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Education through storytelling inspires global literacy app

Children’s communication specialist and television production co-ordinator Kristen Souvlis has turned her passion for educating children through storytelling into a global literacy app, Kindergo.

Kindergo’s parent company, Like a Photon Creative Pty Ltd, was established in 2012 and is a creative content company that creates television and film IP, as well as educational apps.

Co-CEO Nadine Bates joined the company in 2014 and together the award-winning children’s content producers have produced works for Disney, Sesame Street and Universal, so it was only natural for the pair to develop the children’s reading app, which was launched in July 2017.

Since then, not only has Kindergo recently secured $2.5 million in equity funding but the educational app has been featured by the Apple Editorial team on several occasions and currently has more than 36,000 users across 127 countries worldwide.

Ms Souvlis said that while the film and television business was growing, working with the likes of Sesame Street, Disney and Universal, they started seeing the results of the rise of the fragmentation of children’s entertainment channels.

“At the same time, through Nadine’s PhD research, we saw the decline of literacy in children in the Western world, the rise of the need for quality English as a second language tools for an increasing immigrant population, and the poor representation and messaging in content for kids, women, girls and anyone in a minority. So, we decided to do something about it,” she said.

“By creating education products children actually WANT to use, without sacrificing educational outcomes, and by basing it all in play, we created Kindergo, a product that caught the attention of Apple for its innovative use of story, unique reader technology and beautiful, intuitive design.

“We make movies and television for kids. We make education and literacy apps for kids, parents and schools. And we leverage the IP from both of these across each side of the business to drive growth.”

Despite the success of Like a Photon Creative and Kindergo, the biggest challenge the Australian startup faced was cashflow and negativity from people who didn’t believe they would be successful.

“We operated the business for a year, working other jobs to maintain our family lives, before we paid ourselves a cent.  We paid two other staff members before we paid ourselves,” Ms Souvlis said.

“So many people said we couldn’t do it, and that mental barrier was something we worked hard to overcome.”

In the future, Ms Souvlis said she would like to see the children’s reading suite of apps reach more developing nations throughout the world.

“Being able to reach developing communities and create magical reading moments for children all over the world is something we are striving for over the next two years. Kindergo is for any child, of any language, and any reading ability, and advancements in technology mean we can offer our educational products to a larger slice of our intended market,” she said.

“We are a team of parents, educators and creatives who bring a wealth of knowledge from these worlds to the table everyday. We not only understand our demographic, we are our demographic. It has been an incredibly valuable string in our bow when it comes to marketing our product, because, as parents and educators, we know what we would want, therefore could understand what was missing from the market prior to Kindergo’s inception.”

Currently based in the US Ms Souvlis is the only female in the current round of the Landing Pad program – an initiative designed to help startups take their business to a global level.

The company’s next challenge will be launching a Kindergo app focused on ESL across America and worldwide.

According to a report by the Centre for Immigration Studies, more than 25 million US residents speak English at levels they would rate as less than ‘very well’.

“My job is to use Kindergo as a means to help reduce the education gap for ESL kids in the US which currently stands at one teacher to every 150 students,” she said.

“We want children the world over to learn and grow with quality content and exciting digital interaction that also models all of the beliefs that we hold dear; kindness, tolerance, respect and hope.”

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Rebecca Thacker

Rebecca Thacker

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