The company was founded by Elena Favilli (CEO) and Francesca Cavallo (Creative Director), who relocated from Italy to San Francisco in January of this year. Although neither founder has children of their own, they were inspired to work in thechildren’s app space because of Favilli’s background in journalism and children’s publishing, and Cavallo’s background in education and theater. Timbuktu is designed to sit in the middle of these interests, combining education, design, and technology into one playable experience on the iPad.
The design and activities make Timbuktu a pleasure, but the way you pay for content is not ideal. Timbuktu tries pulling parents in with new content daily, but some parents will be unhappy to find that on some days, that content isn’t free. “Most of the stories are free right now, but you have to pay for premium stories,” saysFavilli. “We’re using a virtual currency called bubbles, and you have to pop the bubbles to unlock a premium story,” she explains. These stories are unlocked via in-app purchases, and although Favilli says the app is targeted toward parents to use with their grade school-aged child, the bubble-popping design seems like something a kid could get into trouble with, if left alone with the app for a minute. “Some days, this content is free, other days it’s premium,” she adds, noting that you can always go back and access older content if you don’t want to pay.
Also in the works: a $1 million seed round led by 500 Startups, including participation from Kailua Venture, H-Farm, Mind the Seed, Atlante Seed, and angels Rohit Sharma, Elliot Loh, and Craig Mod (so far). The round will be closed in a few weeks’ time.