Ben Drury, CEO and Co-founder, Yoto

Ben Drury is the CEO and co-founder of Yoto, an audio platform created specifically for children. In this edition of The Friday Five, Drury talks about the role of storytelling in the lives of children, and the company’s new partnership with Disney and Pixar.

For those who aren’t familiar with Yoto, tell us about the company and its mission.

Yoto is an audio platform that puts kids in control of their listening, learning, and play. Our flagship product, Yoto Player, is a screen-free smart speaker that lets kids listen to audiobooks, music, podcasts, educational content, and more using physical cards.

We developed the very first Yoto Player back in 2017 when my co-founder, Filip, and I discovered a body of research suggesting that audio can improve kids’ creativity and imaginations. We each had young kids enrolled in Montessori schools and were keen to give them a simple, safe way to listen to great stories and music. Since then, we’ve launched two iterations of Yoto Player, added hundreds of audio titles to our Card Store, grown our range of products and accessories, and even launched a delivery subscription service in the UK!

We’re committed to developing products and content which inspire kids to be creative, to use their imaginations, and to enjoy great stories, music, and more with their families. The feedback we’ve had from our customers around the world suggests we’re moving in the right direction.

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What role does storytelling play in the lives of children?

Stories are fundamental to family life. In the broadest sense, stories instill virtues and values; they give kids a compass with which to navigate the world. Stories are also the bedrock of family bonding experiences – there’s not a parent among our customers who doesn’t cherish time spent reading to or with their kids.

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Yoto recently signed a partnership with Disney and Pixar to release a collection of childhood classic stories. What gives Disney and Pixar characters such staying power?

Disney and Pixar characters feel timeless because they uphold the strengths of great stories. The characters have complexity and depth, but they’re easy to understand. Good or evil, they’re archetypes that kids can use to understand their own lives. Most parents have fond memories of watching Disney and Pixar films as kids and will often watch them with their own children – though they may skip the 20th or 30th viewing! That gives parents and kids a connection that is less commonly shared over other entities.

We’re so thrilled to be working with Disney and Pixar to bring their characters and stories to Yoto. It really is a dream come true!

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How will Yoto adapt these classic stories and characters for a new generation of listeners?

We’ll be releasing a range of titles and formats so kids can enjoy their favourite Disney and Pixar characters in ways both familiar and fresh. We’re excited to be developing audio-first content that will inspire kids to explore their creativity and imaginations while listening.

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What can we look forward to seeing (and hearing) from Yoto in the future?

A lot! We’re preparing to launch some fantastic new products, not to mention a ton of new audio titles. We’ve also announced a partnership with AMEET which has seen us co-create a collection of Yoto Cards to complement their LEGO Duplo range. It’s an exciting opportunity to combine storytelling, learning, and play together into an experience kids and parents will love.

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Visit the Yoto website to learn more about the audio player and stories.