troitnews.com/story/business/retail/2014/10/23/optimize-game-plan-holiday-toy-shopping/17815371/”>toys store – Google News
Ubooly is on to a new adventure.
The Boulder-based startup that created Ubooly — an interactive, educational plush toy integrated with a smart phone — has been acquired by Culver City, Calif.-based Cartwheel Kids, the companies announced on Tuesday.
Financial terms were not disclosed.
The announcement — made at the inaugural Disney Accelerator Demo Day event in Los Angeles — served as the culmination of a transformational six months for Ubooly Inc.
In addition to rebranding as Smart Toy, the Boulder company explored the acquisition with Cartwheel Kids while serving as one of 11 participants in the mentorship-heavy business development program that pairs the Walt Disney Co.’s creativity and innovation with the startup accelerator model of Boulder-bred Techstars.
Smart Toy’s technology combines a stuffed animal with cloud-based apps and speech recognition software that allows children to interact with the toy. Ubooly, a fluffy, foam-padded creature, houses a smart phone or tablet that is running the app.
As part of the Disney Accelerator, Smart Toy honed its product and prepared for the launch of its new toy, said Carly Gloge, who co-founded the company with her husband, Isaac Squires, in 2012. Smart Toy participated in Techstars’ Boulder program in 2012.
Smart Toy’s next iteration, which also was unveiled Tuesday, has all the technology built-in and ready to go right out of the box, Gloge said. The new product is expected to retail for $ 100, she said, adding the company will continue to launch updates for Ubooly.
The Disney Accelerator mentors helped Smart Toy develop the backstories and characters of the tech-enabled plush toys unveiled Tuesday, she said.
“No one really understands that storytelling,” she said. “That’s what Disney is king of.”
Ubooly, the second-generation product and the technology’s potential certainly intrigued Cartwheel Kids, a toy manufacturer that launched 18 months ago, said Sunny Lauridsen, the firm’s senior vice president of sales and marketing.
Carly Gloge, CEO, and Isaac Squires, CTO, pose with Ubooly, a device that they founded that can be attached to iPods and tablets, in Boulder on Nov. 26, 2012. (Camera file )
“I think it could be a game-changer in the toy industry,” she said.
Since its founding, Cartwheel Kids has secured licensing rights for brands such as Hello Kitty and My Little Pony, in addition to operating a line of dress-up apparel. Branching out with Smart Toy was a logical next step for the startup whose employees hail from the tech teams of companies such as Disney and Mattel, she said.
“We’re very well-versed in this space,” she said.
The nimbleness of Cartwheel Kids’ operations played a pivotal role in Smart Toy’s decision to sell, Gloge said.
“(There are toy companies) so large that they’re actually not prepared to take an aggressive stance with technology,” she said. “I realized (Cartwheel Kids), they’re willing to take some risks; they’re willing to be really scrappy.”
As a result of the acquisition, Gloge and Squires will join Cartwheel Kids as directors of technology. Gloge, Squires and Smart Toy’s operations will relocate to Los Angeles, officials said. Smart Toy has a 14-person team in Boulder.
The acquisition, in addition to being a Disney Accelerator company, could set the stage for Smart Toy having its technology incorporated into branded products from Disney and others, Gloge and Lauridsen said. As part of the accelerator program, Disney has a small stake in Smart Toy, Gloge said.
Cartwheel Kids is having discussions with “entertainment partners,” including Disney about the possibility of incorporating Smart Toy’s platform into the companies’ brands, Lauridsen said.
In addition to Techstars, Smart Toy’s investors include SoftTech, local investor David Cohen, 500 Startups and TransLink Capital.
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toys store – Google News
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Toys that encourage kids to keep moving are becoming more popular, including the Zoomer Dino (Spin Master), Nerf N-Strike Elite Mega Thunderbow (Hasbro) and Hot Wheels Street Hawk Remote Control Flying Car (Mattel).
Analysts have been calling out a trend in crafty and customized products since the Toy Fair in February. TTPM’s list includes the DohVinci Style & Store Vanity (Hasbro), Wackytivities Kinetic Sand (Spin Master), Lego Fusion Town Master (Lego) and the Hot Wheels Airbrush Auto Designer (Mattel).
“Parents love them because they promote play value,” Silver said. “That’s their biggest fear—that the kids will play with a toy for 10 minutes and then toss it aside.”
There are two notable smartwatches for kids, Silver said: Leapband (LeapFrog) and Kidizoom (VTech), which come with kid-friendly games and other features.
It’s still too early to know which toys will fly off shelves. “Overall, the consumer has been pretty hesitant,” said McGowan, adding that many shoppers are likely to wait to buy, holding out for sales.
And maybe for some more practical reasons as well. Billy, general manager of YouTube channel Bratayley and dad to its three vlogging stars, said the kids have yet to make their lists. (The family doesn’t publicize its last name for privacy reasons.)
“Seeing [hot toys listed] on a piece of paper doesn’t mean anything to them,” he said.