Tinybop's whimsical educational app is topping the App Store charts

By Erin Griffith , written on August 21, 2013

From The News Desk

Tinybop had a simple genesis: Its founder saw a gap in the quality of learning apps for his kid. Raul Gutierrez, who was the Chief Architect of online art store 20x200, noticed that the best iOS games were fun and experiential but not educational. Meanwhile most of the learning apps he found were based on drills. "I thought the education games could be offering a lot more fun," he says. When his six-year-old offered to trade having a birthday party for an iPhone, he realized the power these devices had over children and decided to go for it.

He's spent the last year or so plotting the Tinybop Explorer's Library, an app series that will cover basic subjects in a whimsically engaging way for kids. The first one, an anatomy lesson called The Human Body, launched in the app store last Thursday. Since then, The Human Body has been the top paid education app for iPhone in 39 countries and in the top ten in 72 countries. It's also the number one education app for iPad in 50 countries. The top-grossing countries after the US have been Russia and China, Gutierrez says. (The app costs $2.99.)

Gutierrez purposely released with 50 languages, noting a hunger for interesting education apps among non-English speaking markets.

The app itself is light on text and words, but there is a function that allows kids to record questions that get sent to their parents. "The goal is to start conversations," Gutierrez says. "We want there to be a level of interest and engagement that they didn't have before."

The Human Body's popularity is deserved -- the animation is beautiful, intuitive and fun to play with (even as an adult). The lessons are fairly basic but interactive. Zoom in on the lungs and see air moving in an out in time with a breathing sound. Zoom in further and see blood moving through arteries. Tap the legs to run and see the human's breath get heavier.

My favorite is the skeleton -- pull out the body's spine and the entire thing comically collapses to show the way the spine supports the entire body. A kid can then rebuild the body bone-by-bone, starting with the spine and working out. The lessons concern the ways basic body parts function, how they work together, and how they react to stimuli.

The Human Body is Gutierrez's first step toward a comprehensive suite of educational apps. He wants to release a series of apps comparable to an encyclopedia, and he's created a 75-page "brand book" outlining the Tinybop plan. To execute it, he's raised $790,000 out of a possible $1 million convertible note from angel investors including Mitch Kapor.