Founder Interview: Justin Hsu – selling stories around the world

Founder Interview: Justin Hsu – selling stories around the world

18th July 2018 by Louise Harvey

[Advertisement feature by MarcoPolo Learning]

This week we caught up with Justin Hsu, Founder & CEO of MarcoPolo Learning, the rapidly growing online children’s educational technology and media company.

How did you come up with the idea behind MarcoPolo Learning?       

Back in 2012, my partner and I wanted to develop a set of interactive e-books about historical figures that possess inspiring personality traits for children ie: Leonardo DiVinci, Ben Franklin, George Washington and Marco Polo! After working closely with academics we decided to put our focus on developing curiosity and fostering a child’s lifelong love of learning.

What is MarcoPolo Learning?

MarcoPolo makes learning fun, exciting and inspiring for children aged 3-7 by letting the world be their classroom. We offer literacy and maths within a PhD-designed comprehensive STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths) curriculum. We use a unique mixed media approach for the content that marries real world footage with animated characters and curriculum. So far, we have had around 7 million downloads, and have reached #1 in nearly 100 countries app stores.

Can you tell us a bit about what’s next for MarcoPolo?

A huge part of our focus over the last 2 years has been developing our video business and characters (The Polos) for TV and digital platforms with our partner Boat Rocker Media, who are a world class producer and distributor of kids content across the globe. So we’ll soon be announcing a number of prominent TV deals across some major regions, as well as a very important deal we are currently working on with one of the most respected media companies in the world for our second largest market, China.  We also plan to develop specialty content for YouTube and other digital platforms with major celebrity parents.

Why did you decide to move to the UK during the height of Brexit negotiations?

After we closed our Series A in 2017, we wanted to move to a  location that can help us scale. We wanted a location that has a great pool of children’s media talent and also a location that offers tax incentives for the products we are making, for example animated video content and interactive products.  We were already working with animators and writers in the UK and the UK offers tax incentives for creative industries, so it was a natural move for us. We have a very diverse team in London with over 13 nationalities represented, so we hope that Brexit doesn’t affect that diversity, but overall we don’t think the referendum will have any major impact on our decision to relocate here.

Having been backed by some well-known names, why are you raising capital through crowdfunding?

We wanted to give our customers and smaller investors an opportunity to join our mission to build this great brand.  It’s the children and parents that are the best ambassadors for our products and crowdfunding is a great way in.

Can you tell us a bit about your own background?

I’m a serial entrepreneur across both finance and media. I studied finance and marketing and founded a financial services company in New York at the age of 23. That company became a national firm specialising in retirement investment planning for K-12 teachers. Over 10 years, we built the company to about 400 salespeople and about a billion dollars under management.  We sold that company to global insurer Zurich Financial. I then moved to London to help develop the UK office for LA-based entertainment company called The Firm. We managed platinum selling artists like The Dixie Chicks, Enrique Iglesias, Linkin Park and actors like Leonardo DiCaprio and Cameron Diaz. Subsequently, I set up a similar business with the manager of The Stereophonics and we managed a number of acts. I got married and became a father and moved back to New York to work as a banker at Credit Suisse and then started MarcoPolo with a venture capitalist friend, who was also one of my clients at the bank.  

What’s the best part about being an entrepreneur?

It’s all about the passion. If you’re passionate about something, it’s no longer work. It’s something you dream about all day every day and that’s very powerful.  I live for that passion.

What advice would you give people who are eager to set up their own business?

Don’t set up a business for the wrong reasons. Be ready to put 200% effort into building it and be mentally prepared for some of the obstacles that will inevitably come your way in the early years.

Where would you like to see MarcoPolo Learning in a year’s time?

We envision MarcoPolo content to be across all platforms next year (TV, Apps, YouTube etc). Internationally, our Chinese products would have launched as well as a number of other international territories.

If you’d like to ask Justin your own questions, you can do so via the discussion forum on the campaign page, where you can also find out more about how MarcoPolo Learning bring their exciting products to market.

Investing in startups involves risks, including loss of capital, illiquidity, lack of dividends and dilution, and it should be done only as part of a diversified portfolio. This blog post has been approved as a financial promotion by Seedrs Limited.

Louise Harvey

Louise Harvey

Campaign Support Team (PR)

Digital Agency Kent