Woobo co-founder and CEO Feng Tan PhD ’17 tapped into his interest in robotics and animation to develop an educational toy for children after catching the entrepreneurial bug while taking two courses at MIT: 15.390 (New Enterprises) and 6.922 (Entrepreneurship in Engineering: The Founder’s Journey).
A talkative and fluffy creature with a short USB port-shaped tail, Woobo (pronounced as “U-bo”) is a playtime companion who is always learning, always teaching, and always loving. The cute, cuddly robot features a variety of activities for kids age four to nine, and comes equipped with around 50 games and functionalities that combines different educational values.
Soon after coming up with the idea for Woobo, Feng and co-founder Di Wang, a friend from high school and a PhD candidate in artificial intelligence at Carnegie Mellon University, started pitching the concept around for support and funding. They entered Accelerate, the second contest of the MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition that is focused on prototyping, and landed in the semi-finals.
In summer 2015, they were accepted into MIT delta V, an educational accelerator for MIT student entrepreneurs, and received coaching, mentorship, and funding, and learned about the mechanics of venture creation. After delta V, they entered the MIT $100K Pitch, and made it to the finals where had the chance to pitch their startup idea to a panel of judges and a live audience of over 400.
In 2016, Woobo received seed funding from Kunlun Group in China, allowing them to grow the team and relocate from the MIT Innovation Initiative’s student startup space in Kendall Square, where they had been housed for a few months, into their own space in nearby Central Square. They also began collaborating with the MIT Hong Kong Innovation Node and the MIT-China Innovation and Entrepreneurship Forum, a student group Feng helped found and chaired in 2011.
In fall 2017, Woobo brought the first edition of their product to market. They are currently working on securing their next round of funding, in addition to finalizing manufacturing options in Shenzhen, China.