NeeKids was founded in 2019 with a clear aim: to save parents and education professionals time, effort and money through the use of a platform to get recommendations for educational resources using a virtual assistant.
NeeKids is a technological platform with a recommendation system based on a special taxonomy of the “Neurodidactic Tree” method. It is made up of more than 30 cognitive variables.
Through NeeKids, the first marketplace specialised in the “Neurodidactic Tree” method – driven by data from neurodidactic profiles – users will be able to acquire different editorials such as GrupoJ3V and others.
NeeKids.com has a group of expert neuroscience and education ambassadors who receive hundreds of inquiries each day. Their responses help and escort clients through the content intervention and reinforcement process adapted to the needs of children.
The tool performs psychopedagogical and neuropsychological tests, using the data to select an educational programme based on the special educational needs of the child, all powered by Artificial Intelligence.
Carla Leal Vega, NeeKids’ CEO, and Simón Hernández Leal, its CTO, share a passion for human behaviour. “We met through anthropology seminars at university and we have been a couple for seven years,” they say. The project came about because they both have educational ventures and, based on these different experiences, managed to integrate the vision of what NeeKids is.
NeeKids is one of the companies that has received support from Rising UP in Spain from ICEX-Invest in Spain, focused on attracting foreign entrepreneurs who want to establish and grow in Spain. The selected start-ups receive resources to develop their business in Spain.
How have you evolved since forming in 2019?
Initially we were focused on hospital classrooms. We learned a lot working with other startups in the HealthTech sector. During our contact with the market, we discovered the great potential that exists in helping B2C end customers such as parents and education professionals.
What made you think that a platform like NeeKids was necessary?
Working with special educational needs is costly in time, effort, and money. Parents and professionals working in this area need inclusive and specialised tools. Until now, the working method was the same as 40 years ago, with little innovation in this education niche.
Have you confirmed that the ecosystem needs it? What opinions have you received? Why do they value you?
We have been fortunate to have the support of the Chilean entrepreneurship system, with funds that have specifically helped us to validate the idea, carry out market research, find customers, and implement a streamlined philosophy to validate and confirm our value proposition.
Parents and education professionals value any tool that helps them promote their children’s learning – that is their main concern – and that technology also facilitates the process, saving time and effort.
How do you save users time, effort and money?
Like all SaaS, our platform is a series of algorithms that automate the work it would take a professional months to perform: identify particularities, carry out tests, analyse the results, design specific materials to develop that skill, monitor the improvement, obtain reports, support learning by studying millions of resources that have quality control, diversity, inclusiveness, etc. All this is done by NeeKids in a few minutes.
These are parents and education professionals, but what else do you know about them? What is their profile?
They are people who are extremely committed to children’s learning, and highly sensitive to a tailored and personalised education offering. In the case of parents, they read, prepare and actively seek tools that help their children. And in the case of professionals, one of their main interests is to be up-to-date, trained and to learn about the latest trends in education, neuroscience and educational technology.
What was the technological development of your virtual assistant like?
The technological development followed modern guidelines for technology creation. We favour a streamlined technology development philosophy, where we first devise various user stories, apply some design thinking and customer development to validate functionalities, and then develop prototypes, MVPs, etc. that are perfected during contact with the market.
The creativity techniques of not limiting ourselves have helped a lot. We never say “yes, but”, we say “yes, and”. This means we can dream about what we want to achieve with the assistant as if not limited by technology, and then we try to find out how to make our crazy vision possible. We have managed to develop things this way that were perhaps not possible at the time.
Why did you choose this model and establish yourself as a marketplace?
Many papers have been published on recommendation systems in education. A problem that many of the engineers who have tried to develop a system like ours have is that they have wanted to connect with external educational resource databases. Our solution is to be the curators of the programs and resources. This resource bank is not just a curated collection of files, it is a store where you can buy and acquire all the educational solutions that we recommend, thus establishing a marketplace, where content creators, publishers and other EdTechs can reach the end user.
What is the Neurodidactic Tree?
The neurodidactic tree is NeeKids’ in-house methodology that focuses on the measurement and intervention of cognitive learning variables, focusing on neurodidactics and brain functioning to adapt the didactic action in the most appropriate way for each learner, which we do through four trees. The first tree is educational competences where we include language, calculation and emotional; the second is the cognitive processes such as categorisation, analogy, abstraction, among others; the third is the executive functions such as memory, attention, inhibitory control, etc., and the fourth is the learning preferences (musical, visual, naturalistic, among others). All this is based on the most recent advances in neuroscience.
What is the role of your group of expert ambassadors?
We have a panel of experts covering the various areas of the Neurodidactic method. For the emotional variable we have the support of child psychologists who have published books on this issue, and we have grown a network of content creators specialised in different areas, and help us improve our pedagogical intervention methods and techniques, but they also work as ambassadors in helping us to spread NeeKids in key educational science research and development centres.
What are the most common queries? What are the most common concerns?
Our users are primarily interested in ensuring that the interventions are effective and that the results are verifiable. That there is reliability in handling the information of learners and that we can address the greatest number of neurodidactic variables that are relevant to child development. Among the most common queries, we have found a high demand for interactive programs, which we include in our resources and programs in addition to traditional editorial material.
What implications has being born in Chile had for you? What can you highlight in its educational system and the improvements necessary?
The project has greatly benefited from the Chilean entrepreneurship ecosystem. There are many high-level professionals, mentors, innovation hubs, equity free funds, incubators, accelerators, and a well-prepared entrepreneurial culture with a keen interest in promoting projects and seeing them succeed.
In the educational system in Chile, there is significant interest in the adoption of diversity and inclusiveness, understanding that children have their particular needs that require attention and integration, such as socio-emotional development. Some improvements that we are trying to promote include the adoption and dissemination of new technologies to be used in classrooms each day, supporting a culture of innovation in EdTech in all regions of the country.
Why do you want to bring your model to Spain? Why does it have a place here?
Spain has a very particular interest in neuroscience and neurodidactics. Since we won EnlightED at South Summit Madrid in 2019, we have made contacts with education experts and professionals in Spain and Europe, and they have helped us adapt our solution for our expansion into different provinces.
Spain, as with Chile, strongly advocates the ideal of integration and inclusiveness in classrooms. Fundamental pillars of our mission: “That no child with special educational needs is left behind”.
How is Rising UP Spain helping you in this process?
Rising UP Spain has been a great help. It has provided us with a comprehensive soft-landing process in the country, which includes advice, consulting and mentors on issues ranging from administrative implementation, legal issues, immigration procedures, and business development with a focus on adapting to Spanish culture. We are very happy to have the support of ICEX-Invest in Spain and the Rising UP in Spain programme.
Why is having a local partner important?
Each country has its culture, its language, its codes. When a new product is introduced to a market, gaining the trust of customers is essential, and humans trust what they know and find familiar. Local partners help us adapt and make ourselves better known. Many companies do the same, especially in the Edtech area; to have specialised distributors, especially during the early stages of market penetration.
What goals have you set for yourself in terms of expansion?
A key goal we have is to consolidate ourselves in Spain and Latin America, and then move towards the United States. Another country where we see a lot of affinity is Finland, since we use the Finnish standard to measure performance in our tests and reports.
What about turnover, investment, etc?
So far we have focused on developing the project through bootstraping and have raised around 50,000 USD equity free. We already have our first paying clients, and we have organic growth of around 20% per week.
Our future investment plan is aligned to the needs of the company. We really like organic and natural growth, with minimal investment and maximum return.
A wish for 2022?
Our main wish is to help the maximum number of children in schools, but also at home. To give parents and professionals the support of a friendly tool that helps them discover new worlds of resources and techniques to personalise learning and achieve optimal performance levels.