Interview of Theo Marescaux
Theo Marescaux is the CEO of MuuseLabs, the startup that created Jooki.
How did it all begin?
I started Jooki with my co-founders Will Moffat and Pieter Palmers, two awesome engineers who were then with Google & Huawei. Being geek dads, we shared the same values of love for our young kids and for technology.
Will Moffat and Pieter Palmers, cofounders of Jooki
Where did the first idea come from?
The idea came from my daughters. They were between 3 and 5 years old and they wanted to hear a song. After playing the same track for the fifth or sixth time, I made a mistake: I handed them my smartphone. The phone disappeared, my kids disappeared behind the screen and ended-up watching YouTube. That’s when I realized that we can’t listen to music and stories anymore without a screen, how crazy is that?
Was it very important to have a screen-free player?When starting my intuition was that screens were acting as a barrier preventing communication with my young children and that didn’t feel right. I now realize the reality is even stronger. Social studies show that since the mass adoption of smartphones around 2010, kids are dramatically more likely to say they are not happy. Recent neurological studies also showed the negative impact of long screen time on children’s brain development. We want to engage kids’ imagination and help them grow up. We do it by removing the overstimulation from screens and helping the family share experiences.
Who made and designed Jooki?
Being parents with kids in the right age group, we felt we knew what was needed and we have the technical chops to make it happen. Pieter and Will are the perfect guys to design the electronics and software. To create the elegant shape of Jooki and the cute Jooki characters, we found Judicaël Cornu, a wonderful industrial designer in Belgium. He is also a young dad, so he very well naturally understood the concept. We also very much value the inputs of our community of parents. Jooki gets regular software upgrades and we try to put in as many of their ideas as possible.
Judicaël Cornu, designer of Jooki and its figurines
How well has Jooki been received?Though we have thousands of users, Jooki is new and perhaps still a secret to be discovered for many. When they try it, parents and kids alike love it. There is nothing better than when parents tell us that their kids ask for Jooki every day, or when they share cute pictures of their little ones listening to a story, dancing or kissing a Jooki character. In many cases, Jooki becomes part of the family routine and that’s something I am very proud of!
As a parent yourself, did your children play a part in your drive to start the company?
Yes, the whole story started precisely from my experience as a young father. I felt I wanted to remove the overstimulation that technology can bring to be able to better connect with my children. At the same time, I love technology and I don’t think that removing ourselves from our society altogether is the sensible way to go. Finding a human way, mixing technology and tenderness, felt like a good approach. That same feeling is driving our company today. We want to help create human experiences for the next generations. We want to bring back a sense of togetherness, safety, and purpose.
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--- Special thanks to Yves Barbieux (Filmer des Gens) who scripted, realized and edited the video and to Antoine Brynaert who took the pictures during the video shoot ---