Jeremy Scheinberg and Chris Harden present TROBO, their plush robot that talks and tells STEM stories to children through an accompanying app, in Shark Tank episode 728. The two dads are engineers that are well versed in consumer electronics and user interface technology. They got TROBO off the ground with a successful Kickstarter after they both realized their small children were curious about the world around them.
TROBO is a plush toy first and an educator second. The talking robot tells stories that answer kids' questions like: “What is lightning? How do birds fly? How does an iPhone work?” through stories on an iPad. The robot reads the stories, which answer kids' questions and feature your child, from an accompanying, animated “book” that's displayed on an iPad. This helps pre-readers learn to read while teaching them about STEM subjects.
The challenges the two dads face bringing the product to production include finding a manufacturer that can scale to demand and developing the app. Educators and the technology press LOVE TROBO and it appears parents do too. Once they get past the “pre-order stage,” there should be a fair amount of demand. There are two models: “Edison” and “Curie.”
They likely want a Shark's help scaling up production and with an infusion of cash for inventory and further development. Will a Shark like this robot and invest?
TROBO Shark Tank Recap
Chris and Jeremy enter the Tank seeking an investment of $100,000 in return for 10% of Trobo. They present the stuffed robot, explaining that the toy interacts wirelessly with a tablet or iPad, and creates personalized stories, allowing children to play and read along.
The stuffed toy is essentially a speaker. Trobo retails for $59.95, including the stuffed toy and the first five stories. They've gotten 600 orders from small to mid-sized retail stores. With write-ups in 45 publications, they feel ready to launch into the child educational toy market.
Mark Cuban is unimpressed. With crowd-sourced stories and a stuffed toy which is basically a gimmick for selling the technology, he doesn't feel the idea is strong enough to capture the market. He's out.
Kevin O'Leary says “You can't sell a $50 plush toy with a speaker in it. That's not going to work. The actual content, at $4, isn't going to work. There's tons of free content for everybody for children's books. Free. No cost.” He's out because he doesn't believe big stores like Target and Walmart will put the toy on the shelf.
Chris brings up Teddy Ruxpin, a toy that sold at $70 a unit in 1985. Daymond John responds “That was a different time, when technology wasn't what it is now.” He's out.
Lori Greiner feels the $50 price point is a “real challenge.” She goes on to point out that, although the pair have taken Trobo to toy fairs, they haven't had a strong response from big retailers. She feels that's a bad sign for the future, and she's out.
Robert Herjavec is the final Shark standing. Chris makes one final passionate plea, sharing his background as a child of a single, alcoholic mother, who encouraged him to get out from under the burdens of poverty by focusing on his education.
Robert sees Trobo as a “content delivery product.” He believes that a company like Dreamworks, with whom he already has contact, might buy the technology as a new way to sell their content. He makes the pair an offer; $100,000 for 1/3 of the business, contingent upon signing a licensing deal with Dreamworks.
Chris counteroffers, asking for $166,000 in return for 1/3 of the company. Robert takes the deal, and the Trobo pair lands a Shark deal.
TROBO Shark Tank Update
The Shark Tank Blog constantly provides updates and follow-ups about entrepreneurs who have appeared on the Shark Tank TV show. Once an episode has aired, we monitor the progress of the businesses featured, whether they receive funding or not and report on their progress.
Although the pair shook hands with Robert in the Tank, the deal did not, in the end, come to fruition. Non-disclosure agreements prevent the entrepreneurs from talking publicly about details of what happened to kill the deal, but chances are good that Dreamwork's interest in Trobo was lukewarm, and Robert's legal demands were too demanding for the pair. They continue to enjoy a wave of success from the Shark Tank effect, and Trobo's price has come down. The pair continues to sell Trobo through Amazon and through their website, and are still hoping to license their “content delivery platform” at some point in the future.