Your Neighbor, the Entrepreneur: Justin Hsu

Who’s answering these questions?
Justin Hsu, Founder and CEO, MarcoPolo Learning.

Elevator pitch?
We make innovative educational apps for children that spark curiosity about the world around them. Our products are designed as “digital sandboxes” allowing for self-directed exploration and discovery.

Intriguing! Tell us more.
We are building a suite of apps called The Discovery Series, each volume explaining an important theme relating to the natural world. Our first volume, MarcoPolo Ocean, was released in late January of this year and it was featured by Apple as Best New App. The app reached #1 in Education in 30 countries. Our next app will be released in the late spring/early summer.

When was it founded? Where did the idea come from?
The company was founded in late 2012 by two fathers one with a background in venture capital and one with an entertainment industry. We saw that our children were most fascinated by things that were real. Trips to the natural history museum, the zoo, or Sea World brought out the great joy and fascination. We also felt there was a real shortage of high quality apps about the real-world and there was an opportunity to build a brand that is focus on non-fiction game experiences designed for the touch device experience.

Why the name “MarcoPolo”?
One of the founders, Nazar Yasin, is a huge history buff and he loves that Marco Polo is known as both an explorer and a pool game.

Who else was involved?
The team employs a group of creatives and educations in New York City and developers based in Germany. We have a team size of six, not including a number of freelancers and consultants.

Where is it headquartered?
At WeWork Labs, 222 Broadway.

How and where you do see it growing?
MarcoPolo will be releasing new products every 3-4 months. The company is currently expanding its creative team in New York.

Does living in the area inspire the company in any way?
Living in Tribeca has been a huge inspiration to me because my daughter attended Washington Market School and I realized how important early childhood education from my years at that school.

Any company hangouts around here?
Dakota Roadhouse. [This Q&A was done before the bar closed. —Ed.]

Any testimonials from locals?
“This app combines entertainment and education in an immersive way, it takes the kids on an under sea adventure. They are encouraged to build, navigate and add stuff to the world and in a magical way it keeps them wanting to explore more and more. From building and navigating the submarine to making the dolphins do beautiful jumps…. All of this while a pleasant kid voice tells them about the different parts of the submarine or gives them details about the orca and its other sea friends. A great app that uses creative play to teach young kids about the ocean. This app is edutainment at its best!” —Jonas Cifra Hallberg, Tribeca resident

Previously in this series:
••• Marjorie Jaffe Goldner
••• Lianna Sugarman, LuliTonix
••• Grace Lee, Nine Naturals
••• Offir Gutelzon, Keepy
••• Lisa Ridd, Smitten Films

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