Trobo is a plush robot with a speaker that can teach young kids the basic concepts of math, science, technology, and engineering (STEM). It is a vocal plush toy that enables kids to interactively watch stories, play games, and take quizzes using TROBO’s smart device-compatible application.
TROBO answers children’s questions in the form of stories such as What is lightning and how do birds fly.
The range of interactive plush toys that educate children about STEM subjects features a Bluetooth connection that enables the robot to communicate with smart devices like tablets and smartphones.
The robot can read the story from the book displayed on the smart device, making it a great educational toy for pre-readers which also contributes to developing young children’s reading skills.
TROBO toy and application were developed by two Orlando-based engineers who had the experience of working in a theme park and in the development of a gaming park. The two engineer fathers, Jeremy Scheinberg and Chris Harden, were both influenced by their children’s curiosity which pushed them to develop something that can be of interest to all children. Scheinberg graduated from Penn State University and possessed experience of working for Universal, Disney, and NBC, whereas Harden’s experience mostly comes from working as a development director at EA Sports.
The two engineer-fathers met at the Startup Weekend event in Orlando, and that led to the development of TROBO.
Initially, the two fathers aimed at developing a programmable robot but over time, they changed their minds and decided to go for a vocal robot that could be used with a smart device.
TROBO was pitched in Shark Tank in April 2016 in the 21st episode of season 7. The two fathers requested $100,000 along with 10% equity but they ended up with $166,000 in exchange for a 33% stake in the company, which depended upon obtaining the license from DreamWorks.
Is TROBO Still An Active Business?
No, TROBO is not an active business. While the website is still functional, the company is no longer producing TROBO as it is too expensive to maintain.
How Did the Shark Tank Pitch Go?
Chris Harden and Jeremy Scheinberg talk about TROBO in Shark Tank Season 7, Episode 21, as a cuddly robot communicating with kids and sharing STEM stories through an application.
The father duo entered the Shark Tank looking forward to an investment of $100,000 in return for 10% equity of TROBO. They presented the stuffed robot and explained how the toy interacts wirelessly with a smart digital device such as a tablet or smartphone and creates personalized stories, which allow children to read, play and learn.
TROBO is typically a speaker inside a plush toy. With a retail price of $59.95, the product included a stuffed toy along with the first five stories. Following their appearance in Shark Tank, TROBO received 600 orders from retail stores of different sizes. Moreover, the product write-ups were featured in 45 publications. Given the positive response, both Jeremy Scheinberg and Chris Harden were confident that they were ready to launch into the educational toy market.
Following the pitch, the judges had reservations.
Mark Cuban was unimpressed as he viewed the product as a stuffed toy with a speaker. He felt that the product wasn’t strong enough to capture the target market.
Kevin O’Leary had reservations about the price of the plush toy. He believed that a $59.95 plush toy isn’t going to work as it is primarily a speaker with the actual content of $4. He argued about why people would buy this toy when they have access to tons of free content.
To counter the argument by O’Leary, Chris mentioned Teddy Ruxpin, a toy that was sold for $70 in 1985; however, Daymond John responded that things and technology were way too different back in 1985 than it is today.
Lori Greiner also felt that the high product price was the real challenge.
Chris made his last passionate plea by sharing details of his early childhood and how his single mother encouraged him to get out of poverty only by focusing on his education.
Robert Herjavec was the final Shark standing who viewed TROBO as a product that delivers content. He believed that if a company like Dreamworks is willing to collaborate with TROBO, the idea might be worth it. He made an offer of $100,000 for 1/3 of the business, which depended upon the licensing deal with Dreamworks. However, Chris counteroffered and asked for $166,000 in return for 33% equity of the company.
Our Review of TROBO
TROBO is primarily a soft, plush toy that all children love to have. However, it is more than a plush toy. It has a speaker, which makes TROBO a little more than just a toy. It’s an educator and a talking robot that responds to children’s questions through stories.
The robot reads stories from a compatible device such as a tablet or smartphone which encourages pre-readers to learn STEM subjects while building on their reading skills.
However, TROBO costs around $60, which is a little too much for a plush toy that can share four stories, especially when we live in times where there is unlimited access to free content for kids.
Pros of TROBO
- The plush toy that can read stories and answer questions through stories,
- Develop reading skills among pre-readers.
Cons of TROBO
- Highly-priced stuffed toy,
- Includes only 4 stories.
Our Final Thoughts
All in all, Chris couldn’t have done better in explaining the product and their demand on Shark Tank, and it was unfortunate that the deal was contingent on signing up on a licensing agreement with DreamWorks.
However, the company still managed to get 600 orders and 45 featured write-ups in publications that speak for the venture.