Speakaboos Acquires Homer to Inspire Kids to Love and Learn to Read

Mergers and Acquisitions

Speakaboos Acquires Homer to Inspire Kids to Love and Learn to Read

By Tony Wan     Jan 20, 2017

Speakaboos Acquires Homer to Inspire Kids to Love and Learn to Read

The name Homer holds a dear place in many people’s adolescent memories. There’s the poet who blessed literature and history with the “Iliad” and “Odyssey.” Then there’s Homer Simpson, the flawed yet devoted father in America’s longest running sitcom and animated program.

Future generations may have another fond memory to attach to the name. Speakaboos, a New York City startup that aims to instill a love for reading in young children, has acquired Homer, the developer of an app that teaches them how to read. Both teams and products will be merged under the Homer brand.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed. The combined team will number 55 employees led by Speakaboos’ co-founder and CEO Neal Shenoy, who will keep his title. Homer’s founder and CEO, Stephanie Dua will be President and COO. Deborah Quazzo, an investor in both companies, played matchmaker early last year and helped the two close the deal around the Thanksgiving holiday, Shenoy tells EdSurge in an interview.

Already the two have made an impression among kids and parents. Their apps have been featured in the top charts on the Apple app store in the education, kids and books categories, and both have nabbed awards from parents and teachers’ publications.

Both products aim to solve a similar problem, described by Shenoy and many other literacy entrepreneurs as the “reading crisis.” He recalls recent figures from the National Assessment of Educational Progress showing that just 36 percent of fourth-graders tested proficient in reading in 2015.

Source: Homer

“Reading is the foundation of all lifelong learning and academic success,” says Shenoy. “Architecturing a solution requires cultivating a love of reading and a highly systematic approach to teaching reading through that meets students where they are and connects them to their interest.”

Founded in 2008, Speakaboos targets young children ages 2 to 6 with a library of over 200 interactive storybooks and songs. Where Homer comes in, according Shenoy, is its focus on teaching the mechanics of reading through more than 5,000 lessons and activities. A small study (PDF) led by Susan B. Neuman, an early childhood literacy professor at New York University and former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education, saw gains in phonological awareness and print knowledge between pre- and post-test results among Homer users. (Our colleague gave Homer a test run back in 2013.)

Both apps are currently available separately for $7.99 per month, but the company will unify their offering under a single product for a similar price. Their primary audience has been parents but in the works are features designed for the classroom, including the ability for teachers to assign stories and lessons along with reporting tools that show a reader’s progress and topical interests.

“Our plan is to release a combined product that combines Speakaboos’ focus on getting kids to love reading, with Homer’s Learn to Read program to offer a comprehensive approach to early literacy,” says Shenoy.

He declined to comment on how many users each product had, stating that the now-combined company is currently in the middle of fundraising. Shenoy offered only engagement metrics: active Speakaboos readers spend, on average, 21 minutes per session and read roughly 56 stories per month. Homer’s users average 18 minutes per session and work through about 70 lessons per month.

Homer has raised $3.4 million in venture capital since its start in 2013; Speakaboos has tallied $25.2 million.

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