Parents of children living at home during an epidemic have to look for alternative activities to promote hands-on learning experiences as children disappear due to attending class. New York-based educational technology startup Thimble aims to help overcome this problem by offering a subscription service for STEM-based projects using a combination of kits sent to children at home such as robotics, electronics, and other technology Allows to create and directs online.
Thimble started back in 2016 as a Kickstarter project when it raised $ 300,000 in 45 days to develop its STEM-based robotics and programming kit. The following year, it began selling its kits to schools, largely for use in New York, in the classroom or after-school programs. In the years that followed, Thimble expanded its customer base to include about 250 schools in New York, Pennsylvania and California, which would purchase kits and gain access to teacher training.
But the COVID-19 epidemic changed the course of Thimble’s business.
“Many schools were in a panic. They were not sure what was going on, and so their spending had stabilized for some time, ”explains Oscar Pedroso, co-founder and CEO of Thimble, who has a background in education. “Even our top customers I’ll call, they’ll just [say], ‘Hey, this is not a good time. We think we are going to close schools. “
Pedroso felt that the company would have to start selling directly to parents instead.
Around April, it effectively entered the B2C market for the first time.
The company today offers parents a membership that allows them to receive 15 different STEM-focused project kits and a curriculum that includes live instruction from a teacher. A kit is shipped out over the course of three months, although a quick schedule is available that ships with greater frequency.
The first kit is Basic Electronics, where children learn to create simple circuits such as doorbells, kitchen timers, and music composers, for example. The kit is designed so that children can take care of themselves and increase their hunger for more projects. It’s a Wi-Fi robot, a little drone, an LED compass that lights up, and a synthesizer that lets kids be their own DJs as they move into future kits
While any family can use the kit to help children experience hands-on electronics and robotics, Pedroso says that around 70% of customers are where children are already doing projects of this type. Are ready. The remaining 30% are where parents want to introduce the concepts of robotics and programming to see if children show interest. About 40% of the students are girls.
Membership is more expensive than some DIY projects at $ 59.99 / per month (or $ 47.99 / mo if paid annually), but the reason is that it includes live instructions in the form of weekly 1-hour zoom classes. Thimble has part-time employees who are not only able to understand the content, but can do so in a way that appeals to children – being energized, energetic and able to jump in to help if they feel that Having a child or being depressed. Two out of five teachers are women. An instructor is bilingual and teaches some classes in Spanish.
During class, one teacher gives instructions while the other helps moderate the chat room and answers the questions that children ask there.
Live classes will have approximately 15–20 students, but Thimble additionally offers a package for small groups that reduces class sizes. These may be used by homeschool “pods” or other groups.
“We started listening to pods and then micro-schools,” says Pedroso. “They were parents who were joined by other parents, and wanted their children to be part of the same class. He generally required a little more attention and wanted to adapt some things a little more.
These memberships are more expensive at $ 250 / month, but the cost is shared between a group of parents, which brings in a price per household basis. About 10% of the total customer base is on the scheme, as the majority of the customers are individual families.
Thimble also works with many community programs and nonprofits in select markets that help subsidize the cost of the kit to make subscriptions affordable. Through schools, newspapers and other marketing efforts, their announcement is available.
Since subscribing, Thimble has reestablished a customer base and now has 1,110 paid subscribers. Some, however, have grandfathers in the earlier price point, so Thimble needs to carry on the business.
In addition to Kickstarter, Thimble raised funds and worked on the business with the help of several accelerators, including Learn Lunch in Boston, Halion in DC, and Telluride Venture Accelerator in Colorado.
The startup, co-founded by Joel Cilli in Pittsburgh, is now about 60% off on a $ 1 million seed round, but is not detailing it at the moment.