Innovation Showcases: Q&A with Co-Founder & CEO of Primo

Primo, creator of smart toys that teach children how to learn to code, first piqued our interest back in 2013 when it surpassed its Kickstarter goals and raised over £56,000 from 651 generous backers on the crowd-funding site.

The startup then received a flurry of media attention from tech sites like MashableFast Company, and Wired praising Primo for making programming 'tangible, helping kids write their first programs and algorithms.' 

Various funding sources, such as London-based accelerator Emerge Education and the sponsor of EdTech Europe IBIS Capital, also took notice of Primio; helping raise a funding round of $750,000 to further develop their 'internet of toys' startup. Slightly over a year later, Primo shipped its first coding unit, featuring the adorable robot Cubetto, and continues to collect orders from customers worldwide. 

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We're excited to have Primo join EdTech Europe at our SXSWedu Morning Mixer event on the 10th of March in Austin, Texas and are pleased to be able to share an interview showcasing this innovative startup in this Founder Q&A feature.

We spoke with Filippo Yacob, the Co-Founder and CEO Primo, to hear his perspective on trends within the EdTech industry, crowd-funding campaigns, the importance of 21st century skills, and what's next for the company. 


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EdTech Europe: It’s been a little over a year since your extremely successful Kickstarter Campaign ended--what were a few of the most notable achievements for Primo that you were able to accomplish with that funding?

Filippo Yacob: We completed development of the Cubetto Playset, and we have now started to produce and ship, this is by far the most notable of our achievements. Crowd funding was easy, and designing good concepts comes naturally, but we really cut our teeth as a hardware company when it came to developing the Cubetto Playset. The development of the electronics components was one of the hardest aspects of the project. Our products are based on proprietary open electronics that anyone can learn, play and create with and what's now powering the Cubetto Robot will power more products in the future. We have a very solid piece of hardware, which we are proud of. 


ETE: Would you recommend crowd-funding for other startups as an effective way to not only raise money, but a beneficial tool to debut a product?

FY: We couldn’t have done it without it. Crowd-funding works on so many levels. You can finance a project, and you can build up an early adopters list and connect with people who really love what you are doing. We initially had a hard time proving our concept to investors, but granted your start-up is qualified to deliver a product or service, what more proof does an investor need than individuals passionate enough to pay for a product before it even exists?

As far as debuting a product is concerned, some argue that crowd funding platforms like Kickstarter are not market places, and shouldn’t be used as such. However, the majority of backers on any given project come from within Kickstarter, and you can see on many of their profiles that backing becomes a way of acquiring exclusive products, so if backers treat [Kickstarter] as a sort of “exclusive” market place, why shouldn’t a start-up do the same?


ETE: There has been a renewed interest in providing the tools for all ages to learn how to code, prioritizing 21st century skills as part of curriculums-- how do you view Primo as uniquely contributing to these teaching efforts?

FY: We feel there is a flurry of tools out there, but they are still hugely inaccessible and complex. There is latent interest in understanding coding and technology, how computers, phones, gadgets and toys work, but little is done to facilitate this. And we feel this is where we come in, offering products that work out of the box, much like traditional black box toys and products, but with the added benefit of a facilitated, hands on and tangible hacking experiences.


ETE: In addition to coding and programming skills, are there other qualities or values that you believe that Primo teaches children?

FY: We believe that coding or programming shouldn’t be an isolated topic when teaching children to be creative with the technologies that surround us. We put a lot of emphasis onhands on electronics, robotics, understanding circuits, soldering, motors.


ETE: As a European startup that has received attention from a range of international press outlets and investors, are there any tips you'd share with other EdTech startups looking to expand their reach globally?

FY: I would say not to think of boundaries and geography as hurdle. Just because your startup is in London or Paris or Cape Town doesn’t mean you are confined to building a network inyour vicinity. If I had to give a piece of advice, I would encourage entrepreneurs to think globally.


ETE: What should we expect to see from Primo in 2015? 

FY: We have a few things we will announce at SXSW, and a new product aimed at the 7+ category. We have a few “surprises” coming along.


ETE: Can you share one prediction for the next year for the EdTech industry?

FY: From where we stand, we can see hardware getting more and more attention in the coming year.


Learn more about Primo and pre-order a playset by visiting their site or following the team on Twitter.