Today we’d like to introduce you to Bryanne Leeming.
Thanks for sharing your story with us Bryanne. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I graduated from McGill University with a degree in Cognitive Science. For my degree, I had to take two computer science classes. During those courses I realized that a computer game I had played at school as a kid, had prepared me for those college courses by teaching me beginner coding. That early exposure gave me an edge in the college course and later in my career in technology. From McGill I went straight to a product development Harry Winston in their timepiece department, seeing the process of building luxury watches. At Harry Winston I learned about building physical products, global business, and about the quality branding. From there, I went to a tech startup, ad Marketplace, where I learned how to innovate and solve problems at a fast-growing company. I was given a role managing technical projects with the engineering team and found that I had a unique skillset to communicate ideas between business and engineering and attributed it to my early experience learning to code. I went on to graduate from the Babson MBA program in 2016. During graduate school, I started working on a business idea to teach kids STEM skills with a twist. And thus, Unruly Studios was born.
I have always been an athlete even in college and graduate school. At Babson, I began to wonder why it seemed to always be “either-or” for kids. They were either active or learning. There had to be a way to combine active play with STEM learning for kids. Doing so would invite new kids into STEM who may not previously have been interested through social, active group play like sports. I made the first prototype out of paper and tested it in a friend’s 2nd grade classroom to much success. I spent the next few months building the first electronic prototype at a local Makerspace, the Artisan’s Asylum. I learned to solder and work with Arduinos to build it and began testing that prototype with kids at several local YCMA programs. Once we had a functional prototype and some great feedback from early users, it was time to build the team. Because of Unruly strong mission and my energy and passion for moving it forward, I have been able to put together an incredible team with experts from the MIT Media Lab, Hasbro, Mattel, and iRobot with advisors from Amazon, Disney, and more.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
To teach computer science in an approachable way while encouraging physical activity around the room, we have a hardware component to our experience combined with software. This allows kids to learn better because they have a tangible element of the experience and a real-world product to program. Hardware comes with its own set of challenges. In addition to the normal challenges of starting a company, we have additional hurdles like manufacturing, inventory management, driving down unit costs, and planning for scalability. As a non-technical founder, those mountains sometimes seemed even higher to climb. Luckily there are lots of communities and resources available for hardware startups and I have been able to connect with other founders facing similar challenges. It is a collaborative industry, and I have found many people willing to share advice. And a nice surprise is that within the kid’s market, hardware typically leads to revenue much faster than traditional software companies, which are often expected to be free by parents and teachers. Despite the initial challenges developing hardware, Unruly Studios has reached a new stage now and it’s all up from here!
So, let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Unruly Studios story. Tell us more about the business.
Parents and educators today want two things. First, they want their kids to learn to code to prepare them to solve problems creatively in the future. Second, they want their kids to move around because kids today are spending too much time sitting at screens. Unruly Studios is the first EdTech company to combine physical play with STEM education for kids. Unruly long-term strategy is to revolutionize playing and learning with its interactive experiences and community for kids 6+.
Unruly’s first product, Unruly Splats, is a set of programmable floor buttons that kids can code to light up, make sound, and sense stepping. Kids connect a tablet or smartphone to the Splats with Bluetooth, then they control them using a simple visual block-based coding language (based on MIT’s Scratch). Then kids play active games such as whack-a-mole, relay races, or dance routines by running around and jumping on the Splats. Also, they can share their game creations with friends through our online community. Splats are just the beginning as Unruly continues to develop new products that enable active play.
Unruly recently completed a successful Kickstarter campaign, collecting pre-orders for Splats. 3,000 kids, parents, and educators have tested the experience and they love it. Splats recently won a Make Magazine Editor’s Choice award and launched a partnership with Boston Children’s Museum. The Unruly Studios team and advisors have experience from the MIT Media Lab, iRobot, Makey-Makey, Hasbro, Leapfrog, GoldieBlox, Mattel, Cranium, Sesame Street, and more.
As a company, we are most proud of our unique offering for kids, parents, and educators. We are entering a crowded market with lots of companies small and large trying to create innovative solutions to get kids learning to code. I’m proud of how we have been able to stand out with the experience we offer that no one else offers: Active STEM Play.
Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
I don’t believe in luck. I like the Seneca quote “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” I think good things happen to those who work hard and continue to pivot and adjust their business model based on market feedback.
- We have an Indiegogo live now where you’ll get the lowest price for the product by pre-ordering. When we launch, we estimate the 2-pack of Unruly Splats will be $149 but you can pre-order it now on Indiegogo for $119.
- Address: Unruly Studios LearnLaunch
281 Summer St. Floor 2 Boston, MA 02210
- Website: https://unruly-studios.com/
- Phone: 603-252-9989
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/unruly_studios/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/playunrulystudios/
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/unruly_studios
- Other: https://www.linkedin.com/company/11152057/
John Papa, Tom Nguyen