Who are you?

Sandra Sobanska, business development and growth manager at Oyalabs.

What do you do?

Our mission is to the help enhance early learning through technology, specifically by developing an AI algorithm which analyses aspects such as speech, and the parent-child interactions at home. We can analyse how much and how well parents play with their babies and recommend them personalised content, activity or book suggestions so that they can make their interactions more fun and educational.

We know from decades of research that these aspects are the most important indicator of a child’s later IQ, school readiness and emotional development. The parent-friendly design makes it easier for busy parents to implement small, positive habits in their daily routine and make more evidence-based decisions.

At the centre of the Oyalabs’ platform is a smart hardware data collection hub which allows parents to put away their phone screens during interactions. The device connects to a parent-oriented mobile application where they can track their child’s progress and get inspiration for age-appropriate bonding activities.

We were part of cohort 6 of the EDUCATE programme.

What educational challenge are you addressing?

We know that 0-5 years are most important period in a child’s development and critical for their later development. What parents do in this period can maximise a child’s potential in life and give them a head start. It has been proven that for every $1 that parents invest into child’s development in this early period, there is a $13 return for not only the child, but also the society. Our focus is therefore not just on enhancing an individual but also society’s human capital.

What impact did the EDUCATE programme have on your product and company?

When we joined, we were considering what our research question should be, especially as we have already run two pilot studies previously. Thanks to our research mentor, Ekaterina, we identified that research could not just mean validating our technology with parents, but also running a focus group with London-based researchers to learn what are the challenges in home-based data collection on parent-child interactions. There is so much we might not have considered had it not been for the EDUCATE programme, and it opened new opportunities to us.

What advice would you give to prospective EDUCATE participants?

Make good use of the mentors. We have been involved in other accelerators, as well as incubators, and we learned that it really is YOU, the participant, who has to be proactive about reaching out to the mentors and the ecosystem of founders who are sharing this experience with you and could provide valuable advice. Always respect your mentor’s time by making sure that you do your research first and understand what it is that you want from them. At EDUCATE, we found them incredibly helpful, well-prepared and most importantly, equally passionate about education technology as we are.

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