Maxeme Tuchman, Co-founder and CEO of Caribu

Q&A with Maxeme Tuchman, Co-founder and CEO of Caribu

This article is part of Rebel One’s “Investor & Founder Series”, a series of recorded interviews with CEOs and investors recently launched by RBL1, a leading venture capital firm and investor network based in New York City. You can view RBL1’s investor training programs and new content here. Written by Brian Ou

Maxeme Tuchman, co-founder and CEO of Caribu, shares with the Rebel One network her experience as Executive Director at Teach for America, a White House Fellow, and as the first Latinx founder to raise over $1M in crowd funding.

Caribu is the leading educational family entertainment platform — a “FaceTime meets Kindle”, for families. Caribu’s proprietary video-calling technology lets long-distance families, mainly grandparents, parents who work late, travel for work, are legally separated, and are active duty military get together to paint and read bedtime stories with their children in real time. During the pandemic, Caribou has grown ten-fold and become a household favorite around the globe.

Sergio Marrero, our host and Founding Partner of Rebel One, dives into Tuchman’s path leading up to Caribu, how COVID has impacted the EdTech space, and what businesses can do to better support women founders and founders of color.

Here is a short summary of the 47-minute interview:

Rebel One Managing Partner, Sergio Marrero (left), Maxeme Tuchman(right)

Sergio: What does the usual Caribu user look like?

A: Our target market is not actually parents working full-time, but what we call “glammas”, or glamorous grandmas. Based on our surveys, 46% of grandparents say they would be devastated if Caribu went away. They described Caribu as an unforgettable experience, or like a “first-class flight.”

And when I say grandma, most people think of the 90-year old with a cane and a life alert necklace. However, when I tell you gla-ma is my core customer, you should envision Kris Jenner or Tina Knowles, and see a 50 to 60-year old woman who is a boss. She makes 4 times what a millennial mom makes, she’s tech-savvy, and she has the most disposable income in the country. Glammas are truly a silver mine and tech in today’s world isn’t building for her.

Sergio: How has COVID affected Caribu?

A: One use case we saw grow besides grandmas was in kids using Caribu with other kids. We’re now seeing kids ages 0–13 use Caribu, and we kept getting more requests for our 8–12 category. We used to have users in 160 countries, now we have users in 200+ countries. We also used to do a ton of outbound requests, but now we just added DC Comics, Cartoon Network, and other big brands who want to be on our platform.

Sergio: Can you share a little about your early career and how you ended up as CEO of Caribu?

A: For a lot of people who are first-generation, it’s hard to talk about what you’re doing without saying how your family and history has inspired you. I am a Cuban-Jew, my dad’s side went through the Holocaust and Cuba ended up being the only place that took Jews. And when Castro came in power, my parents decided to pick up everything and move to the U.S.

Growing up with that constant reminder of education is the only equalizer when you’re constantly fleeing and facing challenges, I understood that education is the only thing that will help you achieve the American dream. Education has been something I’ve thought about my entire life, and I’ve thought about the difference between a high-quality education and the education we give most of our citizens. From the beginning, I’ve always realized my privilege in the way I was able to navigate the system and the number of people that opened doors and explained things to me that I would have never had access to.

I really wanted to pay it forward and also pay my family back. I was looking for different ways I could make the most impact, and everywhere I went, whether it was non-profit, government, public school, or higher-ed, it was adults fighting adults about what’s best for adults. I had it and that’s how I ended up in EdTech.

Sergio: What were some of the challenges that you faced along the way?

A: We don’t have enough hours to go through everything that didn’t work. Many times in the day, I think “This isn’t gonna work” or “This is gonna be a disaster.”

The founder journey is like a county fair. It’s eating bad food, feeling queasy the whole time, it’s feeling like you’re not tall enough to ride a ride, its feeling distorted, and your brain is going at a million miles a minute. You’re solving problems every day that you created yourself.

However, the good outweighs the bad. You keep building if your customers want it. If investors are giving you a lot of money, but your customers could care less if you live or die, it’s time to quit.

Caribu Website Home Page

Sergio: How’s the process of raising a series A?

A: You should always raise when you don’t have to, and you should always raise money to continue growth, not to try things out. Because of the pandemic, I didn’t have to make the case anymore for why Caribu is a game changer. The pandemic also made things a little easier on the investor side too, because all of a sudden we had inbound investor excitement.

Sergio: Can you share the good and bad of being based in Miami?

A: To me San Francisco sucks. I find the income disparity there to be very saddening, and I don’t want to be desensitized to that. I love New York however, I think New York is more my speed. Here’s the thing, I can be a big dolphin in a small pond in Miami and Miami is my place of power.

Our team is globally distributed, and we don’t have a headquarter. I think you can only build real trust and relationships in person, but I don’t need to be 5 minutes outside of San Francisco or New York to do my work. Running a startup is very hard, and you want every advantage available to you, and that means being based in a location where you don’t have to fight for attention and the cost of living is feasible.

Sergio: Shifting a little bit, can you share more what we need to do to better advocate for the black community and communities of color?

A: Last week, Caribu launched a new category called “Courageous Conversations: Anti-Racism.” We only got one person that voiced a concern, and we’ve gotten a lot more people supporting the content. We also offered it for free during the summer, because we know public libraries and schools are closed and we have to give kids access to high-quality reading and so they can have those anti-racist conversations with their families.

Sergio: Thank you Max. Where can the audience find you?

A: Definitely find me on LinkedIn and Twitter, happy to connect. More importantly, visit Caribu.com where you can download Caribu for free and view all of our summer reading materials.

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If you’re interested in learning more about Tuckman’s experiences, you can watch the full interview here. If you are a motivated investor or young professional like me, I would highly recommend checking out RBL1’s Youtube channel for more videos on how entrepreneurs and investors are changing the world.

Rebel One Youtube Homepage

Rebel One’s Youtube Channel

Thank you for reading and stay safe!

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