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026 – Ian Freed – 5 Reasons Why Bamboo Learning Fascinates Me

Hello and welcome back to Future Ear. The last time I sat down to mix an episode and write one of these posts was back at the beginning of March, right as it was becoming apparent that our world was on the brink of dramatic change due to COVID-19. Since that time, I paused the podcast as our new reality set in, with the plan to resume once it felt more appropriate.

Today, I am very excited to re-launch the podcast and share my episode with Ian Freed, CEO of Bamboo Learning. Bamboo represents an array of different educational-based skills geared toward children. Skills include Bamboo Math, Bamboo Luminaries (history), Bamboo Books (reading and writing), and Bamboo Music. In addition, Bamboo generates analytics for parents to monitor their child’s progress.

There are essentially five reasons why I consider Bamboo Learning one of the most interesting companies to keep an eye on in the burgeoning Alexa ecosystem.

  1. Deep Domain Knowledge & Subject Matter Expertise: Prior to launching Bamboo, Ian had a 12 year career at Amazon, leading multiple device businesses, including the Alexa device team at the onset of its launch. Combining Ian’s deep expertise with the Alexa platform, and his co-founder, Irina’s expertise in education, the two have fused their knowledge trees together to form Bamboo.
  2. “Alexa as a Broad-Based Computing Platform” – As you listen to Ian speak, you’ll quickly realize that the aspirations for Bamboo are so much bigger than a simple set of Alexa skills. Ian’s view, which is one that I share as well, is that voice assistant platforms (like Alexa) offer an entirely new computing platform in which new types of applications can be built on top of. Bamboo is on the forefront of pushing the boundaries, as evidenced by the increasing length of the average user session that Bamboo’s skills are garnering.
  3. Kids, Parents and Teachers – One of the most striking things about voice technology adoption, is that some of the strongest adoption is occurring on the two ends of the age spectrum: older adults and children. Platforms like Alexa are age-agnostic and accessible across all ages. While these skills are specifically intended for children, the analytics that are generated by Bamboo can help to better inform parents which subjects their children excel or need some help with. In addition, as Ian points out, parents could even pass along some of the insight garnered from the skills to the child’s teacher at the start of the new school year.
  4. Multi-modal – The thing that fascinates me most about multi-modal voice experiences is that by bridging the old modality with the new, an entirely new subset of experiences are born. For Bamboo, being able to visualize the math problems or read along during the reading course are critical to the user experience. I’m not sure Bamboo is nearly as viable as it is without the multi-modal component, which dramatically enhances the output by the voice assistant.
  5. Monetization – The final reason I find Bamboo such a promising company within the voice assistant ecosystem is due to its path toward monetization. As Ian mentions, the vast majority of Bamboo’s properties are free today, but after speaking with him, it’s clear that the company could easily begin to bake in tiers, both on the learning side and also with the analytics side. I believe Bamboo will establish a solid foundation of users, and then slowly implement more premium features that will appeal to its earliest users.

It’s the combination of these five reasons why I believe Bamboo Learning is one of the, “must watch,” companies within the voice ecosystem.

-Thanks for Reading-

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