From London to Zurich

Two entrepreneurs came to Zurich to participate in the Kickstart Accelerator program. After their initial project was discontinued, they decided to stay in Zurich to focus on their new venture Project Rosie. Rosie is a science discovery app which empowers children to do real-life science experiments using a smartphone.

The digital era is continuously changing or replacing the classic ways of working, living and acquiring knowledge. To address this issue and prepare the younger generation for the future, two founders from London Sélin Benayat and Peter Spence  joined the Kickstart Accelerator program in 2016 to further develop their idea of an edtech robot and app, Tio. However, based on the feedback from the Kickstart Accelerator coaches, they learned that Tio would unlikely become a viable business. Hence, they dropped the idea and embarked on discovering new opportunities in Switzerland.

After re-evaluating their position, connections, and skills, the two founders discovered the untapped potential in the education sector, not just in Switzerland but around the globe. “Clearly there is work to be done in the educational sector. Giving up after the Kickstart Accelerator would have meant giving up on ourselves, on our passion and on the youth’s education”, says Sélim Benayat, Co-Founder of Project Rosie.

Thanks to their ambitiousness, hard-work, and support from the Kickstart Acceleration program, the established connections, and feedback, Project Rosie was inaugurated, leading to the definite end of Tio. “We felt like the change was needed to signify a new start in Zurich and to clearly state that we are a newly founded project in collaboration with ETH”, says Sélim.

Project Rosie’s mission is to provide world-class science education for all children aged 8 and up with the help of Rosie, «a curious robot from a distant galaxy». Rosie takes a software approach and focuses on storytelling and cutting edge mobile technology to teach all children about sciences. With the aid of an App, children are able to follow robot stories, do experiments and share science discoveries in the real world. In return, children teach Rosie about the magic of science on earth, making the learning process more fun.

Project Rosie is supported by various institutions including: Gebert Rüf Stiftung which is also financially supporting the startup; Zurich University of the Arts (ZHDK) for game- and interaction design; Technorama, which has permitted the startup to offer monthly workshops to children and test the newest prototypes. Other partners include EdTech-Collider and Meiriacker School in Binningen. The startup was also accepted in the CTI coaching program.

Project Rosie is currently based at the ETH Zurich and will retain its headquarters in Zurich. “Zurich is a major hub for creativity, ambition and an ideal avenue to meet and grow. It has a tight network of people who are eager to move things forward to make innovation happen” says Sélim. “Kickstart Accelerator helped us get into contact with the right people at ETH. Since we are now associated with the ETH we will leverage all the distribution power that comes with it. In the early days we are distributing our services through multiple workshops at several well-known educational institutions in Switzerland and in several classroom visits. This will allow us to stay close to the user and customer and improve our product offering rapidly”, he concluded.

As part of the name change, the founders have definitely left the hardware behind and pivoted to a complete software first approach for the new idea. The App is now ready to be tested in the market. The first testing will be the conducted during the upcoming "Summer Camp", where the App will be used for the first time. Summer Camps, which are organised by the ETH, an initiative of digitalswitzerland designed to promote science learning for kids aged 10-14. Registration for the summer camps is still open.

Pic: Sélim Benayat (L) and Peter Spence (R)