Serial entrepreneur Elnaz Sarraf is the founder and CEO of ROYBI, an edtech company that offers interactive, personalized language and STEM learning experiences for children. Elnaz was one of the 2019 What’s Your Pitch competition winners. She shares her company’s story, as well as advice for future contestants.
Tell us a little bit about you and how you started ROYBI.
I actually grew up in Iran, and I moved to the US 14 years ago. At that time, the opportunities women had in Iran were few. So when I got here, I really wanted to grab all the opportunities around me. I started a few companies and failed. I learned a lot of lessons.
I was one of the co-founders of the baby monitor company iBaby. I spent more than five years with parents and learned so much about what they really want to see. Education was something that we always discussed.
There’s a lot of attention on higher education but not so much on early childhood education. But it’s so critical. That’s why we started ROYBI — to use the power of AI to personalize education, to focus on the student’s abilities and interests rather than being in a large, one-size-fits-all classroom.
We follow your company online, and we see that you really have everything covered — managing people, going through growth, operations, marketing. We applaud you.
Thank you! We worked really hard. At first, it was just us, doing most things ourselves. My co-founder is in Shenzhen, China. Sometimes I’m working on the design, marketing, business development, or fundraising. Every day is completely different. Even the stress of it is exciting because if you think of the impact you’re going to make, at the end of the day it’s worth it.
We’ve also grown from two people to 22 globally between Mountain View, California, and Shenzhen. And we’re growing.
What has your overall experience been like since What’s Your Pitch?
For us, winning second place wasn’t really about the money. It was the recognition of our hard work. We even put it in our pitch deck. To this day, we still talk about it. It was the first time I’d ever won a cash prize.
I also got to know a lot of people, and I’m still in touch with some of them. I remember I was waiting for the second round, and I just sat at a table. All of a sudden, the person sitting in front of me was from the Department of Education. She was so nice and gave me a lot of information. You never know what will happen at these kinds of events!
What advice can you offer future What’s Your Pitch participants?
I would say come prepared. I got some tough questions in the second round when it was between 50 companies. You need to know your numbers.
Definitely listen to feedback. Listening to the feedback can help you shape your pitch for the next round. There are three rounds, and each gets tougher and tougher.
But also really enjoy the moment!
How is your company doing during COVID-19?
We introduce DOCBI that teaches children on issues related to healthy eating, cleanliness and well-being, all based on guidelines provided by WHO and the C.D.C.
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