It was a hot summer day in August 2009. Two childhood friends and co-serial entrepreneurs, Amir Koren and Roei Simantov, who would later found Sparkup together, met for a brainstorming session. They sat along the river with a mutual friend, Eitan Dotan, who is the successful director of a local children’s TV hits and one of their creative advisors. They had left the city in favor of calmer surroundings where their minds could run freely with new ideas. Between sips of coffee, the three discussed potential candidates for their next venture: something that would bring good to the world.
The bonds forged between Amir and Roei during their youth yielded several successful business endeavors. They partnered in their first professional PR campaign for a discothèque while still in high school. The two quickly became masters of viral marketing, learning the importance of user interface and customer experience – before the widespread use of the internet and cellphones. Having been tasked with promoting a party in a local club that could hold approximately 400 people, they created a network of 70 fellow students to help spread the word. On opening night, over 2,000 people showed up.
The duo went on to promote, manage and own a string of very successful nightclubs, working around the clock and dedicating themselves entirely to their entertainment business. After taking a break from this hectic lifestyle and becoming seasoned yoga practitioners, they joined two other entrepreneurs and founded the company Doohdlich – an anagram for childhood – which held worldwide exclusive rights for distributing the ZipIt line of bags to the mass market. Doohdlich quickly closed deals with major retailers in the US and in Europe, including Walgreens, Office Depot and Carrefour. They amassed valuable global business experience in addition to the customer experience and marketing skills they had gained while in the nightclub business.
After selling their interests in the ZipIt bag brand they had helped promote across the globe, Amir and Roei were ready for their next adventure. Having researched a diverse group of prospects for nearly a year, they had narrowed their list down to three general projects: water purification with a spiritual twist; an experimental elementary school built around principles of meteorology; and a hybrid TV series for kids featuring a new method of storytelling.
Sitting by the river that afternoon in August 2009, the three men were discussing the third prospect, the TV show involving storytelling, when Eitan shared a family anecdote. As a reservist paratrooper, he was required to serve approximately 30 days of reserve duty each year. Naturally, being away from his wife and daughters for this extended period of time was difficult, so he came up with a clever solution. Before leaving for a tour, his daughters would select a favorite book, and he would record himself reading the book on a cassette player (for those of us who remember what those are!). While he was away on duty, his daughters could listen to his voice read to them as they followed along with their favorite book in hand. It became a family ritual that continued for years.
Amir and Roei immediately began to connect the dots: reading to your kids, holding a real book, connecting with family, the emotional experience of storytelling…Sparks flew! Rather than pursue the education system or water purification angles, they set their sights on a different universal mission, one which played a central role in nearly every family on earth: how to make storytelling more accessible. They spent the entire car ride back rehashing the story they had just heard and expanding the underlying concepts.
Sparkup was born.
Check back next week for another chapter in the Sparkup Story.