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May 21, 2019Paul Bernard
Since launching Alexa in 2014, we have seen more and more customers make Alexa part of their daily lives. The number of customers interacting with Alexa on a daily basis both more than doubled last year, and we’re encouraged by the ways in which voice is making their lives easier, more productive and more entertaining.
Education and learning is a great example of that, and we see lots of innovation in this category. Families, in particular, love interacting with Alexa because she introduces new ways to learn about the world around them – from animals and science to math, spelling and more. And new skills allow them to put a new twist on game night by offering fun, educational games the whole family can enjoy. Learning and education come to life in this communal setting, and we’ve seen a number of developers introduce new skills that allow parents and kids to share in the learning experience. In fact, there are already thousands of education and reference skills in the Alexa Skills Store.
The Alexa Fund has helped support this category by investing in several promising edtech startups. Last fall, the Alexa Fund invested in Bamboo Learning, a voice-based software and services company with a mission to provide interactive teaching using in voice-first education applications and content. Sphero, another Alexa Fund investment, has continued to see positive momentum for Sphero Edu, which combines coding and robotics to make STEM education even more engaging for students.
Today, we are excited to announce two more investments in education companies exploring integrations with Alexa – Unruly Studios and Zoobean.
Unruly Studios is an alum of the 2018 Alexa Accelerator, and we are thrilled to be reinvesting in the company as part of its seed round. Unruly is led by Bryanne Leeming, who founded the company with a compelling mission: to get more kids involved with STEM by combining coding with active, physical play through their first product, Unruly Splats. Unruly is exploring ways to connect Splats with Alexa to make the entire experience even more fun and engaging, while giving kids a glimpse into the basics of programming and voice design.
Zoobean is the company behind Beanstack, software that allows schools and libraries to facilitate reading, and for people of all ages to track their reading progress. The company was founded by Jordan Lloyd Bookey and Felix Brandon Lloyd, who got their start in 2014 with an appearance on Shark Tank. Mark Cuban invested in Zoobean following that appearance, and has continued to back the company in the time since. Jordan and Felix share Mark’s optimism about voice technology and its potential to make learning easier and more fun, and they’re exploring ways to integrate Alexa into Beanstack, allowing readers to ask Alexa to track their progress or send reminders about reading time.
“One of the reasons I’m so optimistic about voice technology is because it creates this communal experience where multiple people can share in the interaction,” said Mark Cuban. “Every startup founder should be looking at how voice services like Alexa fit into their business model, and it’s great to see companies like Zoobean and Unruly take that to heart. I’m excited to see them evolve their products and use voice to make reading and STEM accessible to more people.”
Like us, the founders of Unruly and Zoobean see voice as a way to make learning easier, more fun and more engaging for people of all ages. As part of the Alexa Fund portfolio, they’ll continue to explore opportunities to integrate Alexa into their products and services -- we can’t wait to see what they build in the future!