The 25th of October 2019 was a Friday.
Aside from the political storms of the day, high winds fueled a spate of wildfires in Northern California and Twitter’s share value plunged almost 21% following poor third quarter revenue figures.
But Mike Rizkalla was oblivious to such events around the world. A serial entrepreneur and award-winning creative leader in the technology and robotics industries, Mike had an idea.
That idea began to evolve as he and longtime friend and collaborator, Doug Hughes, himself a veteran of building innovative technologies for education, put their heads together.
Mike had been trying to establish consistent and healthy bedtime routines for his kids, Max and Emily, and thought an animated character magically brought to life might be the answer. Surely, there had to be something out there that could help with this.
After googling “How to get a toddler to sleep” and receiving 198 million results, Mike discovered there were several sleep aids and trainers on the market, but none of them seemed to have the holistic approach to bedtime that he sought.
Digging deep into their respective backgrounds, Mike and Doug asked themselves if it might be possible to bring an animated character Mike had imagined to life, to turn the idea into a reality. They outlined the most important elements of such a venture.
This as-yet unnamed children’s companion would need to:
- inspire kids and become their best buddy;
- captivate children without increasing screen time – a hot topic that many parents are keen to address and limit for their children. In fact, it would need to offer an alternative to screen time altogether, to help lessen that total;
- encourage youngsters to perform some of those less appealing, but nonetheless essential, bedtime routines like tooth brushing and putting on pajamas;
- help children develop healthy habits and also reward them for completing tasks, encouraging them to continue to interact;
- and serve as a welcome resource for parents, not a replacement.
Mike and Doug brainstormed and then set about developing their idea. Within thirty days, they were ready to create a prototype. There had been no boulders in their path to stump them as they created, and no apparent mental obstacles.
They moved from one step to another and then from one leap to another. In no time at all, Snorble® was born.
So, with an exciting concept, a solid plan, and a target list of experts in multiple fields who were eager to weave their magic to turn the Snorble dream into reality, what could possibly go wrong?
Well, then the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
Coming Together While Social Distancing
Forming a startup and creating an innovative technological product always presents challenges, but this was a new one. In the old world, before the new normal, it would have been all hands on deck, with everyone flying into one central location to discuss how to take this to the next level. But not in 2020.
The team of specialists from the worlds of animation, innovation, AI, tech, child development, and engineering were located thousands of miles apart
Some were in Nova Scotia, Canada, others were in California, New York, Rhode Island, Georgia, Florida, Spain, Germany and Serbia. One was even observing the worldwide mandate to remain indoors while in Vietnam with no sign of being allowed to leave (he’s still there, by the way).
Many entrepreneurs would have thrown in the towel, or at least pushed Snorble onto the proverbial back shelf for a time, waiting for the pandemic to ease. But not Mike Rizkalla. He paused and took a step back for a couple of weeks, and then dove in headfirst.
The Success of Snorble
The result, less than two years after that light bulb first popped up above his and Doug’s heads in October 2019, has been amazing:
- The all-star team of experts Mike sought was recruited and engaged to create magic.
- Companies leading the way in AI and robotics came onboard to develop a Snorble prototype.
- The world of Lullaboo was created.
- More than $1m in initial funding was raised during a four-month period.
- A successful Indiegogo campaign surpassed expectations in generating presales and raised over $200,000.
- An advisory board of leaders in tech, education, and child care was assembled.
Such success is unprecedented during a pandemic. It simply shouldn’t happen! But it has. Under Mike’s guidance, Team Snorble has created a unique and groundbreaking consumer product using brand-new cutting-edge technology.
Now, as Snorble moves into the production phase of development and we ramp up letting the world know about our intelligent and engaging buddy for kids, we’ll post a series of weekly blogs, taking a look behind the curtain at Team Snorble. This was a small part of co-founder Mike Rizkalla’s story, and we have plenty more to tell.