Connecting kids with grandparents: the startup app hitting it big in pandemic
By Marc Arcas
San Francisco, Sep 2 (efe-epa).- In 2020, when children want to see their grandparents, they have almost only one way to do so: via the Internet. This is the context within which the startup application Caribu has grown in a manner none of its founders could have imagined.
“Today, we’re 10 times bigger than just six months ago, at the beginning of the pandemic, and we’ve tripled the number of our employees,” said Spaniard Alvaro Sabido, the cofounder of the app along with Maxeme Tuchman, originally from Cuba, told EFE in an interview.
Caribu was founded in the US in 2017 with the initial idea of connecting military families after Sabido observed that only way that a soldier stationed abroad could read a bedtime story to his daughter was by retransmitting the image of the physical book via the camera on a laptop computer.
Thus, the engineer thought that “there should be other more comfortable and efficient systems” to accomplish the same thing and – along with Tuchman – developed and marketed the video-call app via which the child and the adult see exactly the same content on their respective screens: books to read or to color in, games to play, and so on.
Despite the fact that the initial focus was on military families, Tuchman said that very quickly they noticed that another segment of society was very interested in their product: older people with grandchildren and, in particular, grandmothers.
“Grandmothers will do anything they can to be in contact with their grandchildren and families and, if necessary, they’ll get a doctorate in information sciences,” joked Tuchman, adding that the industry often underestimates the technical ability and computer savvy of people between the ages of 50 and 70.
“They have a lot of technological ability,” she said.
The project was well-received in the marketplace and the app was downloaded at a rapid clip by customers via Apple’s App Store, but when March 2020 – and the coronavirus pandemic – rolled around, the dynamic changed completely: the number of downloads multiplied, the userbase skyrocketed and money began to rain down on the founders along with investor interest.
“We haven’t slept since March 13,” joked Tuchman. “Priority number one for families with the pandemic was to be safe, but number two was to stay mentally healthy and connected, and for that there’s Caribu.”
Just as in the case of Zoom and other online apps, the firm found itself perfectly positioned to respond to the new needs of consumers, and to that can be added the “boom” in the App Store, which in recent months has seen its activity explode, both due to the pandemic as well as to Apple’s new business strategy that focuses on services.
According to figures released on Wednesday by the Cupertino, California-based tech giant, 2.7 million people are working each day in the US for products and services that are available through the digital app store, and the state of Florida – where Caribu is based – is one of those leading the growth in this area.
The app – which has content in Spanish, Portuguese, English, French, Mandarin Chinese and other languages – also adapts to the social reality at any given moment, and thus now titles such as “How to wear a face mask” and “How to be anti-racist” have ballooned in popularity.