Novel Effect entered the Shark Tank with their app that adds sound effects, theme music and character voices to children’s books to make storytime even more fun.
We interviewed founder Matthew Hamersley, who runs the business with his wife, Melisa. Since launching in the fall of 2015, users have amassed over 100,000 reading minutes with the app. “Parents frequently thank us because for the first time, their kids are asking for storytime over television,” he said. “That’s what it’s all about for us.”
Over 100 titles are available, with classics such as The Cat in the Hat, Where the Wild Things Are and The Tale of Peter Rabbit as some of the most read. Newer books that are popular are Wolfie the Bunny and Wherever You Go.
As for the future of Novel Effect, Hamersley explained that he plans to expand to chapter books, comics, and even plays for older children. They’re also working on a tool that will allow users to create their own soundscapes, thus adding even more titles to their growing library.
Here’s what else he told us about…
How the Idea Came About
We largely have our daughter to thank. At a book-themed shower a few months before she was born, a friend of ours read us the book she brought adding these amazing sounds and voices. It was our a-ha moment! If there was a way everyone could read kids books as well as our friend did, then all kids would love to read.
Advice for ‘Tank’ Contestants- ‘Accept You Might Cry’
Be ready for anything! Even though we thought we had every detail worked out, there are always last minute things that come up. And take it all in! It’s such a blur – we don’t even remember the walk out of the Tank down the hallway. Lastly, just accept you might cry. It’s an incredibly emotional and draining process, so don’t fight it!
How They Select the Books
We select the titles in our library in several ways. We look at best sellers throughout history to try and find the books most people will already have on their shelves. We also work closely with publishers, teachers, children’s museums, and other educational venues to make sure we have titles in our library that they use as well. Our goal is to get kids excited about reading. Whether that’s in the classroom or at home, we work hard to make sure they’ll find a book on Novel Effect that they’ll love.
Feedback From Teachers
Teachers are by far our best advocates. Personally, one of my favorite anecdotes is when a teacher told me that using Novel Effect got even the “wiggly ones” to sit still during storytime, which had never happened for her before. It’s a testament to the level of engagement our experience gets from the kids. One of our co-founders, Melody Furze, is a special educator getting her PhD, so we’ve taken the educational benefit side of our business very seriously. We are also working with Dr. Anne Cunningham, a leading research in early childhood education, on a clinical trial to document the improvements to reading comprehension, literacy, and retention.
Pros & Cons to Working With Your Spouse
Luckily for us, we’ve worked closely before in similar industries, even sharing a home office, so we’re not starting from scratch. The hardest part has been turning off the business aspects of our brain when we go home at night. As an entrepreneur it’s hard to think of anything other than your business, especially when it’s so new. Luckily we know how the other works both personally and professionally and we’re able to support each other without much thought. It takes hard work to make any partnership work, the best part for us is that our daughter gets to see us create a family-business together with a mission we believe in.
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