If the task was to create a fun-looking speaker for young kids to access audio streaming content safely, then Jooki understood the assignment. Jooki is a fast-evolving product, with its main aim to act as an interactive platform that integrates into the family life, it drives children and parents to be creative.
The product comes from tech start-up company MuuseLabs, founded by Theo Marescaux. Together with his tech-background colleagues: Will Moffat and Pieter Palmers, they created Jooki — with its screen-free and flexible streaming features. It’s the first of its kind and hopes to revolutionise the way kids immerse themselves in music.
In an interview with Christine Brendle, Jooki CEO, she talks about how Jooki allows parents to create memorable family moments with music and audiobooks, kids can listen to independently. She currently focuses the company efforts in the US market where Jooki is available and on Amazon. She also has plans for further expansion in Europe and Asia.
Jooki is the only high-quality speaker that gives kids safe, screen-free access to streaming audio content, tell us more about the uniqueness of Jooki and why so many parents love it for their kids?
Jooki is the first high quality speaker providing safe, screen-free access to streaming audio content. Parents, who generally have a Spotify subscription, can determine what audio content is relevant for their kids and is meaningful for the family. The Jooki remote control for kids are these cute figurines or tokens young children can operate on their own. Kids just place a figurine or token on Jooki to start the playlist… or lift it to pause, stop or change. The fact that Jooki gives kids independent play that parents know to be safe and meaningful for the family is a hugely appealing factor for many parents.
Jooki was founded in 2014 by three “geek” dads formerly with major electronics companies. Tell us more about the amazing beginnings of this start-up?
Jooki’s founders combined solid hardware and software expertise to create the high-quality speaker. As parents themselves, they understand the frustration of sharing music with young children from a smartphone, as typically the phone ends up getting more attention than the music. That’s when the idea of Jooki was born; giving parents and children a new way to share music and stories, with playlists curated by parents and the actual playing managed independently by the kids with Jooki and its good quality sound.
Jooki has a highly ergonomic design and kids-friendly navigation features. How heavy has been the R&D there to achieve such results? Any specific proprietary patent?
As a tech and entertainment company, Jooki’s activity stems from research, resulting in patents now granted or under review. We worked with parents and children and learned a great deal from the initial version of our high-quality speaker, which launched in 2018. All this research has been poured into the new version of Jooki which launched at the end of 2021 in the USA and is available for sale in that market.
You shared “Jooki’s solution is to substitute sound for screens. Young kids naturally understand music, and the stories they are told to stimulate their imaginations”. This is an interesting statement, sound versus screens. Have you conducted research on this sensitive and timely topic?
Young children have an impressionable ear, only asking to be nurtured with songs, music and the sound of voices. There is a huge body of research about how music and words children hear will stimulate their imagination, strengthen their auditory skills, promote movements and dancing , increase their vocabulary, and their ability to focus. By contrast, videos and films tend to impose their imagery on a young child’s mind — think of “Snow White” and chances are you will summon the Walt Disney’s version of the character in your mind’s eye.
Paediatricians are also increasingly connecting the dots between too much screen time and the adverse impact it has on young children. A growing body of research criticises sedentary screen-time for young kids and we incorporate these findings into our work. As an example, we recently published a blog based on a research paper by Altun (2022) that found improved executive function in kids that spent more time reading and less passive time behind screens. Music and stories as a substitute for screens not only stimulate kids’ imagination, but can even improve their abilities in the long-term.
Jooki won the much coveted Award for Best Kids Product in the Headphones and Personal Audio category at the 2022 CES (formerly the Consumer Electronics Show) held in Las Vegas. What was your first reaction there?
Jooki has won six prestigious awards in the past eight months and it is particularly encouraging to see different judging panels — comprising of parents, educators, consumer electronics professionals — agreeing that Jooki is particularly innovative and special.
Now we need to spread the word to parents and the public at large and these awards play a huge part in exposure. In addition to the CES 2022 Innovation Award, Jooki won the 2021 Mom’s Choice Gold Award, the 2022 Edtech Cool Tool Finalist Award ( arts, music and creative solutions) and the 2022 Creative Child Magazine Awards (won as Product of the Year, Creative Play and Top Travel Fun).
What type of audio content can kids listen to on Jooki?
One of the key features of our speaker is its ability to connect to Spotify and play music or audiobooks from pre-selected playlists that parents put together. Jooki as a result supports the creation of unique and memorable family moments. Parents know best and decide what is right for their child in this family, at that given time. Kids then decide themselves what they want to listen to among these playlists. Kids can move tracks in a playlist and repeat their favourite song as many times as they want. Jooki also plays audio files that the parents download themselves and typically parents will use this function to create playlists for a car trip or a long flight.
What is the difference between Jooki’s figurines and tokens?
Tokens and figurines play the same role: they trigger a playlist on Jooki. Figurines have a higher play value for young children, who enjoy Wanda — the blue whale, Mia — the green dragon, Liam — the orange fox, Dan — the grey knight and Alex — the white ghost. Children who are eight or nine years old will enjoy the beautiful rainbow made up by Jooki tokens in addition to hours of imaginative play and their favourite music and stories.
Can kids use Jooki without a WiFi connection?
Yes, Jooki can play pre-downloaded MP3 and audio files without connecting to the internet. However, the Spotify Connect feature requires the internet.
Is Jooki able to function across the world?
Yes! Jooki can be used anywhere in the world. Even in countries where Spotify is not available, parents can download audio files for their kids to use.
You mentioned that the US is the prime market for Jooki. What about Europe and Asia?
Jooki started in Belgium and expanded across Europe and the USA when it initially launched. The USA became the largest market and we focused on this market with the new version of Jooki as we navigated the complications all manufacturers have experienced with Covid. In the USA, Jooki is now available on its website and on Amazon. Europe and Asia are indeed markets we want to expand to in the future. As a European myself, having worked and lived in Asia for many years, I would love to see all my friends and family using Jooki as well.
What’s coming up next for Jooki?
We believe businesses can make a difference for good in the world — even small businesses. We recently partnered up with B1G1 (buy one give one) to fund UN backed initiatives in sustainable social development. For every Jooki purchased, a donation is made to four B1G1 initiatives that we have chosen: providing food, shelter, education, and healthcare to underprivileged children around the world. This allows us to make an impact without having our own ESG team.
On the front of product development, our team is constantly noodling over new projects from accessories for Jooki to new devices for children and tweens to play audio content. Stay tuned for more!
Where should our LUXUO readers head to buy Jooki speakers?
Head over to Jooki to order one of our bundles and create hours of imaginative play for your young children — magic at their fingertips & no screen in sight!
On a more generic level, What is the main quality an entrepreneur should always have?
Entrepreneurs need to become skilful at multitasking and be ready to pivot quickly when necessary. Not taking yourself too seriously, while fundamentally believing in what you do also helps!
As a working mom and CEO, I empathise with all the working moms out there, who have no time at all and balance their job, their partner and their kids. Jooki is there to help build the core foundation of their kids future by facilitating invaluable moments with the family and stretching their imagination through music and storytelling.
Find out more about Jooki and its product here.
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