Robotics is child’s play
Elementary children developing a fully-automated door opener for a henhouse? A vending machine thought up by kids that dispenses candy as if by magic? These advanced toys for very young children were created using the products developed by Robo Wunderkind. It comes as no surprise to learn that the company, which was founded in Vienna in 2015, has a very successful track record, with its toy robots highly sought-after in Germany and the USA alike. Today, Robo Wunderkind is available in 20 countries worldwide.
Creativity, problem solving, working together
The programmable toy robots certainly seem to have struck a chord. Co-founder Ann Iarotska explained the idea behind introducing robotics to children’s bedrooms: “Creativity, problem solving and working together need to be encouraged from earliest childhood.” The Lego-compatible robotic modules are programmed using a smartphone app. Elements such as light sensors and mini electric motors can also be incorporated into set-ups. There really are no limits on what’s creatively possible. And it is a real hit with the little ones, as the impressive examples on the Robo Wunderkind Instagram page show.
Lighting the touchpaper at the Hofburg
Everything started back in 2013 at the Pioneers Festival for start-ups in the imperial setting of the Hofburg Vienna. Iarotska, part of the organizational team at the time, met Yuri Levin – with whom she would later co-found Robo Wunderkind – at the festival. The catalyst? “We got into an intense discussion about the future direction of technology and commerce,” Iarotska recalled: “We realized that there was enormous pent-up demand in the educational segment.”
The key question to emerge out of their momentous conversation? “What’s the optimal path of least resistance when it comes to getting young people interested in modern technology?” The Robo Wunderkind product range provides a clear answer. “Toy robots are a great way to do this since they visualize and bring to life the interplay between various components,” explained the Ukrainian-born tech expert who studied business in Vienna and London and also honed her craft in Silicon Valley.
Vienna is a magnet for excellence
But what was it that led globetrotters like Iarotska and her contemporaries to set up their business in Vienna? “Although we had the chance to go elsewhere, Vienna was the most attractive prospect, as the city is a draw for lots of highly educated workers, and this also has a great deal to do with the outstanding quality of life here.” Since the eastward expansion of the EU 15 years ago, Vienna has taken on the role of a hub and bridgehead to the east. But this is only part of the picture, as she explained: “In Vienna you are just as likely to come into contact with Americans. Only this morning I was talking to a designer from South Africa. In fact, she was the third designer from South Africa I have met in Vienna so far.” As Iarotska sees it, Vienna has gone from strength to strength over the past few years, as far as the availability of outstanding digital technology workers from all over the world is concerned.
15 employees from eight countries
The Robo Wunderkind team is a case in point: its 15 members come from eight different countries. The lingua franca is English. Robo Wunderkind has robotics engineers, product designers, user experience designers and education content designers working for it. And it’s not just boomtime for Robo Wunderkind. “The entire Viennese start-up scene has come on in leaps and bounds in recent years.” And it’s all by design rather than accident.
“There are lots of funding programs available to start-up founders. The City of Vienna is very active in this area. We’ve benefited immensely from the funding offered by the Vienna Business Agency in particular,” Iarotska confirmed. But what exactly is it that she likes so much about Vienna on a personal level? “The city is very modern and very safe. The atmosphere is great, as far as both work and everyday life are concerned. I think that the area around our office, which is close to Rochusmarkt and the Danube Canal, is incredibly nice.”