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Tiggly's iPad toys for toddlers heading for Apple Store shelves

Posted by Scott Kirsner  October 8, 2013 08:20 AM

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Is there life after a Kickstarter campaign that fails to meet its goal?

A startup from two Harvard Business School students, Tiggly, made a big splash last fall when it set out to raise $50,000 on the crowdfunding site. But the product, which includes a set of cookie cutter-like shapes and iPad games that they can be used with, only got about halfway to its objective. And according to Kickstarter's rules, if you don't hit your goal, all of the money pledged goes back to the people who pledged it.

But Tiggly founders Phyl Georgiou and Bart Clareman were undeterred. "We put our heads down and focused on building great apps and great products," says Georgiou.

They went to a major toy industry trade show in New York earlier this year, which led to a connection at Nordstrom. And someone who'd noticed their Kickstarter campaign last fall happened to work for Griffin International, a Minneapolis rep firm that helps new products get retail distribution. That second connection, after six months of discussions, led to a deal to put Tiggly Shapes, the company's first product, into Apple Stores in the U.S., Europe, and Australia. They'll sell for about $30, which includes four shapes, three games, and a carrying pouch.

"We're trying to build a learning company — the next version of LeapFrog," says Georgiou. "We know that parents still have a degree of apprehension about letting their kids use the iPad, the way previous generations did about television. But physical objects like Tiggly Shapes are critical to learning in early childhood." To address some of those qualms, they've added a doctoral candidate in early childhood education, Azadeh Jamalian, to their team.

The company's games include Tiggly Safari, which invites toddlers to use the shapes to make animals, and Tiggly Stamp, below, which relies on the shapes to imprint designs onto different seasonal scenes. The company is marketing Tiggly Shapes to parents of children between 18 months and four years old. They'll show up on Nordstrom.com and in Apple Stores early next month. (They're already available on Tiggly's own site.)

After Georgiou and Clareman graduated from HBS this spring, they moved the company from Harvard's iLab to a collaborative workspace in New York, WeWork. "If you're a consumer-facing company," Clareman says, "we think you're better off in a place like New York. And Brooklyn is full of people who want Tiggly products." Georgiou says the startup is in the process of wrapping up a $500,000 round of funding, led by Kae Capital of India.


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Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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