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Student startup TaleTeller aims to connect families through their storiesJuly 30, 2020

TaleTeller is a new startup being developed by four master’s students in W Booth's Entrepreneurship & Innovation program. They want to make it easier for people to record their personal stories and share them with their families.

Stories help us relate to our families, friends, neighbours and even ourselves. The tales of our forebears can inspire us in our lives, helping us reach new heights or weather the lows. For many, however, the stories of their grandparents and great-grandparents become lost to time.

Yara Abdeen, TaleTeller’s co-founder and CEO, often thinks about her path that has carried her far away from home, and recognizes that she and others who relocate abroad for school and career miss out on hearing the stories of their home.

“People leave their families behind and often don’t have the stories to take with them. This is true for those who move abroad, but also who move out of their family home at an early age,” says Abdeen.

Prior to moving to Canada and beginning her master’s degree, Abdeen was in California completing an internship. While there, she stayed with an uncle whose story inspired her to create TaleTeller.

“He has led such an interesting life and was writing a book about his experiences. However, he was struggling to finish it,” says Abdeen. Through getting to know her uncle’s story and struggles putting it to paper, she was inspired to help people work through similar challenges.

She saw a market for a product or service that could aid would-be autobiographers. People have been paying companies to help them map their family trees and glean insights into family history through public records and DNA analysis. She sees preserving stories in the words of the family members who lived them as being just as, if not more important.

Through discussion with co-founder Krutartha Joshi, COO of TaleTeller, they began exploring how smart technology can help make this kind of service accessible to more people.

“Until now, there have been two ways people have preserved these kinds of stories in writing. By your family themselves, taking the time to write them down as a book or in journals. Or, by hiring a biographer at great expense who interviews the family members and authors the stories. We want to offer a third option – to have the benefits of a digital interviewer and editor to help guide recollection, and assist withstructuring them in a way that is easy for the family to read,” says Abdeen.

TaleTeller is developing an easy-to-use digital platform that families can use to preserve these stories in various formats including bound and printed books, eBooks, and even self-narrated audiobooks.

Faizaan Shaikh, Innovation and Technology Officer with TaleTeller, along with Omkar Kelkar, Chief Financial Officer, are leading the development of some interesting technologies. These will form the backbone of the products they offer. For example, a chatbot will help customers brainstorm and organize the details of their stories.

The team is on track to completing their minimum viable product by the end of 2020 and launching commercially by April 2021. They have received SEPT Merit Funding of $5000 with the possibility of an additional $5000 at completion of their 2nd tollgate evaluation in late August. This funding was awarded after a proposal and presentation to the Innovation Factory and Forge incubator and is allowing them to hire their first part-time employees.

The team credits their diverse backgrounds and experiences with helping build their successful working dynamic. They bring together a blend of business, engineering and computer science that compliments each other well.

The TaleTeller team is developing their business under the guidance and mentorship of Lotfi Belkhir, Program Chair for the Master’s programs in Innovation and Entrepreneurship; and Karen Maraj and Chris Putman, both industry mentors with The Forge incubator. If you're interested in their startup you can visit the TaleTeller website and subscribe for updates.

The Entrepreneurship and Innovation program equips students with the knowledge and experience to identify opportunities to innovate, and understand every step from market research, product prototyping, to approaching investors. Anyone with a passion for technological innovation can apply to the program and graduate with a Master of Engineering Entrepreneurship and Innovation or Master of Technology Entrepreneurship and Innovation degree.