Bolstered by a successful capital raise, earlier this year, Elanation co-founders Katherine Pace and Aimee Atkins have launched the start-up’s first offering, with the aim being to satisfy a gap in the kid-tech market for age-appropriate fitness wearables – and they’re just in time for Christmas.
In July, Pace and Atkins closed Elanation’s final seed-funding round after securing $110,000 in capital from Sydney Angels. Pace told Dynamic Business that the angel group was impressed by their business model, including product-market fit, as well as their passion, resilience and international appetite.
With backing from a further 14 investors from Australia, the Sydneysiders have big plans for 2017, including a Series A round in June plus the launch of Elanation into the US market.
Critically, their partnership is a marriage of complementary professional disciplines and experiences, suggesting they’re in strong position to succeed in the kid-tech space.
The company’s CEO, Pace, is a design engineer whose accomplishments include managing the design studio that worked on the Shanghai flagship store of consumer electronics giant, Bang & Olufsen. She is also a serial entrepreneur whose other ventures include Vame, a free online tool to help navigate an increasingly multicultural business world – specifically, the technology spares professionals the embarrassment of mispronouncing a client or colleague’s name.
Meanwhile, Atkins, Elanation’s CMO, has over 20 years’ experience creating successful children’s products and entertainment, including the Billy’s Boatshed series of books. In addition, she spent more than four years performing alongside iconic children’s music group, The Wiggles, as Dorothy the Dinosaur.
“There’s a dearth of wearables for kids”
Pace and Atkins met at a mutual friend’s wedding in 2013, where they bonded over a shared love of fitness and innovation. Remaining in touch, they founded Elanation in February 2016 after identifying a huge gap in the wearable technology market.
“Despite being digital natives, there’s a dearth of age-appropriate wearables for kids,” Pace explained. “While some wearables are marketed to kids, they tend to be underpinned by gimmicks that don’t promote fitness and creativity. Part of the reason why the kid-tech space is under-serviced is that tech companies are too preoccupied with inventing the next iteration of IoT technology to find a product-market fit that works for kids, especially eight to 12-year-olds.
“The problem is that kids want to engage with the digital world into which they are born, so they are spending their pocket money on wearables designed specifically for adults. This is a concern for parents, not only because kids are inheriting ‘adult mannerisms’ instinctively but also because adult devices are designed without consideration for the cyber-safety of kids. Furthermore, some popular devices include calorie counting, GPS tracking, photo sharing, text chat capabilities, geo-location and geo-tagging capabilities, which are illegal for children under the age of 13.”
“We’re careful not to bombard people with features”
In search of a solution, Pace and Atkins conceived Elanation – a lifestyle technology brand that is fun, community-focused and cyber-safe for children aged eight to 12 years.
“We knew we had the combined experience, passion and networks to warrant going into business together,” she said. “We are creating smart IoT technology, connected with a virtual community that offers games, a newsfeed, safe chat and incentives for children to be active and imaginative. Rather than bombarding our community with all the IoT features available today, we’re focused on selecting the ones that are appropriate for our audience, and curating their use in a way that stimulates entertaining, healthy play.”
Pace said Elanation’s first product is ETURBO – a waterproof smart wristband that enables kids to interact with one another in a virtual setting – is designed to fuel imagination and build enthusiasm for sports.
“ETURBO uses gameplay to incentivise kids to keep active in a cyber-safe environment,” Pace said. “It rewards steps children take in the real-world with virtual-world advancements, while tracking their steps, heart-rate and distance travelled. Inside the Elanation iOS application, children ‘turbo-charge’ their avatar with energy they collect from the real world, allowing them to build or explore new, futuristic worlds and fight monsters. In addition, kids can pre-text chat with friends, check their stats on leaderboards and compete in daily missions to unlock video content and rewards, including sporting tips form athletes.”
“We had to cut down our dream list of deliverables”
According to Pace, the capital she and Atkins have raised to date enabled Elanation to transform from passion project to viable business within its first year, giving them the confidence to quit their day jobs in October.
“We’ve been able to focus on building up a diverse team as well as beta-testing and scaling ETURBO,” she said. “This involved spending a lot of time with children and parents to prioritise our ‘need to have’ vs ‘nice to have’ feature lists. While we’re happy with our progress, the year hasn’t been without challenges. A big one has been managing expectations – as an ambitious business founder, it is hard to cut down your dream list of deliverables. We’ve also had to overcome cultural barriers – while working with people from a range of cultural background is an immensely positive thing in terms of business innovation, sometimes communication can be tricky.”
Fortunately, as the brains behind Vame, it’s unlikely Pace – or Atkins – will be caught out by any tricky-to-pronounce staff names. That’s one less thing to worry about as the duo pursue massive growth. Pace explained, “There will be 50 billion IoT devices by 2020 and Elanation strives to be the leading lifestyle technology company of choice for children globally. Watch out – we have more products, more cyber worlds and more partnerships coming.”