https://innovateuk.blog.gov.uk/2017/08/08/game-changers-bethany-koby/

Game changers: Bethany Koby

As part of our Game changers series we meet Bethany Koby, who is on a mission to spark the creative imagination of kids with hands-on technology. Her company, Technology Will Save Us, produces a range of make-it-yourself kits for children to develop technology-based skills and passions.

I think every entrepreneur will say that entrepreneurs are crazy – you have to be!

- Bethany Koby, co-founder, Technology Will Save Us

Kids are smart – and their toys should be too

Bethany Koby, co-founder, Technology Will Save Us
Bethany Koby, co-founder, Technology Will Save Us

East London-based company Technology Will Save Us is on a mission to spark kids’ imaginations with hands-on technology. Producing and selling a range of make-it-yourself kits as well as a series of digital tools and projects, the company aims to bridge the physical and virtual education worlds and engage children, students, their families and teachers.

Products include a wearable device that kids can code themselves, a Micro:Bot kit to make toy robots and a music kit to create and amplify sound.

In the five years since its inception the company has attracted millions in venture capital funding and now boasts a staff headcount of more than 30 designers, engineers, problem solvers and educators.

With programming added to the UK school curriculum, a sizeable opportunity has been created for the company that also works with the UK's largest after-school club, Code Club, to teach digital skills to kids.

Rubbish is good

Bethany Koby, co-founder of Technology Will Save Us, says her personal lightbulb moment was when she discovered a discarded laptop in a rubbish can in Hackney.

[That moment] began this journey for us around the role that technology plays in our lives.

It got her and co-founder (and husband) Daniel Hirschmann thinking about the consumptive nature of modern living and how we – and young people in particular – interact with technology.

I became a mother and I was annoyed by the toy industry. It’s still pink and blue, it’s not about being productive and creative and empowering; it’s actually still very consumptive and kind of boring.

Rather than moan about the situation, Koby decided to be proactive – and Tech Will Save Us was born.

As crazy entrepreneurial people we decided, alright, let’s do something about it and using our experience as designers, educators and technologists we decided to build a toy brand for the creator generation, one that would require kids to engage with technology to build their own toys and then to use things like programming and electronics to bring them to life in really engaging ways.

Bethany's timeline

  • 2000 BFA in Graphic Design from Rhode Island School of Design
  • 2003-2012 Creative director at international branding and innovation consultancy Wolff Olins
  • 2012 Founded Tech Will Save Us with Daniel Hirschmann
  • 2015 $1.8m investment raised
  • 2015 Partners with BBC to give micro:bit to 1 million 11-year-olds
  • 2016 Mover kit raises $50k+ in crowdfunding in just two days
  • 2016 Awarded Best Kids Tech, CES Innovation Awards 2017

Juggling act

Bethany says that starting a business with your partner is not right for everyone and that having a co-founder is “like being married anyway” and “the most intimate of relationships”.

You’re sharing this really intense journey and there has to be an incredible amount of trust, respect and an incredible amount of commitment.

Key for Bethany was managing the demands of a start-up company with those of being a parent.

I have this theory that if you’re going to be a founder and a parent, you have to have a triangle. And that triangle is that your house, your office and your child’s school need to be in walking distance or cycling distance from each other. That flexibility, that sense of community, is really important to being able to be an entrepreneur and a parent and to have that flexibility.

Focusing on the journey

Like many entrepreneurs, Bethany views the growth of her company as a journey with many ups and downs rather a smooth, gentle ride to a destination. The “rollercoaster” nature of entrepreneurship means, she says, that you need a sense of “certainty and focus” about what it is you do.

I think every entrepreneur will say that entrepreneurs are crazy – you have to be! And crazy in the kind of ambitious, you want to make something better, making sure that you really love the thing that you’re building, because you’re going to have those lows that are going to make you feel like it’s not possible. But if you really believe in it you’ll find a way to go through the journey of building a business.

Ricardo Gonçalves, user experience lead, Technology Will Save Us
Ricardo Gonçalves, user experience lead, Technology Will Save Us

Working with Bethany is inspiring, she created this business with a very particular mission in mind, and a very inspiring mission as well. Every day her job really is to inspire us to crack this mission and to do something better every day.

- Ricardo Gonçalves, user experience lead, Technology Will Save Us

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