BubblyDoo: personalised children’s books
The story of BubblyDoo started when Toine Habets wanted to make a personalised storybook as a gift for Henri and Arthur, whom he babysat. That didn’t work out too well, however, so he decided to contact fellow students who shared his belief in the idea that every child should be able to have a book he likes. Meanwhile, BubblyDoo has already realised 10,000 unique children’s books, was voted student start-up of the year last year and before Toine Habets had finished his degree in Commercial Engineering, the first capital round had already been completed.
Designer Laura Pelgrims made the drawings to accompany Toine’s story and IT expert Hans-Otto Wirtz provided the technology to personalise the story, Gregory Goossens built the marketing plan. Toine Habets: “As a student, you are surrounded by young, talented people. It’s enough to bump into someone at a café and chat a bit to find someone who fits perfectly into the team.” The students from different fields and universities combined their competences in the BubblyDoo platform that realises personalised books for children up to 8 years old. “We believe that all children should be able to dream and fantasise about the things they like most themselves,” says CEO Toine Habets. By the way, children are at the heart of everything BubblyDoo does: when writing the stories, when drawing the booklets, when designing the website and even with the CO2-neutral delivery and production…
In the BubblyDoo books, little men – Bubblies – take children into a fantasy world where they themselves play the leading role and experience adventures as knights, ninjas, princesses or fairies. What is remarkable about the children’s books is that the personalisation goes far beyond the name of the child playing the leading role. The book is composed with the child’s favourite colour, the favourite character, the precious cuddly toy… The main character also looks exactly like the recipient of the book: it has the same skin colour, the same eyes, the same hair… The Bubbly Doo tool has more than 100,000 options to tailor a story to the young recipient, who can fully empathise with the story thanks to all these details and will therefore feel more strongly addressed by the book: the best gift is the one in which you yourself play a role.
“People today are looking for unique experiences. Moreover, people are gradually expecting digital experiences to be both real and personal. We use today’s technology to meet this expectation: we give physical books or games an extra dimension, resulting in great recognition and empathy. Our books also create beautiful family moments”, says Toine Habets, who writes the stories himself with his team. All personalisation options are implemented fully automatically without manual intervention, and printed on demand thanks to a unique platform with a Photoshop application, transformer and product transformer. Unique copies are delivered within seven working days. “We have never sold the same book before,” says Toine Habets, who, together with his team, believes that the future will be even more personalised.
Making books is ‘cash heavy’, but Toine Habets is proud of BubblyDoo’s cash flow model where customers pay for their book in advance. To finance his venture, he knocked on the door of the bank, an institutional investor, business angels and PMV for a Start Loan. Although the interest was high, it took some time to complete the financing, not least because the entry of one party was a condition for the other to join while not everything was clear yet, and the choice to issue new shares is not the easiest: a lawyer has to be involved, the articles of association have to be changed, the shareholders have to agree… Corona did not make things easier either. “The shareholders and lenders are certainly involved and I speak to them regularly, but I have never met them physically,” says Habets. All in all, he believes the chosen financing is the best way to realise BubblyDoo’s ambitions. “We have chosen to cede part of the pie to make it bigger faster. We want to conquer Europe and then the world, and without shareholders or PMV it would take longer to grow.”