The app's READwithME features allows users to video chat while reading the same book.
It’s a tale as old as time. Kids cuddle up under their blankets while their parents or grandparents flip through pages of a favorite story book.
But sometimes, parents and grandparents can’t be there at bedtime.
Brian Gregorius fondly remembers his mother reading to him as a child before he went to bed. When he found out as an adult that some of his friends can’t do that with their own children, he came up with a solution.
“You know, it was a bonding thing,” he said. “We became very close, and I kind of put it together well, if you’re on the road, you can’t bond with your son at all …”
Gregorius, 36, along with his younger brother, Justin, 21, created StoryTime, an app that aims to bring the family back together through reading.
Subscribers to the app can access thousands of books for a monthly fee of $9.99. The app’s READwithME feature offers live video chat while users are reading a book. By sharing a code, users have access to more than 3,000 books while video chatting. Users can also read books individually under the “Read Now” option.
“People are staring at their phone all the time, and we think that
StoryTime is a piece of technology that can actually incorporate a human aspect.”
- Justin Gregorius
The brothers found that most children’s books cost between $6 and $20, and that’s where they found their strategy. If there was cheaper way to deliver that content, they could help bring families together and help them save money on book purchases.
“[Our] favorite part is connecting people,” Brian Gregorius said. “To bring that bond to people where you get feedback saying, ‘You know we’re not able to connect all the time, but this allows me a five-minute break even when I’m at work to connect with my child.’ To have that response is really unbelievable.”
The app took about a year and a half to come to fruition. It is available on iOS and will be available on Android soon.
Brian Gregorius was completing his master’s degree, which afforded him access to do market research. He also leveraged his connections with professors who offered feedback. It was then the Longboat Key duo reached out to publishers.
StoryTime officially launched in August, but as more of a beta version to get feedback. In December, the brothers started advertising campaigns to reach customers. And it was also in December that the app won a “One to Watch” award at the Reimagine Education Conference co-sponsored by Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and its SEI Center for Advanced Studies in Management.
Although they won’t disclose how many times the app has been downloaded, they say they are happy with the response. The app is targeted to children 12 and under and their families and friends they don’t see every day. Military families, tutors, and especially grandparents are big target audiences.
“A lot of technology today, I feel like, has made the world more impersonal — more connected, but more impersonal,” Justin Gregorius said. “People are staring at their phone all the time, and we think that StoryTime is a piece of technology that can actually incorporate a human aspect.”
To keep improving the app, subscribers are asked to give feedback and take surveys. One user offered an unexpected, but amusing, response. A mother got the app for her child to read with grandparents he doesn’t often see. But now, the child asks to use the app each night with the grandparents on video chat, which at times can be impossible for the mother to manage.
“It’s connecting with their family, but also giving children the opportunity to read and explore without any sort of financial or logistical constraints,” Justin Gregorius said.