technology or quality education, but it’s going to take some time.
Andy Halko 27:07
Yeah. I’m curious, if you look at time, that way, I would think with a product like this, you know, obviously, first iterations are what they are, you know, do you have more of a mindset of, oh, this is what it looks like, five years from now and how it can impact the world, versus I’m trying to create a product and get it out to the market and make money, you know what I mean? Like, I think there’d have to be that thought of like, okay, yeah, we’re gonna start out, you know, very, almost amateurish in the beginning. But imagine what the impact could be five or 10 years, once we’ve really evolved in
Elnaz Sarraf 27:44
Yes, um, you know, sometimes it’s really hard to, to know how the product is going to look like 10 years from today, because so much changes even for us. You know, like, for example, when the pandemic came, we had to make a lot of changes to the product, we launched a new character for Roy B. That was teaching health and self care to children, parents got really excited, you know, we actually find a pattern for it. And the patentees, one portion of it is, you know, Roy has sensors. So when the child puts royally down, it can actually detect and he would tell the child to go and wash their hands. So there are so many little things that we could possibly change, or the product would change down the road. But the vision is, we truly want to change the way that children learn, we want to focus on their abilities and interests, rather than one size fits all. It’s going to take time, but how ever that is going to look like you know, it is fine. It could be just hardware and software, it could be maybe only software in the future, I don’t know. But we know that we can replicate and extend rubies technology to as many platforms as possible. And also connecting all these connecting kids together and create a community is we really promote collaborative learning, but focusing on each child’s happiness. So that’s how we envision the future.
Andy Halko 29:21
I know every founder we talked to has huge visions, and you know, lots of ideas where things can go, how do you rein that in for yourself and your team? To just over? Ida?
Elnaz Sarraf 29:36
Yes, it’s really exciting. You know, we, first of all, we, every time we talk about new ideas, we have ideal boards, and we write it down because we would definitely forget about it. So when we go back even like when I go back to two years ago, we wrote down a lot of ideas. Some of them we actually develop them so it’s really exciting. But the way that we really look at these c’s, first is really market needs. So we talked with our customers with experts all the time and asking them, you know, what they need and what they want to see in the future. And Roy B, we talked to a lot of educators, because they are also involved in children’s education, they understand the limitations potential, and what they want to see any our product. And that’s really how we can prioritize our ideas. But as you said yesterday, it’s like every day, we have a new idea, and that makes it really exciting.
Tony Zayas 30:41
Going back to working with schools, and you know, education, how, how have schools received through IB? In you in presenting the product? And have there been any challenges, hurdles, whenever you’re dealing with, you know, you know, big organization or dealing with some bureaucracy and kind of their way of doing things? I would just love to hear a little bit about that, because I think that’s we’re gonna have a ton of impact.
Elnaz Sarraf 31:09
Yes, absolutely. Of course, in in the beginning, we we’ve had a lot of challenges. You know, first and foremost, when it comes to AI, it seems like at least in the US, people are quite conservative about AI. We had comments people asking, so this is going to control my child’s know, you know, it’s really going to help children to to learn better, even assist teachers to focus on more important areas, and even provide more personalized learning experience to children when they work with a robot. But overall, specially during pandemic, the whole perception towards educational robots has changed. We have schools actually reaching out to us wanting to implement readability in their system. They even want us to create programs, software, as many modules for them in order to implement Ruby within their curriculum. And I think gradually is going to change. And, you know, even now, we think future is more going towards hybrid learning. And teachers and even parents, they need different tools, you know, kids are kind of really tired of just sitting in front of, for example, like zoom screens, and it’s not productive, right. So they need more active learning, rather than passively learning from screens. We’ve been getting really good feedback recently, Roy B, we actually had pilot programs in East Coast in Pennsylvania, we, we previously had pilot program in Finland. And we are also working with a couple of organizations to help us to extend ROI be we’ve seen more. Wow.
Tony Zayas 33:05
So from a, you know, from a bigger picture perspective, how do you see technology like language learning and AI and all this kind of stuff? How do you see that influencing education? As we move forward? Again, now that we’ve moved into this climate with a lot of hybrid learning, and like you said, we can’t just be on Zoom calls all day, I would love to hear what you know, how you see the future, and how that plays out.
Elnaz Sarraf 33:37
Um, the way that we see it, it’s funny, because three and a half years ago, when we started Ruby, and I remember I was pitching Ruby to a lot of people and investors. You know, I kept saying, this is the future, this is going to change the way children live. I have people even laughing at me, it’s like, why do we need that? And then some of those people that back to me saying, wow, you know, you really need this. And the reason is that, you know, AI can really assess kids assess teachers, and it can really provide some additional support. And technology can extend into many, many areas. For example, we have teacher shortage, 69 million, and that’s a huge number. Just imagine if Roby with this technology can actually go into those places and provide education to those children. We also know some children, they even during pandemic day, they left school, we were talking we read a couple of academies, actually they were saying many children left school because they really couldn’t learn from a zoom conference calls, you know, and they really want to see Ruby going into the hands of those children to actually be able to talk with like a trusted friend. That’s how kids actually look at our robots. And when it comes to AI, you know, with voice AI, we can understand what the child says. So it can actually react to it. We have face AI, emotion, AI. Now more as we go towards post pandemic, for example. And even in the future, the mental health of children is really important. And imagine if a robot can react to the emotions of children, that would be really helpful because kids really don’t understand emotions that well, they don’t know how to talk about their emotions. And these are the things we keep hearing about, you know, how our AI technology can gradually impact the lives of children.
Andy Halko 35:44
It’s awesome, that we have a lot of founders, you know, that we are having watched the show, I’m kind of curious for others that are interested in the AI space, and that, where do you start? Like, what, how do you develop the strategy and plan to build out AI, not just AI, but like you said, emotional AI and these other pieces, like what’s that look like to, I don’t know, bring that to life.
Elnaz Sarraf 36:10
So first and foremost, you really need to understand the pain point, and you know, why you’re building this because I see a lot of products out there, you know, they’re like, good to have, but they’re not necessarily solving a problem. And that’s a big issue. Because if you just launch a product, for the sake of launching something, many things not gonna work, you really need to dig deep into it and understand what the pain points of the market is. And then, you know, based on that, you can launch your idea, your product. And in terms of a I actually know, a lot of open source platforms, that you can start developing your your engine or your AI, you know, based on those, like Google have some open source and many, many more Amazon and Microsoft, you know, and there are a lot of technologies founders can use in the beginning to start and then gradually build upon. And that’s really how we started doing we utilize open source as some paid programs. And then, on top of that, we started actually building our own voice engine, which is a very complex product actually.
Andy Halko 37:27
Did you end up having to reach out and license like any certain, you know, specialized, like algorithms or anything? Like was that involved in the process?
Elnaz Sarraf 37:38
Yes, of course, I know. Sometimes, you know, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel, or just start things from scratch, because it takes a huge amount of time and resource. And sometimes you could utilize somebody else’s technology, but do something really innovative and different for your product, for example, like our face detection algorithm is licensed, but how we use it within our technology is totally new, it’s very innovative, you know, and, again, the the user case, or the scenario is more important than the technology itself.
Andy Halko 38:22
I’m kind of curious of all the things that go into this. So there’s, you know, prototyping and creating technology, software, there’s hardware, there’s marketing and sales, there’s raising money. So all these things that are across trying to grow a business, what do you what do you think is the hardest piece? Is there any one piece that you say, okay, that has felt like the biggest, you know, challenge and hurdle for us to do? Or is it, you know, equally across the board on all of those pieces, and why I feel
Elnaz Sarraf 38:57
that every stage or every step? You know, everything seems challenging complex. But because it’s like, for example, if you don’t have prototype, the chances to raise funding is really limited. So you need to work on your prototype. And then you know, when it comes to funding, you also have a lot of challenges. In our case, for example, I think, so far, our biggest challenge has always been fundraising. And the reason is that we have a hardware product. It’s a complex product, and there are not so many investors that understand this space. And the ones that understand they they know that it’s really capital heavy, so not so many people would actually commit to this unless they’re really passionate about it and they understand and get the vision. So that’s for us, but we were actually able to raise 4.2 million in our seed round we that fully functioning for Your time. So that that was really amazing. And at that point, when we raised it was one of the largest seed rounds. And it was really exciting because you know, the investors really invested in the team and our experience rather than the product, because even from the time that they invested to this day, so much has changed on the product or company strategy, and they know that. So I think even even now, I still think fundraising is the most challenging part for our business, because we need a lot of money.
Andy Halko 40:34
So you were somewhat successful in it, then? Can you sharing the secrets or what you think was, you know, the most powerful piece for you to have achieve that, that seed round? Um,
Elnaz Sarraf 40:47
I think it’s really simple. And it’s persistence, you know, because they were times that they, you know, the investors would give us some comments, and then we were like, Oh, my God, what are we doing? Is this the right thing to do? You know, they are much smarter than us probably. But you know, the thing is, well, it is it is difficult. First of all, you need to be ready for change. Get as much feedback as you can, from investors, from family, friends, partners, experts, you know, that was really important. I think we changed our pitch deck Achlys, 100 times, and I’m not joking. I and I personally talked to over 200 investors, we got a lot of rejections. So many knows, it was quite frustrating at that point, because we can’t say, this is needed. This is the future, but it was hard to find, you know, that one investor to comes in as a lead, and then the rest would would follow. And again, and again, I always tell everybody, for us, it was persistence, you know, we never gave up.
Tony Zayas 42:01
And I was curious what your team looks like now. And just a bit about, you know, you said the investors look at that team. And they’re, you’re kind of into that collective group. So who are the type of people that you look for when you’re hiring and bringing people on?
Elnaz Sarraf 42:19
Right, so the current team mainly consists of r&d and content. And what we really look for is the previous experience in the same space. But the most important part for us is to really see if that person has similar values and passion, you know, as we have for the company, many times we actually hired people that they didn’t have specific skills that we were looking for, but it really seemed like they’re willing to learn, they’re so passionate about the space, and you know, they really want to make a difference. And that’s we decided to give them a chance. And some of those people turned out to be truly, truly amazing and valuable for the company. But when we started, our team was really strong in terms of technology, the past background, we also brought on board, really experienced advisors, they really helped us to shape the company. And early on, you know, you bring some people, you don’t have to even pay them in cash, you know, you can actually give them some some options, and they become your advisors. And oftentimes, they give a tremendous help to the companies before the future, you know, of our future hirings. Once again, we really look at their their values, passion, and making sure we share the same, you know, kind of vision. And then the rest of it. You know, I always say people can learn skills. So that’s what we also do as Roby when people join, they can learn many different things.
Andy Halko 44:04
I’m always interested by the mentality and emotion of being a founder. I always, you know, I think that that’s an interesting topic that doesn’t get touched on enough. You know, I’ve owned my business for a long time. You know, in any you mentioned, perseverance in fundraising. I think perseverance is important in business no matter what, what what’s been the emotional journey and the kind of, you know, mental journey for you as you’ve started out, raise money, build a product, all these things. What’s that part been? Like?
Elnaz Sarraf 44:42
That’s a really good question. Because, um, you know, I think he requires special personality, you know, in order to go through this, you know, as a leader for the company, not just me. You know, I also taught me a lot of entrepreneurs ours, and it’s pretty much similar things is that, you know, you really don’t have time to care about your emotions or your feelings, you know, it’s all about moving forward, but also motivating your team because they, they look at you as the leader, and you have to be there for them to lead the team to motivate them. And, you know, he, it was quite challenging at the times that we were raising funds, because after you get so many noes, you’re like, Oh, my God, you’re you’re emotionally drained. And it’s really hard to keep yourself motivated, keep your team motivated. But I think, you know, you have to think that if something is easy, you know, everybody would have done it. And if it is difficult, and you’re you have a hard time, that means, you know, it’s something different. So that always motivated us and the impact of bringing rady truly changing the lives of children, you know, helping them to learn in a different way. All these really motivated me and my team, and that’s the reason we were able to move forward.
Andy Halko 46:12
Yeah, that’s great. What, um, you know, we talk about emotion and challenge, what are you most excited about for the future of the product going the other way? You know, what, what kind of has your mind like reeling for where you’re headed,
Elnaz Sarraf 46:33
um, is going to be absolutely amazing, it’s going to be incredible. And I keep saying, Roy B is going to be one of the unicorn companies. And the reason is that there is more opportunities, you know, there are more doors opening every day. And once again, you know, three and a half years ago, when we started Roy up to now things have changed. It’s like, all of a sudden, everybody’s talking about online remotes marrying AI. And I think this is really going to impact our business to and it’s, it’s a lot of opportunities from the consumer side to education side. And we really want to see every child having one room in their hands and being able to get, you know, introduced to sophisticated technology to get introduced to premium consonants quality education. And that’s all the opportunities we see that’s going to be available for us.
Tony Zayas 47:35
Awesome, Misha, I have a pretty interesting question here. That came in from one of our viewers that I’d like to share with you. So first of all, they say royalty is awesome going to change the world. It’s a I’ve been listening to some neuroscience experts talking on podcasts, and they stated that AI is still operating at a more basic conscious level, that the learning capacity will take time to reach advanced unconscious learning. I’m just wondering what you think the timeframe would be for AI to begin to understand and learn things from a more advanced fluid and unconscious level? Like the difference between active attentional conscious learning and passive subconscious learning the human toddler very rapidly bridging gaps between meanings automatically, which I can’t get.
Elnaz Sarraf 48:24
Oh, that’s, that’s actually a really good question. You know, we do have some technologies, you know, that they do a lot more advanced and the technology we have today for children, and I think, not necessarily about how long it’s going to take, it’s really about the resource that we have available for us, for example, in our case, is going to take quite longer, because as I mentioned, we deal with children. So we really can’t collect a lot of data. And there are a lot of limitations, you know, in order to collect data, processed those train the machine, and gradually, actually, the machine gets better and better. So it could, I would say, you know, a three to five years, so much is going to change. But it’s more about resource availability than anything else. From my point of view,
Tony Zayas 49:15
is this just my understanding of AI is really it’s about collecting the data and having a big enough pool of data to make sense of it. So it’s not really time, it’s the time only because you need to collect the data.
Elnaz Sarraf 49:29
Yes, yes, yes, absolutely. And then it takes time to train the machine to process those that have trained the machine. But again, more and more we going to the subjects, more countries are putting a lot of restrictions. So the way for us, for example, to collect that I used to collaborate with universities and that takes a long time. You know, there’s a process sometimes it can take like six to eight months to go through the process proposal approvals. So each just really a matter of time and having enough data in order to train the machine to get smarter.
Andy Halko 50:10
What do you think is gonna change about AI over the next couple of years, you know, three to five years?
Elnaz Sarraf 50:18
Um, I think you’re going to see a lot of applications and products utilizing AI, for example, maybe your dishwasher starts talking to you. And I’ve already seen that, you know, I’ve seen some programs like that on LG or some other, you know, companies putting AI in their appliances, which is quite cool, I think, you know, but we are going to see a lot of changes, I think, you know, when I think about AI, well, how I see it is, you know, it’s really going to change our lives to help us do things faster, better. And we can focus on areas that truly add value for us, you know, and we can learn many skills even pre here, probably, because imagine if, you know, if we want to learn about some specific things, or subjects, and AI can deliver those contents specifically for us, based on our skills and liver, we could learn things much quicker. And of course, I think AI is going to be implemented in many, many more industries than we see today.
Andy Halko 51:26
I’m just imagining my dishwasher and microwave replicating my wife’s voice and saying, you know, please watch me, candy, make sure you close the microwave door. That’s my wife’s boy. Can’t wait for that point in technology, that’s for sure. No, that’s awesome. Well, I mean, this has been fantastic. I, um, you know, just kind of a little bit of a wrap up question. You know, I’m interested in X, asking tech founders vision for the future. I’m big into, you know, futurist and pick, you know, predictions for the future. So, I’m curious, from your perspective, if you were to look out 10 years from now, what do you think what of the technologies that are out there things like natural language processing, and AI? And, you know, all of these other things? What do you think is going to make the biggest impact to society? And why? It’s a big question, but, you know, put that foil hat on, and, you know, what, what, in 10 years, do you think technology looks like?
Elnaz Sarraf 52:35
I’m going to see a lot of, you know, automation and deep tech, you know, and as I mentioned, automation involves AI involves machine learning, and we are going to see a lot of applications and possibilities, or in the next 10 years, you know, I think very soon we will really start seeing autonomous cars, you know, driving the city, something, some cities subsidies is already approved, you know, we are going to see many more technologies in many other industries, like, for example, health education, event foods, you know, there are robots now making, you know, I’m very curious for you and so many other things. And I say in 10 years automation, and deep tech would be definitely a huge trend.
Andy Halko 53:30
Yeah, that’s great. And I you know, and I mean, I think it’s a good point, I always believe that it’s the integration of these technologies. There’s not one, but it’s imagining when you get automation and AI and, you know, motion processing and blockchain together, that, you know, when we really learned to start integrating these different technologies is when I think some really interesting things are start happening.
Elnaz Sarraf 53:57
Yes, it’s going to be a massive centralize hobby, you know, and with some technologies, for example, like 5g coming, you know, more and more, they’re going to deploy, you know, this technology. Globally, I think we’re going to see a lot of connected environments and devices, and I think it’s really going to be a game changer.
Tony Zayas 54:20
That’s awesome. Well, where can people find out more and live their own ROI be further, their kids, their family?
Elnaz Sarraf 54:30
That’s my favorite question. That would be on our website is ROI be ROI bi robot.com. Baby robot.com.
Tony Zayas 54:40
Ruby, robot calm. Fantastic. Well, we really appreciate you taking your time to talk with us. It’s been fascinating. I know that our audience has appreciated that we got some some great feedback here. So thank you so much.
Andy Halko 54:56
Thank you. Oh, and I’m going to make my blue hat.
Elnaz Sarraf 55:00
Thank you for having me letting me share our story
Tony Zayas 55:04
that’s awesome thanks so much
Transcribed by https://otter.ai