February 29, 2012
Ask any parent – raising kids isn’t easy (source: my parents). Ask any entrepreneur – starting a startup – also not easy. In attempting to combine the two, does one ultimately have to suffer?
Not according to Dr. Dan Yang.
Dr. Yang, whose resume includes founding AFC Technologies and earning a PhD in Optics and Photonics from Université Paris-Sud 11 in France, is now taking on a whole new challenge – balancing the demands of being a parent while starting a business. In the process of launching VINCI, a new tablet geared specifically to toddlers, Dr. Yang has been able to make quality time with her children on a near-daily basis. I caught up with the VINCI founder to learn more about the challenges of raising kids while starting a startup, using toddlers as beta testers, and the future of tablets.
Tech Cocktail: Where did the Inspiration for VINCI come from?
Dr. Dan Yang: Having found traditional toys for toddlers generally uninspiring, I noticed my youngest daughter’s profound fascination with smart phones and tablets. While I was eager to encourage her new-found interest, I was extremely concerned about her safety, mobility and the real learning value of these technology-based devices. I was worried that she would develop a bad habit of mindlessly and aimlessly flipping through apps without a purpose. This ultimately inspired me to create a completely new category of early learning systems that leverages technology and scientifically-developed content to engage, educate and entertain children.
Tech Cocktail: Did you use your own children as beta testers for the VINCI?
Yang: My oldest daughter actually came up with the idea for the handle around the VINCI Tablet, and I often joke that my three-year-old daughter is my Chief Technology Officer. I run a lot of things by my youngest daughter to gain a good first-hand perspective from someone in the age group for whom the technology and content is intended. The insights of young children always amaze me, and she picks up on things that no adult may realize. For example, if the designers make a sheep that looks too angry, my daughter will tell me “that’s not good,” and we’ll know to change it.
Tech Cocktail: What future trends should we look for with regard to tablets?
Yang: As with all technology, the tablet trend will eventually plateau, and tablets will become a commodity, as did desktop and laptop computers before them. As this happens, major companies in the tablet space will continue to release the “next generation” of products to remain ahead of the curve, and competition will remain fierce among the big players.
As far as children’s tablets, it will ultimately come down to content. We didn’t create the VINCI Tablet for technology’s sake but instead to leverage technology as a complete ecosystem for early education. Although the physical design is for young children, our tablet is just the delivery platform for curriculum focused on teaching kids how to learn, not just what to learn and really changing how we view early childhood education.
Tech Cocktail: Which is more challenging: starting your own business or raising kids?
Yang: Raising kids and starting a news business are equally challenging – especially when we have high expectations for our kids or business. Both endeavors constantly present important decisions, and if we don’t make these decisions in an informed way, our kids won’t excel, or our business won’t prosper. Discovering our kid’s strengths and helping them to fully leverage their talents are long term commitments, as are finding and adjusting to market needs and developing successful products in the business world.
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