Meet Startup @TW

Gululu: teaching kids to stay hydrated, one game at a time

Who would have thought that encouraging children to drink water could be the motif for creating a startup! But this is exactly what Gululu has set out to do with their innovative smart bottle.

Following an extending brainstorming period, the smart bottle has experienced initial success in the United States with over 20,000 bottles sold. Additionally, the company has struck a partnership with the Taiwanese manufacturing powerhouse Foxconn and completed a Kickstarter campaign.

Recently, ecommerce giant Amazon approached them to sell the bottle exclusively on its platform. Now, Gululu is ready to move into East Asia.

Woes of parenthood

Many parents find it hard to keep their kids away from overly-sweet beverages, all the while ensuring that they still drink enough throughout the day. Gululu’s solution for that is a smart bottle that comes equipped with sensors on the inside.

These sensors allow the bottle to record the water level, which is then automatically saved in the cloud. Parents can thus keep track of their kids’ drinking behavior.

What’s more, the bottle’s cloud connectivity and microchip allow smart gamification. Rather than being a hassle, drinking water thus becomes part of a game.

Water can be fun!

Alvin and his team members have tried many ways in order to have children fall in love with their smart bottle, even asking for partnerships with animation studios such as Disney. However, at last, they realized that the price and target positioning do not really tally with each other. Putting potential partnerships with high-profile studios behind them, Gululu decided to create something unique themselves.

Gululu’s gamification essentially turns the bottle into a toy. By drinking water, kids can not only unlock cute pictures, but also reach levels and goals the parents can set via the accompanying app. Once accomplished, they can gain different rewards and characters, such as collecting pieces of a puzzle or playing games.

What’s more, Gululu connects kids through its friend function. The concept is to shake both bottles at the same time, then add each other to one’s network. Once linked, kids may then compete with each other every day.

“Turning it into entertainment is the key for children” said Alvin Chiang, the CEO of Gululu.

Additionally, the Gululu team also emphasizes that the frequency of using a product is vital! Especially children need to go to different places each day, from their home to school to their friend’s location. Making kids remember to bring their water bottle with them is a challenge that was overcome through gamification.

Brainstorming for success

Ideally, innovative ideas can translate into inventions that change our daily lives for the better. Alvin Chiang, a former VP of Alibaba, decided to start his own business with partners back in 2015. Initially, they considered focusing on a smart watch or robotic- themed product for their first project. After an extended internal discussion, however, they realized that “consumer behavior and demand may not allow us to predict the next step.”

“We kept going over it again and again, trying to find something that was not done by big companies and which also wasn’t impossible to do due to technical restrictions. At the same time, our idea should not be easily copied by other manufacturers,” recalled Chiang.

Following a four-month long research that included case studies and interviews to obtain more accurate data, Chiang and his team members found that half of American children do not drink enough water per day.

Thus, Gululu was born as a remedy to solve this problem.

Chiang at first discussed a possible partnership with Foxconn in August 2015. Thanks to the great potential of their innovative idea, the Taiwanese OEM giant agreed to support the project.

From America to Taiwan

Following a six-month testing phase, Gululu is finally on the market. The very first market strategy was designed for America. However, the idea roused interest in other places as well soon, as the international success of Gululu’s Kickstarter campaign showed. Media from over 20 countries covered the project, thus signifying to Amazon the vast potential of the startup.

Following the exclusive deal with the American ecommerce platform, Gululu has its eyes set on expanding to East Asia. The next step for their smart bottle is to conquer Hong Kong, China, as well as Taiwan beginning in September.

Feliciana Hsu
English journalist and PR for Global Affairs

Feliciana gained her MSc of Media Power and Public Affairs from Royal Holloway, University of London.

After graduating from London, she started her career of being journalist at Business Next Media and Meet Startup @TW Website, and specializes in interviewing about innovation and technology.

Within her career, she has interviewed various experts in their field, including Fleur Pellerin, former French Minister of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises and Sir Christopher Pissarides, Nobel Prize Laureate in Economic in 2010.