Ex-Toca Boca & LeapFrog execs join ed tech startup

Ex-Toca Boca creative director Jens Peter de Pedro has joined ed tech startup Monkimun, along with former LeapFrog exec Suzanne Barchers.
May 6, 2016

Five months after departing his role as creative director at Toca Boca─the Swedish mobile firm recently acquired by Canada’s Spin Master─Jens Peter de Pedro has joined ed tech startup Monkimun as experience director. Joining de Pedro is former LeapFrog VP and editor-in-chief Suzanne Barchers, who is now Monkimun’s VP of curriculum.

Both appointments come as the San Francisco-based company looks to expand its language-learning apps and tools, which take on a play-based learning approach not unlike the one championed by de Pedro’s former employer. (Toca Boca is known for referring to its apps as digital toys, which emphasizes their focus on open-ended play.)

In February, Monkimun launched Lingokids,​ a comprehensive English-language course for children ages two to six designed with content from Oxford University Press. Lingokids uses educational games and an adaptive learning algorithm that adjusts to kids’ varied improvement levels​.

Monkimun’s educational initiatives now fall under the watch of Barchers, who has served as an editor for both teachers’ and children’s books. She has developed curriculum for programs like Reading Rainbow​’s School Edition and currently serves on advisory boards for PBS KIDS ​and YouTube​.

To date, two-year-old Monkimun has raised US$1.5 million in seed funding from Dave McClure’s 500 Startups​, Japan’s SHO­zemi Innovation Ventures and from angel investors Carina Szpilka (VP of UNICEF) ​and Gwynne Shotwell (president and COO of SpaceX).​ The company plans to launch its Spanish- and Chinese-language learning platforms in the coming months.

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