Bjorn Jeffery has stepped down as CEO of Toca Boca, the Stockholm-based children’s mobile publishing company he co-founded in 2010 with Emil Ovemar. In the seven years since Toca Boca opened its doors, company highs have included a paradigm-shifting array of 36 play-based apps (with more than 150 million downloads between them) and last year’s sale to Canada’s Spin Master Entertainment, while lows were marked by the closure of SVOD service Toca TV earlier this year. And it’s the ups and downs of the kids mobile space that have led Jeffery to take a step back.
“It’s been a long road and it was time for a bit of a break,” Jeffery says. “And a few weeks ago I had my second daughter, so there’s also the recent expansion of my family to take into consideration. I need to take a bit of time to take care of my family, and now is a good time for that.”
Moving forward, Spin Master’s co-CEO Ronnen Harary will oversee Toca Boca. Ovemar and Toca Boca’s COO Caroline Ingeborn, however, will be responsible for leading and running the business and its day-to-day operations. This represents a slight shift in Toca Boca’s governance structure, as the appmaker continues to align more closely with the structure of its parent company.
Unlike Toca Boca, Spin Master does not have individual CEOs for each unit of the company. Jeffery maintained his title of CEO through the acquisition, but the decision was made to adopt Spin Master’s structure as he steps down.
“It’s more of a sort of formality, to a certain degree,” Jeffery says. “It’s kind of a legacy issue in a sense. We probably should have changed it when the acquisition went through, but we didn’t for a number of reasons. This just happened to be a good time to do so. I feel good about the situation given that app sales are at an all-time high, which is very encouraging. That made the decision easier,” he says. “I feel confident that we’re in a very good place now.”
Jeffery knows a thing or two about timing. His March decision to shutter Toca TV, an SVOD service offering thousands of pieces of licensed content and a raft of exclusive originals, came as he foresaw difficulties in sustaining subscription targets, telling Kidscreen that the model is one that takes time to build.
Then, in July, Toca Boca launched its first-ever collection of consumer products. The gender-neutral lifestyle line is available exclusively at Target stores across the US, and features apparel, accessories, sleepwear, backpacks, lunch bags, bedding and activity books. Moving forward, Toca Boca plans to expand into additional consumer products categories and make the products available in territories beyond the US.
With expansions and new product releases planned in the coming months, Jeffery says it may be difficult to watch from the sidelines after so many years in the middle of things.
“It’s going to be, maybe relaxing is the wrong word with two kids under the age of three, but you know what I mean,” Jeffery laughs. “There are no firm plans. I’m going into it with an open mind to see where it might take me.”