This story is part of , stories about the diverse teams creating products, apps and services to improve our lives and society.
Living through a pandemic has meant we’ve all had to find ways to connect virtually — which can be particularly difficult if the person you want to spend time with is a child more interested in playing games than having a lengthy FaceTime chat. Enter Caribu: An interactive video chat app that brings family members together in virtual playdates with children age zero to 13 — letting you read, draw and play games together.
“The magic comes from being able to see content in the video call,” said Maxeme Tuchman, CEO and co-founder of Caribu. “Instead of a boring video call with your kids or grandkids, you now have a library full of thousands of books, coloring sheets, activities, games and scavenger hunts, in 10 different languages.”
Though Caribu has been around since 2016 (and was named one of Time Magazine’s best inventions of 2019), its popularity unsurprisingly skyrocketed during the pandemic. Its user base grew 10 times literally overnight when lockdowns began in March. It now has more than half a million users in over 200 countries and territories. Earlier this month, Caribu was named one of winners.
Parents can add friends or family members as contacts to connect through the app — only people you add will appear on your list of people you can call. The app only allows for one-on-one calls right now, though multiple callers are on the company’s roadmap.
When you start a call, you have the option to search through games like puzzles and matching games that you play turn by turn together, as well as coloring books and picture books. For newborns and toddlers, the app includes high-contrast black and white books and other activities to hold their attention.
Nine months into the pandemic, customer stories continue to pour in, Tuchman said. Some parents are using Caribu as a virtual babysitting tool, setting up their children on a video chat with grandparents so they can take a work call. Many grandparents have reported that the app has changed the way they communicate with their grandchildren when they can’t see them in person, since they have an activity they can do together over video chat that sparks conversation other than “how’s school?”.
As the user base rapidly increased, Tuchman tripled her team from four to 12 people during the pandemic. Half the team is female, two-thirds are people of color and several are part of the LGBTQ community.
“I have always grown up with the very strong belief that diverse teams just perform better,” said Tuchman, who is Latina and Jewish. “Especially with such a diverse customer base and so many different countries speaking so many different languages, how could we not have a diverse team to serve our customers better and to make Caribu better?”
That commitment to diversity is also reflected in the site’s book library, which includes anti-racist books appropriate for children, as well as books and games available in 10 different languages.
Caribu is available on the web as well as on iOS and Android phones and tablets. You can download the app and access some content for free. For the full experience, a subscription costs $10 a month or $100 a year and at this point can be shared with an unlimited number of people. Caribu offers free subscriptions for military members and teachers.