#Health is often directly related to how well people eat and drink. Water is the single most important component to life yet, in the modern age of sugary beverages, and an alarming number of people do not practice adequate water intake. Even more dangerously, too many #Children do not drink enough water which can have very damaging effects on their overall growth and healthiness which can potentially impair them far into the future.

To ensure that small children get a good start in life when it comes to drinking enough water, a startup company called Gululu has created a truly innovative and fun tech-savvy game-based product: an interactive app-based water bottle.

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The “Gululu” water bottle is soft yet durable and comes with a small screen infused. Inside the screen, there is an animated creature which grows and thrives as a child consumes water from the bottle.

Intended for children ages three and older, the water bottle is designed to make caring for a virtual pet the focal point of the gameplay. While the game is app-based from a parent’s phone, children can interact with the character on the bottle directly since it will animate itself as the water-sensors inside of the bottle indicate that water levels are being depleted. Since its debut in 2016, the Gululu has become a global sensation, having been featured in top-rated publications and making appearances in more than twenty countries.

Thus far, 2017 has been the most exciting year for Gululu since the water bottles are now being shipped globally where they can be implemented to keep children from many nations hydrated and, subsequently, healthy.

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Recently Asi Meskin, the Co-Founder and General Manager in North America of Gululu, spoke about the product and his hopes for its future.

Kickstarters, inventions, and characters

Meagan Meehan (MM): Gululu started as a Kickstarter campaign, so how did you get the project off the ground and were you surprised by the response?

Asi Meskin (AM): Yes, we started with crowd funding; Kickstarter first and then IndiegogoInDemand. We started months before the campaign went live and worked hard to find our audience and find the families that would connect and want to endorse Gululu. Early adopters are the key to any new product especially a smart product like ours which is an “IOT” or “internet of things.”

We are very thankful to all our worldwide supporters that contributed and supported and helped us reach our funding goal within only four days and then helped us finish our campaign at three times our original goal. Our team invested so much, and we deeply believe in our common vision and the first product Gululu, so we weren't surprised at the success.

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What did happily surprise us sees our news that traveled to over twenty countries in seventeen different languages, even though we did not target any media outside the United States.

MM: How has the Gululu--and its fan base--evolved since going from a Kickstarter campaign to a marketable item?

AM: We are now in a transitional phase moving from our early adopters to our early mass market--crossing the chasm, as it is called. We are learning so much about our product Gululu on many levels. First, we learned that Gululu could be a lifesaving product and many families with children who are Autistic and Children with different conditions such as PKD (polycystic kidney disease) and all types of transplants. For these kids, water is the only medicine, and Gululu is life-saving for them. Second, we found that many families that purchase more than one Gululu create a healthy competition between the kids and that is something we strongly advise. Third, we received many user feedbacks, and we are constantly optimizing Gululu.

You will see many changes shortly and soon you will be very surprised at what Gululu will start to do on an interactive level. Everything we do is focused on children's well-being, we also created a partnership with Generosity. Org and for every Gululu bottle sold we are providing water for life to a child in a developing country, we were even invited to speak about this at the United Nations two months ago in June--exciting times!

MM: How did you think up the design of the three characters and was it difficult to render the colorful animation?

AM: We are very fortunate to have an incredible team of world class artists and designers and 3D animation specialists. People who have worked at Disney Interactive, Electronic Arts Pop Cap (for the “Plants vs Zombies” game), King (for its “Candy Crush” game), Sony Pictures and DreamWorks Bluesky (for big-ticket movie special effect such as “Spiderman,” “Shred,” “Man-in-Black”) and many more. So, it was hard invention work but loads of fun doing it! We invested lots of time developing our IP and our story including the characters and the Gululu Universe stories. We are working on an animated series and the Gululu music but still in development phase. We are also going to introduce new characters soon.

MM: The Gululu characters can "visit" each other when two bottles are tapped together. How did you get the idea for this feature and are there any other cool capabilities that kids like?

AM: The idea came while we were in the development stage where we realize that making friends is very important to kids. So, we wanted to make sure there were also interactive features to connect the kids with each other, not just the kids to the Gululu characters. We are now extending the social features from the app to a social board feature on the bottle itself, where kids who befriended other kids can see the hydration ranking of their friends, and they can compete with each other who is drinking the best. And when I say drinking best I mean drinking properly and reaching their daily hydration goals.

MM: Might you add more characters to the Gululu universe in the future?

AM: Yes, we are not only making more characters to release but also we writing more chapters of the Gululu Game to be pushed to the bottle.

Design, colors, and technology

MM: The bottle is quite hardy, so what was it like to design something that had to be lightweight and relatively soft yet very durable?

AM: It was a challenge, and it took close to seven or eight versions of the bottle together with our partner FOXCONN (the Apple manufacturer who is also investing heavily in America). We had to send Gululu back and forth many times. Each time we would throw the bottle on the floor constantly to make sure it was durable for young kids. At the same time, we use BPA free materials, and we wanted to make sure that we are using the best materials possible. Most of us on the co-founding team have kids, and we wanted to feel this is a product we feel safe giving our kids, and until we felt that we did not need to improve the bottle for safety purposes immediately. To some toddlers, the Gululu bottle might be a little heavy, and we'll figure out how to make it lighter in the next generation, hopefully, to release next year.

MM: You have five colors of Gululu bottles right now, but might you add more at a later date?

AM: We had five colors when we first started, but then we realized that this was a bigger challenge than we expected, every color needs to be manufactured separately using the same mold and it needs to be cleaned between colors. This created a huge backup in the production of certain colors; even Apple only has very few colors to the iPhone and Apple’s other products have limited colors because of this reason. So now we have three colors that the users loved most: Bowhead Blue, Mermaid Pink, and Submarine Yellow. Everything we do we try to do according to what our user feedback is since we are a user-centric company.

MM: What sorts of feedback have you gotten and how are you planning to expand the Gululu brand over the next ten years?

AM: Our mission and vision are to be the most trusted children's wellness and health company in the world of smart and connected products. Our brand will stay focused on children's well-being and invent and creating new products and ways to strengthen healthy habit forming in children at a young age and continuing to support learning through play. We also want to promote quality companionship from parents to their kids that technology cannot replace.

MM: Have you any exciting new projects or events forthcoming and would you like to discuss anything further?

AM: We have been invited to the United Nations to speak again at the end of this year on a bigger stage. More brands from the industries such as Telecom operators who are looking at IoT trends, bottled water companies that promote healthily, and really big IP owners are approaching us for potential exciting collaboration. Our R&D team is in the research phase for the design of our next generation product. Market-wise, we are more focused on the United States and the Chinese markets this year and will gradually expand a little more into the APAC region such as Taiwan and hopefully Japan soon where Tamagotchi was first invented. #Games