The Start-up

Yoto: The portable speaker and platform for kids

Ben Drury tells Heather Martin about building a digital audio platform for kids that parents can trust

Wednesday 10 November 2021 21:30
<p>The Yoto Player is a robust, irregular cube, with a couple of big red buttons poking out like ears at each corner</p>

The Yoto Player is a robust, irregular cube, with a couple of big red buttons poking out like ears at each corner

Eight years ago Ben Drury saw his first playground. It wasn’t that he’d had a deprived childhood. He hadn’t just moved house. It was simply that his eyes had been opened – by becoming a dad. “I remember that very visceral memory of walking around my neighbourhood and suddenly seeing things that had always been there, but I hadn’t noticed them before – like parks and schools and nurseries, and health and safety issues of how to cross the road. The moment you have a child, you start thinking about those things.” And he also started thinking about Yoto, the critically acclaimed and award-winning portable speaker and associated platform for young children, which launched in 2017.

Drury is a serial entrepreneur. He met his co-founder and (future) fellow young father Filip Denker at his previous start-up, 7digital, which licensed content from record labels, music publishers and collecting societies for the likes of Samsung, Blackberry and Spotify. He reckons that audiobook licensing is a piece of cake by comparison. “We were both passionate about digital audio, and the inspiration for Yoto was us wanting to give our new family members access to that content, but in a way that they were totally in control of, and that didn’t involve a screen-based experience. We’re the antithesis of Mark Zuckerberg with his metaverse.”

Drury did Physics at university but remembers being moved by Charlotte’s Web at primary school and “geeking out” on The Lord of the Rings at secondary. As a child, he and his two brothers had only restricted access to television. But he taught himself to code on an old Acorn Electron and learned the piano, and was into Nirvana and The Stone Roses, playing guitar with a band.

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