Miami Tech & Startup News

From #MiamiTech to Toyland, here’s some big news: Caribu has joined Mattel

From #MiamiTech to Toyland, here’s some big news: Caribu has joined Mattel

Nancy Dahlberg

Caribu has joined Mattel’s portfolio of brands.

The Miami-based video-calling platform connects children with distant family or friends for storytime and virtual playdates, and Caribu has bridged the miles for hundreds of thousands of kids. As Caribu CEO Maxeme Tuchman’s six-year journey as a first-time founder is coming to an end, she said she is  “overjoyed” to be joining Mattel.

“Our mission has always been for any child, around the globe, to be able to create virtual educational and playful experiences with their family and friends, no matter how far apart they are. I’ve always had a relentless obsession with getting Caribu into the hands of every child on the planet and I learned the hard way how difficult it is to achieve that goal on a scrappy early-stage startup budget,” said Tuchman, in an interview with Refresh Miami. “By joining the Mattel family, not only do we immediately have access to resources and capabilities we used to only dream of, but we now have a larger mission-aligned team of people who are just as obsessed as us about providing the best and most wonderful experiences for kids.”

Mattel was Caribu’s first content partner and the partnership continued to grow over the years. According to coverage in The Toy Book trade magazine, Caribu’s extensive library of interactive books, games and educational and artistic activities will continue to be available but Mattel’s offerings will be expanded. Half the Caribu team, including co-founders Tuchman and Alvaro Sabido, will be joining Mattel in roles focused on the Caribu app. Financial terms of the partnership were not disclosed.

The toy giant plans to incorporate Caribu into its Mattel Future Lab, an initiative launched earlier this year  aiming to pioneer the future of play. Mattel Future Lab recently launched several other initiatives that involve play in the digital space, including a multi-year partnership with Miami-based OnChain Studios, makers of Cryptoys.

“A direct-to-consumer entertainment platform like Caribu enables us to engage with our customers in brand-new ways,” Ron Friedman, vice president at Mattel Future Lab, told The Toy Book. “With Caribu, the ability for children to read, draw, and play with Mattel-based characters from iconic brands like Barbie, Hot Wheels, Thomas, and Fisher-Price in real-time along with loved ones will create new experiences and help support family relationships.”

The early years

The origins of Caribu date back to Sabido’s college days, where an MVP of the concept was inspired by a touching photo of a soldier struggling to read a book to his child from afar. The creation won awards as a college project but then sat dormant after the students went their separate ways; Sabido returned to Miami where he grew up but wanted to continue building it. Tuchman and Sabido connected at an event aimed at helping future co-founders find each other – they did.

She would become CEO in 2016 to help shape Caribu into what it is today. Tuchman, a Latina from Miami, was finishing up a White House Fellowship in Washington, DC, and was looking to jump into startup life. And in her previous work with Teach for America Miami-Dade, she recognized how important it was to get the fundamentals of literacy right in the early grades.

Over the years, Caribu won many accolades including Apple naming Caribu one of the 15 Best Apps of 2020 globally. Time Magazine also recognized Caribu as one of the Best Inventions of 2019. Tuchman also has won numerous pitch competitions and entrepreneurial awards and has been a steadfast supporter of #MiamiTech who has worked to elevate women and people of color within the ecosystem and beyond.

Scaling Caribu

To build and grow Caribu, Tuchman raised about $6 million in venture capital, from investors including AT&T, Toyota, Miami Angels and Revolution, Steve Case’s Rise of the Rest fund. Caribu’s last funding round was comprised solely of women and Black male investors, a fact that Tuchman is proud of because startups founded by women and people of color only draw a single-digit percentage of venture capital.

“I am so proud of so many things,” Tuchman said. “We invented something new in the world that people regularly play with and enjoy on a daily basis. We created jobs and built a diverse team with a fiercely loyal, caring, and respectful culture. We proved that you could be a Latina-led company in Miami and still be able to raise VC funding and go through the full lifecycle of a startup journey. I am also incredibly proud of the work I was involved with to elevate other women founders and founders of color in our #MiamiTech community knowing that this wasn’t a competition but a pure collaboration because we all needed to succeed.”

During the pandemic Tuchman and Sabido offered Caribu for free to help families cope. The surge in demand started in mid-March of 2020, when Caribu saw usage grow tenfold literally overnight.

“Families’ first priority is to stay safe and their second priority is to stay sane, and we fit so squarely into that second priority,” Tuchman said at the time. Virtual baby-sitting became a thing, as grandma in another state could be entertaining the kids on Caribu, while mom was on a Zoom call for work. Caribu also made a series of opportunistic moves during the pandemic, such as offering teachers a virtual Caribu library and expanding its games content.

Mattel plans to grow the amount of its own content on the Caribu platform, and the non-Mattel content will remain with more to be added as part of new partnership deals that will be revealed in the coming months. Caribu can still be accessed via its app for iOS and Android or through the web.

And Miami will continue to be part of this story, Tuchman said.

“Miami is my hometown, so I’m incredibly excited that three of us from the Caribu team will be working remotely from Miami and we plan to still be involved in building and giving back to the #MiamiTech ecosystem in the years to come.”

Caribu co-founders Maxeme Tuchman and Alvaro Sabido.

This story may be updated. Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg and email her at


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