Toronto-based SaaS startup Babbly has raised a $3.2 million CAD ($2.5 million USD) in an all-equity seed round that closed in March.
“[Parents] feel confident that they can make a difference in their children’s development—and they know when they need to take action.”
– Maryam Nabavi
Representing Babbly’s first institutional raise, the financing was led by Esplanade Ventures and with participation from American Family Insurance Institute for Social Impact, and Trend Forward Capital. Esplanade Ventures’ Sheldon Elman will join Babbly’s board of directors.
Founded in 2018 by Maryam Nabavi (CEO) and Carla Margalef Bentabol (CTO), Babbly is developing a speech and language development platform for infants using artificial intelligence (AI). Babbly collects video and audio recordings from parents and leverages machine learning models to analyze children’s speech patterns.
Babbly claims that its technology can classify up to three kinds of babbling, in addition to other forms of speech, such as infants’ cooing or crying. The platform is also able to recognize the back and forth interactions between a child and an adult, which the startup refers to as Turn Taking.
Backed by a scientific advisory team comprising speech and language pathologists and pediatricians, Babbly also offers activities and tips for parents with the aim to help children develop language and social skills at any age.
The startup is tackling a common problem among young children. Speech language disorders affect between eight and 12 percent of Canadian preschoolers, according to the University of Alberta.
When Nabavi’s son was 18 months old, she said that his language was not developing as expected. The CEO’s pediatrician advised her to wait until the next appointment to check in on her son’s development, but Nabavi refused to “sit back and do nothing.”
After asking for help from speech and language pathologists, Nabavi said that within six months, her son was saying words and putting short sentences together.
“[Parents] feel confident that they can make a difference in their children’s development—and they know when they need to take action,” she said. “We believe it’s time to create a parent-first approach to early childhood development that acknowledges parents’ perspectives and concerns in a more meaningful way.”
With the aid of fresh funds, Babbly intends to bolster its offering to touch on more stages of child development. While the startup intends to primarily focus on speech development, Nabavi said that Babbly plans to expand to other areas of children’s growth, such as social and motor skills.
“We will expand our reach to a broader audience by giving parents resources that are relevant to older children and by expanding our AI to beyond pre-verbal speech development,” Nabavi said.
Featured image from Babbly’s website.