“Success is being able to provide a platform for all children around the world to have access to quality education” – ROYBI Robot Founder, Elnaz Sarraf.
Elnaz Sarraf, the CEO & Founder of the award-winning Roybi Robot – the first AI-powered smart toy in the world for teaching language and STEM skills to children. ROYBI got enlisted in The TIME Magazine’s Best Inventions in Education, on the 2019 CNBC Upstart 100 list as one of the world’s most promising start-ups.
Elnaz is also a Board Member at the Consumer Technology Association, Small Business Council, and member of Forbes Technology Council. Her growing up in Iran brought her to the harsh reality of witnessing the limited opportunities for education, which propelled her to become an entrepreneur and made way for a highly technologically advanced educational opportunity to empower children for a better future. Before ROYBI, Elnaz co-founded iBaby, a consumer electronic company serving as the Company President. Having a Bachelor of Arts degree from California State University-East Bay, Elnaz has made worthy accomplishments in a short duration of living in the US. She was named the Woman of Influence through Silicon Valley Business Journal and Entrepreneur of The Year in Silicon Valley. She had been a Senator, representing the US in the World Business Angels Investment Forum.
Elnaz joins Business Upside in this interview on her business mission, social responsibility, and entrepreneurial tips.
Edited excerpts from the Interview
Business Upside [BU]: How did you get your idea or concept for the business?
Elnaz Sarraf [ES]: I met many families during my tenure at iBaby. By engaging in conversations with them, I realized a great interest in smart educational toys that make learning fun and introduce children to technology. Through market research, I found out that most of the available products were software-based and were using hardware designed for adults—this was frustrating for parents. So I decided to work on a toy robot that teaches children through fun and playful lessons with designed hardware, especially for children.
Business Upside [BU]: What was your mission at the outset?
Elnaz Sarraf [ES]: I thought we are still yet to utilize artificial intelligence to its fullest potential in education, so I wanted to create a smart tool that uses sophisticated AI technology for teaching children. ROYBI creates an active learning experience for children—meaning that children are not passively learning, but through discussions and chat, they’re learning from their robot. Our content is designed to not only teach children about a topic but to also get them curious about the subjects so they would carry on learning through self-directed learning even when they’re not interacting with their robot. It also allows children to learn from technology without a need for screens.
Business Upside [BU]: How do you advertise your business?
Business Upside [BU]: To what do you attribute your success?
Elnaz Sarraf [ES]: I think a combination of my parents’ confidence in me and my education as a child in Iran contributed to who I am today. When I came to the US, I felt free to choose anything I want to do, but I know I have to stay focused and determined, which I remind myself regularly.
Business Upside [BU]: What do you look for in an employee?
Elnaz Sarraf [ES]: Passion for our product and a drive for making a difference in the world. Once someone truly believes in the product they’re responsible for, they perform their best to see it succeed. Also important is teamwork, because I believe that even the best employee cannot reach their highest potential without being a good team player.
Roybi Robot: An Informative Cognizance
Business Upside [BU]: What is unique about your company?
Elnaz Sarraf [ES]: The people! We are a great team with an aligned mission. Every individual in our company contributes significantly to the success of our company which makes us very unique. It is always very hard to bring like-minded people to the same group or company. What makes us different is that we spend a lot of time ensuring we understand each other and help our team members with multiple tasks. We don’t have “I” in our company, it is always “we”, and together we are on the path to success and building the next unicorn company.
Business Upside [BU]: Does your company help the community where it is located?
Elnaz Sarraf [ES]: Yes. We’ve been creating jobs and being involved in the local community especially with teachers and students. We also believe strongly in giving back to the community by a way of mentorship to share our experience with society.
Business Upside [BU]: If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out, what would it be?
Elnaz Sarraf [ES]: Stay focused and be persistent. Don’t give us easily just because you failed at a few tries. It may take 100 tries until you get it right.
Business Upside [BU]: How do you measure success?
Elnaz Sarraf [ES]: To me, success is being able to provide a platform for all children around the world to have access to quality education by learning through play and being able to improve based on their pace. I want to see a world where no child is labeled as disabled or a slow learner just because they have unique sets of abilities. It is my mission to change and shape the world by providing young children a tool to learn unlimited skills, tailored to their abilities and prepare them for a future that is way different than ours.
Business Upside [BU]: What is your management style?
Elnaz Sarraf [ES]: I’d say I am a perfectionist when it comes to product design so I put the pressure on my team to continuously make things better. But at the same time, I give them the freedom to be creative and make decisions that are in the best interest of the company as well as our users. I give trust and confidence to my team to thrive in the company and realize their potential. We have an open-door policy that anyone regardless of their title or responsibility can contribute to the growth of the company by making suggestions and helping their teammates. I always encourage this sort of collaboration because it helps us grow fast and everyone feels accomplished because they can see their collective efforts having a tremendous impact on people’s lives.