European Business: Mr. Kesler, what are the main features of Winky and why do you think parents will buy the robot for their children?
Boris Kesler: Winky is the first educational and developable robot for children from 5 to 12 years old. We guarantee that all Winky content is educational and that children will actually learn things. The child can learn to assemble Winky, to program it and will also have the opportunity to play other games on different topics such as mathematics, reading or nutrition.
European Business: You are a classic startup, founded in Paris in 2017. What were the biggest obstacles at first, and where are you in your development today? What are the main sources of funding?
Boris Kesler: The major obstacle in getting started is making sure your product has a market. That’s why we quickly approached families to understand their problems. We saw that in general they were completely overwhelmed by technologies, including robotics, hence Winky. Today, we are at the industrialization stage, for delivery of the robot in October 2019. The company was financed mainly by private investors with a total amount of 515,000 EUR up to now. Among the noteworthy investors rank Bruno Maisonnier, considered one of the popes of robotics, and Jérôme Bédier, Vice President of the Carrefour group.
"The major obstacle in getting started is making sure your product has a market." Boris Kesler
European Business: On your website you state that you completed the final tests in the second quarter of 2018. What are the necessary steps for market entry? How do you market the product?
Boris Kesler: Before entering the market, it is essential to ensure that your product meets the expectations of future users. This is what we confirmed with our playtests in 2017 and 2018, and those were with nearly 500 families. As an electronic product, industrialization is a key step that we are about to finish, and we will market Winky starting in October 2019. It will be on sale on Amazon platforms, Cdiscount and some big names specialized in the distribution of toys and electronic products.
European Business: Why do you think kids should learn the main principles about robotics and coding at an early age? Do not they risk turning away from the real world and getting lost in the virtual world?
Boris Kesler: Our children have the choice between controlling new technologies or being controlled by them. This is a recurrent topic with every technological revolution. Our challenge with Winky is to turn the new generation into an active player of the “robolution” to come, actually understanding how a robot works and how it is programmed. A robot is a real object, so with our robot, we bring children closer to the real world rather than the virtual world.
"Our challenge with Winky is to turn the new generation into an active part of the robolution to come by actually understanding how a robot works and how it is programmed." Boris Kesler
European Business: What are your plans for the future? Will you focus on robots for children only or for adults as well?
Boris Kesler: Our ambition is for Winky to become the new robotics educational games platform, with some 20 educational games planned by 2020 covering various topics such as diet, mathematics or reading. We also have the ambition that Winky will eventually become a robot for the whole family. For example we are working on an accessory to allow Winky to project movies that parents and children can watch together.
European Business: What social trends favour or promote the spread of educational robots in the future? Is there a demand for robots?
Boris Kesler: There is indeed a real demand for connected toys like ours, it's a market with double-digit growth. According to Xerfi, the global toy market has been growing steadily since 2012, reaching 180 USD billion in 2015, with an average annual growth of 2.9%, and is set to reach 194 billion USD for 2018. In 2017, 224 million connected toys were sold worldwide for five 5 billion USD, according to Les Echos. The growth of in this segment until 2022 is forecasted to be very strong – nearly 20% per year – bringing the market to 15.5 billion USD according to Juniper Research.
Interview: Stina Bebenroth | Pictures: MainBot