Tappity raises $1.3M for its interactive and educational video library for kids – TechCrunch


When kids today want to learn about a new topic they’re interested in, they’ll often turn to YouTube. But the quality of the educational content on the platform can be hit or miss, depending on what specific videos kids happen to come across. Tappity, a digital educational startup now backed by $1.3 million in seed funding, aims to offer an alternative. Its video library offers entertaining and interactive live-action videos kids enjoy, while also ensuring the content itself is aligned with current educational standards.

The two-year old startup was co-founded by CEO Chad Swenson, his brother and CTO Tanner Swenson, and CPO Lawrence Tran.

Image Credits: Tappity founders

As Chad explains, the idea for Tappity emerged from his interest in designing interactive learning experiences, which resulted in a senior project eight years ago where he created an interactive experience to help students learn about evolution. Over the years that followed, he began to experiment with different concepts in this area, but never planned for anything of venture scale.

However, Chad says he later realized there could be an opportunity to develop content based around the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) — the set of K-12 science content standards that were developed by a consortium of multiple U.S. states — whose adoption across the U.S. is now growing.

“A lot of parents were looking for healthier alternatives to YouTube,” Chad says. “And I really started to believe this is something that could be much bigger.”

He found also that the science-based topics kids are generally interested in are often those that are aligned with what the NGSS aims to teach — like space, dinosaurs, geology and others.

“A big inspiration was just looking at the most popular books on Amazon for kids,” Chad adds, noting that a large number of these books are focused on STEM-related subjects.

Chad met his co-founder Lawrence Tran when consulting for fintech startup Bill.com, and convinced him and his brother Tanner to work on the startup.

Over the course of a couple of years, Tappity has developed tools that make it easier and efficient to produce interactive, educational video content. Today, the library includes over 200 science lessons for kids ages 4 to 10, across thousands of videos.

While the video clips themselves are pre-recorded, they give the kids the feeling of having a one-on-one interaction with the character on the screen. For example, if the teacher is building something and needs a screwdriver, the kids can pass it to her in the app when she asks. But they’ll also have a lot of other fun options they can do instead, like passing her tape or even throwing pizza at her — and she’ll react. The teacher may also engage with kids in other ways, too, like responding to what they drew in the app, among other things.

Image Credits: Tappity

Currently, Tappity’s teacher Haley the Science Gal (Haley McHugh), a childhood entertainment expert with over 10 years of experience, is leading the lessons which span topics like space, life science, earth science and physical science.

In addition to the video lessons, kids are engaged with an in-app points system for completing activities. The app also offers follow-up emails for parents so they can track what kids are learning and further engage them.

Due to the COVID pandemic, and the resulting screen fatigue that comes from virtual schooling, Tappity adapted some lessons to include offline activities — like drawing with paper and pens, for instance. And on Sundays, Tappity offers more involved activities parents and kids can do together — like baking cookies that you turn into Pangea or making a volcano.

Tappity expects to have over 1,000 hours of video content by the end of next year, and over 4,000 hours by the year after, Chad notes.

When the team of three applied to startup accelerator Y Combinator, Tappity was small but profitable, thanks to its in-app subscription tiers that average around $9 per month. Today, the company has over 5,000 paying customers and over 20,000 weekly active users who have collectively completed 30 million lessons to date.

The company has now raised a seed round of $1.3 million from Y Combinator, Mystery Science founder Keith Schacht, Toca Boca founder Björn Jeffery, Brighter Capital (Yun-Fang Juan), former Spotify CTO Andreas Ehn, and others.

In the near-term, Tappity is working to expand its team and bring its lessons — that today are only available on iOS — to the web. Over time, the company’s goal is to create a large library of interactive educational content.

While the COVID pandemic has inspired VCs to invest in more edtech startups, the longevity of some of these businesses in the post-COVID world remains to be seen. Where Tappity is different from many of these remote learning startups or those designed for the classroom, is that its focus is not on selling into the school system.

“Teachers have picked it up organically — we give it away free to schools right now,” Chad explains. “But we’re not dedicating any resources to it because we’re focused on the parents’ and kids’ needs, which are quite a bit different,” he says.

Tappity’s app is available iOS, and includes some free content outside of the subscription.



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Google adds family-oriented features to Google Assistant devices, like dictating notes that stay on the display, family location map, and educational options (Ian Carlos Campbell/The Verge)




Ian Carlos Campbell / The Verge:

Google adds family-oriented features to Google Assistant devices, like dictating notes that stay on the display, family location map, and educational options  —  New and improved features for smart displays and Fi plans  —  Google has announced new family-oriented updates for Assistant and Fi …





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Bendable, with the help of Pete Buttigieg, wants to create an educational marketplace


Education in the United States, like much else, is in a state of upheaval. Bendable, a new community-based learning marketplace backed in part by Drucker Institute, wants to help. 

The company, which launched in South Bend, Ind., last week after two and a half years of research and a $5 million investment, couples educational resources from organizations like TedX, Cell-Ed, Common Threads, the Drucker Institute, edX, Indiana University South Bend, Ivy Tech, Khan Academy, Penn Foster, and more into curated collections around a number of topics.

The classes are also available via mobile phone, and a majority of programs are free for residents of the city as long as they have a local library card. 

Google.org and Walmart.org provided the initial funding for the project, and IDEO designed the user experience. Credly created a badging and credentialing system to make sure the site’s 1,200 learning resources are legitimate. 

Soon, the organization will expand into a number of other small cities.  

The project comes as state and local budgets for schools are rapidly declining, and COVID-19-related revenue shortfalls will lead to more cuts in the years to come. Schools, unable to open because of the pandemic, have scraped together haphazard online plans and video lessons which, research shows, have not been successful.

Pre-COVID-19 studies found that up to 800 million workers could be displaced by technology in the next 10 years, many of whom will have to be retrained. The recent jump in unemployment will add to those numbers. Recently, protests in response to the killing of George Floyd by a white police officer have also led to a movement of Americans looking to learn about police brutality and systemic racism.

That’s a lot of people looking to learn.

“We are a content curator, and being a good curator means that you really deeply understand the community that you’re bringing Bendable to,” said Rick Wartzman, head of the Drucker Institute’s KH Moon Center for a Functioning Society. “So our secret sauce from the beginning has been to make this a community-based learning resource and marketplace.”

Bendable.com

Bendable has two tracks: One trains and retrains the local workforce in partnership with local businesses. It also helps residents obtain high school degrees online. The second is a set of community-based learning collections relevant to the everyday lives of residents—these range from social justice courses to information on how to purchase a home.

At the top of the site is a collection created by South Bend mental health counselor and community organizer Derrick Perry titled “Learning to have better conversations with the help of restorative justice.” The collection includes news articles, books, and videos. Further down on the site, the St. Joseph County Public Library has curated a list of books to read on racism in America, all of which are available online with a library card. 

“This is front and center, and we want Bendable to be responsive,” said Wartzman. “Learning is an incredible resource, and we want to give people access to it.” 

Bendable.com

The site includes a number of learning resources about the COVID-19 pandemic. There are collections on how to reopen businesses, how to manage stress during a pandemic, and a community collection by Heidi Beidinger-Burnett, president of the St. Joseph County Board of Health, on how to be better prepared for the next pandemic.  

Wartzman said that Bendable worked closely with South Bend business, community, and government leaders, including former mayor and 2020 presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, to launch the program which will eventually offer in-person programming as well. Buttigieg, said Wartzman, initially suggested tying the site to the local library and lent his name to help secure major funding for the program. 

Bendable.com

While the pilot program involved years of work and millions of dollars, Wartzman said that future iterations should be more cost- and time-effective. “Now we have tools and processes and a digital platform that we can take to other cities,” he said. “But our plan is to make everything hyper-local at scale.” 

It’s not just about getting people onto the platform. Building real relationships in the city are equally important to the success of Bendable. Business owners and leaders helped create collections to train the local workforce for job openings and acceleration specific to their communities.

For example, General Stamping & Metalworks in South Bend will offer a computer lab with Bendable programming for employees, and it’s working to create content to aid current employees in moving up. 

In a moment where online education is widespread, multi-platform, and largely uncurated, there is a lot of room for organization and new market platforms. Bendable is attempting to create offerings that focus on community growth instead of profit.

“Look, we try to be genuinely humble and realistic,” said Wartzman. “Bendable isn’t going to solve poverty. It isn’t going to solve structural racism. It isn’t going to solve anything in one fell swoop, but it can be a part of a powerful set of solutions that communities need to try, and provide easy and almost radical access to resources.”

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Russia opened access to COVID-19 educational resources for other countries – Society & Culture


MOSCOW, May 3. /TASS/. Russian educational resources on retraining of healthcare specialists to fight the novel coronavirus have become accessible for other countries at their request, Healthcare Minister Mikhail Murashko said on Sunday in an interview with the Rossiya-24 TV Channel.

“Colleagues from other countries, particularly those in command of Russian, approached us for opening of access to such educational materials. We opened them for our colleagues and they can now make themselves familiar with the same from our website,” Murashko said.



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