THE CONCEPTION OF ITEDDY
In February 2007, 29-year-old Bolton entrepreneur Imran Hakim succeeded in winning over the infamous Dragons of Dragons' Den to secure £140,000 of investment for an innovative new ‘edutainment’ toy. Since then Imran went on to enjoy unprecedented interest and success with his invention that brought the traditional teddy bear into the 21st century with a detachable personal media player built-in, allowing kids to play their favourite cartoons, bedtime stories and much more.
The idea was conceived in November 2006 when Imran was challenged by younger brother Zubair to invent a better gift than his in time for their niece's first birthday.
He recalls, “I was sitting at home with my brother debating on what would be a great birthday gift for my niece, Aaminah, who at the time was 7 months old. I thought that his idea of a personalised talking birthday card had limited potential and had already been done. I suggested an alternative, a teddy with both static and dynamic features; a teddy which would be interactive so you could choose what it did next; a teddy that would grow old with you – an iTeddy!
Having looked around on the internet I couldn’t find anything like it. The next day I decapitated my niece's teddy bear and wired up some electronic components that I had to create a monstrosity. However, the more I thought about it and of course looked past the aesthetics, the more I thought that this could be a great idea especially with the revenue opportunity from downloads.
I then described the idea to a friend of mine, Riaz Valli at PH-D, a local design house and he helped put together some visuals for the idea in my head. I then exhausted many market research reports on the toy, electronics and download markets to conclude that this was definitely an emerging market.
Kids are getting older younger and growing out of traditional toys at a much younger age. They crave the same kind of gadgetry enjoyed by their older brothers and sisters with iPods, mobile phones and digital cameras. Convergence in cost size and weight of consumer technology now means that electronic features are more portable and affordable. They can be seamlessly integrated with classic toys to increase both child and parental appeal. This can be seen with many of the classic icons such as Action Man and Barbie."
MEETING THE DRAGONS
Imran recalls the experience of pitching his business idea to the 'Dragons' of BBC's Dragon's Den.
"The camera crew from the BBC were very positive about my idea which at the time was merely a diagram on a single sheet of A4. This helped reinforce my own belief in the concept. Having been invited to pitch the idea in front of the 'Dragons', I decided to polish up on my 3-minute pitch and recall a flood of emotions as I stood at the bottom of the long flight of stairs leading into the den.
The den looks, smells and feels like an old, converted open-brick warehouse. This fuels the nervous tension and the rush of adrenaline right through your body, makes your stomach churn.
I saw this as a challenge, opportunity and risk. The challenge was to convey my confidence and vision for iTeddy to convince some of the leading entrepreneurial minds, that my product had huge potential.
Successfully meeting this challenge would mean the exciting opportunity of working with the 'Dragons', but what if I had a glaring hole in my financials? Or if I blanked out under the bright lights? Or worst of all, what if I fell walking up the stairs, with millions watching at home on their TV sets?!
The first minute is the hardest and seems to last a lifetime.
Before you go up the stairs you are told to stand in a certain spot and if you make it to your marker on the floor with your composure unperturbed then the moment you lift your eyes and gaze upon the icy stare from the 'Dragons', reality kicks in!
This is it, only one shot at it, make or break, victorious or ridiculed – the only certainty, there’s no turning back!"
Intrigued by the concept and convinced by Imran’s plans, 'Dragons' Peter Jones and Theo Paphitis agreed to a 20 per cent share in the business for an investment of £140,000. The product was revamped to receive unprecedented interest from all around the world, which saw iTeddy reaching the shores of around 45 countries and nearly every major UK retailer.
Keen to ensure that children get the most from iTeddy, Imran created iTeddy.com, enabling children to download cartoons, stories and take part in online tutorials for basic computer skills.
Commented Imran: “iTeddy aimed to develop a new brand that provides products and services designed to make a child’s first steps in today’s hi-tech world educational, less daunting and most importantly, fun. I knew that this would be a great idea judging from all the market research and the overwhelming response from our trade launch at the London Toy Fair 2007.
Since receiving the initial investment from Theo and Peter, the product went on to be revamped and received unprecedented interest from all around the world. In the end, iTeddy reached the shores of around 45 countries and was featured in nearly every major UK retailer.
Keen to ensure that children got the most from iTeddy, Imran created iTeddy.com, enabling children to download cartoons, stories and take part in online tutorials for basic computer skills. As well as managing key contracts and revising manufacturing plans in light of the high demand, Imran was kept busy securing content from the major publishing houses for the website and in time for the launch of iTeddy.
Imran commented: “iTeddy aims to develop a new brand that provides products and services designed to make a child’s first steps in today’s hi-tech world educational, less daunting and most importantly, fun. I knew that this was a great idea judging from all the market research and the overwhelming response from our trade launch at the London Toy Fair 2007."
HOURS OF FUN
"Imran was one of the last to pitch and we were all tired and hot. He had no chance. But Peter and I knew straight away this one was one for us. It is the best opportunity we have seen since Dragons Den started and we could not believe the other dragons had not picked up on it. This is going to be a massive, massive hit."
“Since meeting the 'Dragons' I’ve virtually given up sleep. With so much to do and so many doors open, the excitement spurs you on and keeps you going. I feel that it’s important to enjoy the journey rather than just the destination. It also keeps you sane and focused with so much going on around you.”
“iTeddy has been on an epic journey around the globe since Theo and I first met him in the Den. I am very proud of the huge success of the brand, although having worked with Imran over the past few years, I can’t say I’m surprised. Imran’s energy and enthusiasm for everything he does is infectious, and I’m very excited about the future of the company, and all of Imran’s ventures beyond this.”