Gauri Nanda grew up in an entrepreneurial family, but she didn’t expect to become one herself. As a graduate student at MIT’s Media Lab, she invented Clocky, a traveling alarm clock that became a fast hit. She bootstrapped that company and expected to do the same with Toymail.
Toymail is a smart toy that connects to Wi-Fi and allows kids, parents and friends to communicate with each other without a phone. It’s a new way for families to connect and stay in touch. Gauri Nanda and her co-founder Audry Hill launched Toymail in 2012.
The toys are named Talkies and come in three sizes — the largest, which has more features costs $59. Teensies are mini versions that don’t include message sending, cost $10. The company also offers a $2.99-per-month subscription service to download content technologies to the Talkies.
Nanda enters Shark Tank seeking $250,000 for 2.5% of her business. Robert Herjavec and Daymond John both cringe at the valuation, but she continues with her pitch. She explains that the toys are Wi-Fi based, and they respond to voice recognition as well as physical play – the toy laughs when you shake it.
Nanda ends up walking away with a deal from Lori Greiner and Chris Sacca. The investment, along with guidance from Greiner and Sacca, helped Toymail grow and expand its products. However, the company struggled to maintain sales and ultimately filed for bankruptcy in November 2018.