A very modern take on a traditional Christmas gift is being offered by Dublin company StoryToys which makes 3D interactive pop-up fairytales books for children.
It offers six digital titles, including Rapunzel, Snow White and Hansel and Gretel based on the original Grimm Brothers’ stories, all of which can be down-loaded onto iPads, iPhones and Android devices.
“Christmas is an important time of the year for us and we have released our newest title, Puss in Boots earlier this month,’’ says StoryToys CEO Barry O’Neill.
He says iPads and tablets are a very popular present this year and that some gift givers are preloading them with StoryToys apps.
“We also get increased sales when users go to the app store after turning the devices on,’’ adds Mr O’Neill who expects to sell at least 10,000 apps during the festive season.
When it was developed in 2010 to take advantage of the growing smartphone market, the company’s digital pop-up storybook was a new concept in children’s entertainment.
“Our interactive books combine stories with the interactivity of games, they look and feel like books, and have brought bedtime reading for children into the digital age,’’ says Mr O’Neill.
Increasing staff size from four at the beginning of the year to 15, StoryToys is now making ambitious plans for growth in 2013.
“The company has achieved strong traction in the market to date with its interactive books having been downloaded more than 2.5m times globally and achieved number one positions in key market charts in the US, Germany, UK, France, and others,’’ says Mr O’Neill.
Next year StoryToys plans to double its staff size and to create another 20 titles.
The aim within the next four to five years is to establish StoryToys as one of the top five companies globally in the children’s digital entertainment market.
Given that the market for apps is continuing to grow exponentially on a global level, Mr O’Neill sees vast potential for StoryToys.
“This is the fastest growing consumer technology sector, with more than 1bn tablet devices and 1.5bn smartphones expected to be in the market by 2013. The children’s toy and games market was worth €78bn in 2011.”
The company has had a name change and a switch in direction since it was set up as Ideal Binary by brothers, Aidan and Kevin Doolan in 2008. Games designers and programmers, they got involved in app development and created an e-book product containing a collection of classic literature.
Later they had the idea of interactive pop-up books for children and created their first title Rumplestiltskin, launching for Christmas 2010.
The success of this first book meant a refocusing of the company and a realisation that it needed to scale-up from a two-person operation.
Originally started on a shoestring, the company raised €750,000 in funding, with €500,000 coming from AIB Seed Capital and Leaf Investments and €250,000 from Enterprise Ireland which identified Ideal Binary as a High Potential Start Up in 2011.
Mr O’Neill — who was previously involved in setting up Upstart games — became company chairman in 2010 and the following year took on the role of CEO.
Renamed StoryToys this year, the company used the funding to increase its staff size and produce four new titles, including an original app called Farm 123, designed for preschoolers.
The company’s largest market is the US which now accounts for over 40% of sales. “We also sell well in Germany, this has been driven by our focus on Grimms’ fairytales but we have also been successful in France and Korea,” says Mr O’Neill.
The company’s products have been sold in the Apple Store since 2010.
Now they are also available on Google Play, on Amazon and Barns and Noble websites and following a global deal with Samsung in recent months, can also be downloaded on Android devices.
Some are available in eight languages, including bestseller Rapunzel which has been played 10m times since its launch this year.
Marketing is a little unusual because the users of the apps range in age from two to eight, so the strategy has to be aimed at parents. “We use Mom blogs as well as app store Optimization to ensure that we appear in the ranking for people who do a search for fairytales.’’
In 2013 StoryToys will be focusing on expansion and innovation. Mr O’Neill says that the company now has a number of competitors, but is aiming to make the most of being first mover in this space. “We will continue to innovate, this is what Apple, Google and Samsung, our distribution partners are looking for.’’
The first order of business for the new year will be to move to a new premises in Dublin city centre, since the current premises is now overcrowded and StoryToys is planning further recruitment.
Mr O’Neill says the long-term aim over the next four to five years, is to achieve a turnover of in excess of €10m.
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