I first met Kaitlin and Olga when researching those who have founded EdTech companies while still in education themselves, you can read more about it here. Musemio’s story and aspiration are really exciting, targeting a key area within arts and culture and drawing more under 13s into museums, galleries and more. This week, we sat down with co-founders Kaitlin and Olga to find discuss the different layers of their immersive technology, support in the UK EdTech Ecosystem and their next steps…
What was the inspiration behind starting Musemio?
Olga: Musemio was inspired when my little brother ran away during an exhibition trip at one of the most renowned museums in London. He lacked interest in what was happening around him, finding the collection too static and underwhelming. After this moment, I began researching ways to engage children’s imagination within a cultural setting and noticed the falling number under 13s visiting museums. This inspired me to think differently about how we can help children engage with culture on a deeper level by connecting them with museums all around the world.
Kaitlin: For me, the mission behind Musemio started before Olga and I met. I grew up in rural America, where I recognised firsthand the geographical, social and economic factors that limit children going to museums. Some kids will never see the best cultural institutions, so how can we make this accessible for all? I joined Musemio after the initial MVP was built. Through my educational experience, I added the pedagogical layer to help make Musemio go beyond a game, to become an immersive learning experience.
Tell us a little bit about the tech behind the product.
Olga: Musemio is a VR EdTech app that will be available for both iOS and Android. For this year, we have co-designed a very unique movement style that allows children to not only feel more immersed compared to using traditional point by point transportation in mobile VR but reduce the chance of them feeling sick in an immersive world. Through our simple solution children can teleport themselves to the most fantastic moments and places inspired by the culture and truly experience it. Now, we are in the R&D stage of making our experiences better and more personalised.
Kaitlin: Our tech is incredible, but what is more interesting is how we apply this innovation. Beyond the mechanics, graphics, and magic of bringing the past to life, we are working on engraining not only the latest gamification and VR techniques into our levels but also the educational elements to bolster 21st-century skills. These help root our tech is research and evidence-based methodology.
What is installed for Musemio over the next year?
Olga: Our launch is a couple of weeks away and we are looking forward to presenting Musemio to the world. I can’t wait to see kids’ reactions when they’ll get a chance to ride a dinosaur and save Athene from Medusa, who by the way makes them go through the laser labyrinth first! And most importantly, I am eager to measure the engagement at a larger scale, both from the game and by geographical region, and this makes me particularly excited.
Kaitlin: Beyond the launch, I am excited to bring other museums’ and partners’ stories to life. We have an exciting pipeline for 2019–2020. From exploring the moon to riding a fibre optic roller-coaster, I am always looking to blend the narratives of artefacts with an education that children enjoy.
What was the hardest thing about getting Musemio off the ground?
Olga: VR is a new medium and for us, it was extremely important to prove that VR does what it says: improves attention span, retention of knowledge and inspired children to think differently. Now we are over the testing phase that proved to be successful, and our next biggest challenge is getting big cultural institutions to trust us and support us in delivering our vision. Spoiler: we aim to have 100 partners by 2021.
Kaitlin: In the beginning, I think the hardest thing for us was taking that leap of faith for our business and proposition with just our MVP and deciding (and convincing others) that we were determined to create a full-scale solution to reinvent the way education, culture, and tech could be blended together in a new and exciting way. It took some bootstrapping and conviction, but like Olga said, each business comes in seasons with each their own set of adventures!
Looking back to the first day you started Musemio, what piece of advice would you give yourself?
Olga: Don’t hang over the details. Trying to decide for hours which colour of the button on the app isn’t helpful. What matters is whether it’s easy to use. So try focusing on the customer and understand what they want now and what will they want in the next year is a key.
Kaitlin: I would give myself so much advice, as I am a first-time founder! Celebrate the little wins like a successful MVP trial just as much as the larger ones, and never be afraid to ask for advice or admit what you don’t know. Also, use your skills to the fullest potential in your role, and colour coordinate your Google Calendar much sooner — you’ll thank me!
Tell us about your experience in the UCL EDUCATE programme.
Olga: The EDUCATE Programme allowed us to focus on whether our technology could achieve what our research showed it could do. It allowed us to be able to work with the leaders in London EdTech and research to test our theories.
Kaitlin: UCL Educate was a great way to pause and review that our EdTech is fulfilling our learning outcomes and research the effects of our technology. We worked with incredible mentors, ranging from business experts to professors, to devise a research methodology and applicable research study which we tested with children. For us, it was a great springboard to dive into the EdTech space and propelled us to other educational opportunities like Finland’s xEdu.
How do you think the support in the UK will help you launch & grow Musemio?
Olga: We are extremely grateful to the support the UK is providing for entrepreneurs. If not the programme at King’s, King’s 20 Accelerator and other events that help startup founders to acquire important skills and feel confident to bring an idea to life, I wouldn’t be here. Additionally, the support from corporates like Sky motivated us to make the technology a more inclusive space has also helped us a lot, both financially and with advice, as well as (and most importantly!) by opening the doors to people who can help us to grow quicker.
Kaitlin: The UK is a hub of cultural, educational, and entrepreneurial support. Our universities like UCL have been incredibly supportive in our venture, and the mentorship, network, and peer support from this city’s ecosystem has truly made us, two international entrepreneurs, thrive. I learned so much from UCL Educate, accelerators like Bethnal Green Ventures, and industry groups across the country. Also, the UK has been a touchpoint for us to reach museums in Europe, and it has enabled us to grow not only as a company but also as women entrepreneurs in tech.
What do you think are the top tips for success?
Olga: Be resilient. When you try to build something innovative, you will inevitably face a lot of criticism, and people will tell that you can’t do something. Don’t believe them — believe your user, your team and your traction. Filter any advice you receive and assess it against you and your company values.
Kaitlin: Embrace your talents and “why”. You must have drive, confidence, and creativity in making your dream come to life. Find mentors who are in your corner and will give you honest, valuable advice. Also, always be in touch with your users at every step of the way, and have not only goals but also an ambitious vision.
Finally, what is your favourite memory that comes to mind, which inspired Musemio?
Olga: One of our favourite memories is when during the school trial we had a little 9-year old girl coming to us and saying that when she grows up she wants to be like us. When asked her what exactly she means, she said: “Building a cool game while still being fun like you.”
Kaitlin: I had an ah-ha moment during our Educate trial when a child was playing our Ancient Egypt level and completed all the challenges including translating Hatshepsut from hieroglyphs to English. He answered every question on our Explorer Worksheet with a smile, and afterwards, his parent looked at me in disbelief because he struggled with dyslexia and school. It was a moment where you realised, you’re changing education.
To Follow Musemio’s journey further you can visit musemio.com and follow them on twitter: @MusemioUK. They also recently joined the London & Partner growth programme, which you can learn more about here.