New Startup Zoog Offers Video Services for Baby Boomers to Connect with Their Grandchildren
Company founder Yoav Oren spoke with JBN.
Zoog is a new Israeli startup in the video services industry. But this company offers its customers a very special service — Zoog adapts children’s books to the medium of creative video communication, enabling grandparents, parents, other remote family members or educators to communicate with the children in their lives across the technology gap.
This is especially important during the age of Covid and all of the Coronavirus shutdowns. Zoog’s solutions help people deal with the new reality of communicating by video, whether for work do to remote working, video chatting with family and friends who are social distancing, and for educators who had such a difficult time remote teaching because of the pandemic.
But this service is not just for times when a virus forces everyone to stay at home. It also helps the older generation, like the baby boomers, better relate to the younger generations, their grandchildren. Thanks to Zoog they can read children’s books to their grandchildren now through video chat services like Zoom.
As Zoog co-founder and CEO Yoav Oren explained to Jewish Business News, “the number one experience that grandparents like doing with their grandkids is reading to them children’s’ books. This is especially so for people when they remember reading these books themselves when they were kids.”
People can use Zoog record themselves reading a children’s book from its growing selection. Users can “put themselves in the book” by using augmented reality masks and filters, and create an “exciting experience for the kids you love.” Kids can experience the book shared by Zoog users at anytime, from any device (no app needed) and as often as they like. They can also react to the videos using text and, soon, video messages.
Yoav Oren was born in Israel to American immigrant parents and he grew up in Jerusalem. He performed his Israeli military service in an elite infantry reconnaissance unit called Sayeret Nachal. During his service Yoav was involved in an operation to capture a wanted terrorist leader in Hevron in 2004. He was shot twice by terrorists at close range, but at least the mission was a success and the Hamas leader was captured.
After the army Yoav went to china to study martial arts. There he also studied Chinese, learning both 8 – 10 hours a day. Then he went on to Columbia University in New York where he graduated from in 2010.
So where did the Zoog founders get their idea?
The 37 year old father of three says that he really wanted to be an entrepreneur after he finished school. “When I came back to Israel I had this growing itch to start my own business. In January 2020 I met the man who became my business partner,” said Oren
Then came the Coronavirus crisis.
“When the pandemic hit we knew we wanted to focus on a specific product for baby boomers – they tend to have a lot of free time and disposable income,” he said. “While they are used to computers and so forth, they are not necessarily up to date on the latest stuff’
“We asked ourselves how are we experiencing this.” The answer was that so much traditional communication which would have been held in face to face meetings was now being done over internet video services. His own kids found communicating in this way with their grandparents boring and annoying and the grandparents felt the same way.
“We felt that we needed to bribe our kids just to speak with them,” said Yoav. “But on the good side people got used to this being the new way of communicating with people.”
All the vid apps which people were using, however, seemed to be one size fits all and there was nothing for cross generations. So they made something that could be used by people of different ages, each from their own perspective.
Zoog already has partnerships with major publishers for education purposes. Yoav sees his company as offering whole new avenues for the purposes of education: imagine seeing your own parents and grandparents in a textbook using augmented reality tech.
Zoog recently launched its app at a special virtual event put on by the Atlanta Public School (APS) system, with Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, to thousands of participants Zoog currently has several thousand users and is looking to expand its reach to more families.
Matan Guttman is the other co-founder of Zoog and the company’s CTO. He has the unique experience of working in 3 different consumer startups in the past decade, usually the first or second employee and building the product from ground up. Some of the products he built reached millions of users worldwide.
In the past five years, Yoav held several leadership positions at SimilarWeb, the most recent was Chief of Staff, working hand in hand with the CEO, helping drive and execute strategic decisions for the company. Before that, Yoav built and managed the company’s China operations, both data partnerships and commercial activities, closing complicated deals with some of China’s largest tech giants, such as Baidu, JD.com, Huawei, Alibaba, ByteDance and leading the company’s sales. He has lived and worked in China for 15 years, building and managing the business endeavors for all of Asia.
Zoog has raised its pre-seed round from three VCs: Remagine Ventures, Joy Ventures, and the ZEP Fund. It will begin its seed round in May 2021
Zoog currently has about 50 books that it has acquired rights for, and recently began producing unique content on its own as well. They have been in discussions with some of the largest publishing houses, including DK (part of Penguin-Random House) to start working with its content as well.