Far away, yet so near: App lets kids, distant loved ones read together
BY NANCY DAHLBERG
Helping military families enjoy story time together was the inspiration for Caribu, an app enabling children and their loved ones far away to read together.
Caribu started out as a class project in London. Alvaro Sabido’s MBA classmates at Imperial College in London went their separate ways after commencement, and Sabido later decided to develop it into a company and form a team in Miami, where he grew up. It took him five months, until fall of 2016, to find Maxeme Tuchman, former executive director for Teach For America in Miami-Dade, who joined as the CEO. They met through an online co-founder matchmaker service.
Caribu marries video calling and e-books to provide an interactive children’s storytime experience when family members are far apart, whether it is parents legally separated, traveling for work or in the military, a grandparent staying connected or teachers using Caribu for remote tutoring. The users simply make a call, choose a book together, and read or draw in real-time — as if they were in the same room.
Features such as a pointer and magnifying glass facilitate the experience. Users of the app can choose from a library of more than 200 children’s storybooks and educational workbooks in multiple languages, the team said in their plan.
Caribu won third place in the Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge Community Track, scoring particularly high for value proposition and team experience. The entry combines education-tech and social impact, two trends the Miami Herald saw throughout the entry pool this year.
The Caribu app is free. The company currently makes money through in-app purchases of the books. Its customers are military members on active duty, business travelers, parents who work late, grandparents and other loved ones who can’t always be at home for story time. Caribu’s largest market is the United States, followed by the United Kingdom and China, said Sabido, who is the CTO.
This summer, Caribu will be changing over to a monthly subscription model. “It’s a better value for our users but it also allows us to provide subscriptions for organizations. We’re talking to a large hotel chain, large mentoring organizations, children’s hospitals and military organizations,” Tuchman said.