How Stephen Fry is helping one Welsh entrepreneur launch a ‘Supertoy’ in time for Christmas

Ashley Conlan, Abergavenny, an inventor with his Supertoy talking teddy. / WalesOnline UK

Ashley Conlan, Abergavenny, an inventor with his Supertoy talking teddy. / WalesOnline UK

Ashley Conlan was given £5,000 by Fry after he emailed the actor, comedian and broadcaster to enquire if he would be the voice of the “Supertoy” teddy.

An entrepreneur from Wales hopes to produce the world’s first “natural talking” teddy bear by Christmas – after securing funding thanks to a tweet from Stephen Fry.

Ashley Conlan, 47, was given £5,000 by Fry earlier this week after he emailed the actor, comedian and broadcaster to enquire if he would be the voice of the “Supertoy” teddy.

Fry’s resultant tweet about the project to his six million-strong following on Twitter means Mr Conlan has since generated huge interest and the funding he was looking for on crowd-funding website Kickstarter.

Aberdare-born Mr Conlan, based in Abergavenny, told WalesOnline: “It has been crazy. I knew he liked gadgets and had a love for teddy bears.

“The original thought really was: ‘Who would be the perfect British voice for Teddy? And I couldn’t think of a better voice than Stephen Fry.

“I thought: I have got nothing to lose, I will shoot him an email saying have a look and will you kindly be the voice for Teddy?

“Out of the blue, the next thing I knew he had put £5,000 in, which is the maximum, and pledged his help for the creation of the voice for Supertoy.”

Before Fry’s tweet, Mr Conlan had raised £10,000 towards his £30,000 fundraising goal on American site Kickstarter, which provides a platform for creative projects to raise funds.

Just 24 hours after the tweet, pledges had exceeded £30,000, and now stand at more than £36,000.

It now means, that with 144 days to go until Christmas, Mr Conlan faces a race to get the talking teddy produced for his 615 backers on Kickstarter.

The “Supertoy” teddy uses artificial intelligence, a free smart phone app and a large in-built vocabulary to “converse” with children rather than using a fixed number of scripted responses.

It can read bedtime stories, play songs and answer questions by going online to find the answer and speaks through a mouth that is synced to its internal speaker. Meanwhile it can learn a person’s preferences and change its attitude accordingly.

The bear has a zipped compartment to hold the phone.

Mr Conlan, previously employed as one of a handful foreign engineers by Japan’s Hitachi and as a technology consultant for Sony, abandoned his career to start work on the “Supertoy” teddy full-time in January.

“I came up with the idea originally three years ago but the costs were prohibitive,” he said.

“It just dawned on me that what we are seeing in the cinema and in films, well, actually, you can do it.

“Okay, it’s not going to be all-singing, all-dancing and walking round and whatever but the communication side of it and the ability to talk back to you about anything, that’s the key point.

“Smart phones three years ago were still a novelty and very expensive. Today practically everyone has got a smart phone and, like everyone else, I’m into the next generation smart phones.

“The old one is gathering dust so what better use to put it to than in a toy?

Mr Conlan added he hoped the “Supertoy” teddy would “usher in” a new range of communicative and intelligent toys and “put Wales on the map for technology”.

He and “Supertoy” co-founder Karsten Flugge were previously behind Jeannie, a computer programme for a smart phone designed to simulate an intelligent conversation.

It has been downloaded more than three million times on the Android smart phone.

The Supertoy teddy will be priced at £39 without an outfit and £42 with one.

Costumes will also have accompanying artificial intelligence meaning that if the teddy is wearing a cowboy costume it would use cowboy phrases like “howdy partner”.

Mr Conlan say mass production of the toy may follow, depending on how he wants to distribute it.

But having committed to the project and gained Fry’s backing, Mr Conlan is confident there is a big future for the Supertoy teddy.

He added: “It was an extremely tough decision and great sacrifices had to be made. I haven’t earned anything for the last seven months.

“It was also really a thing that if you don’t do it now, you never will sort of thing.”

[Source: Simon Gaskell @ WalesOnline UK]

Tags: , , , , ,


Baltimore SunHarford still opposes crowdfunding sites for school donationsBaltimore SunRaising money through online crowdfunding sites is an ideal way for teachers to find the funds to purchase classroom materials and should be restored, the head of the Harford County teachers' u [...]

U.S. News & World ReportNo Cash for Hate, Say Mainstream Crowdfunding FirmsU.S. News & World ReportThe block on mainstream crowdfunding is just the latest blow to far-right activists operating online. In the last 24 hours, neo-Nazi website the Daily Stormer had its domain regi [...]

LITTLE GUIDANCE FROM IRS ON TAXING CROWDFUNDING CONTRIBUTIONSBloomberg BNAWhether it's a musician raising money to produce an album, an inventor with a great idea, or a family in distress that needs help, crowdfunding through platforms such as Indiegogo and Kickstarter has become [...]

Crowdfunding: Funding ideas the right wayReuters (press release) (registration)The term “crowdfunding”, or “crowdsourcing”, refers to an open call made to the world via the Internet to solicit funds from interested parties to finance a business or social project. The funds received ma [...]

Crain's Cleveland Business'Smaller' gifts can go long way for Clinic's crowdfunding platformCrain's Cleveland BusinessFor an institution accustomed to securing multimillion-dollar donations, Cleveland Clinic's latest fundraising effort has some relatively [...]

What do you think of crowdfunding campaigns?Japan TodayI think that if there is a responsibility and guarantee of sorts that the crowdfunding site will actually act with the users to go after companies which waste money or run off with it, then it would be a great thing for the future [...]

ForbesWhat Works In Equity Crowdfunding -- Insights From ResearchForbesAs we have recently celebrated the fourth anniversary of the signing of the JOBS Act into law, it is a good time to take stock of the effect that the legislature had on equity crowdfunding in the United States. It [...]

VentureBeatAmid Silicon Valley crackdown on alt-right, Gab social network ...VentureBeatAs high-tech firms have begun taking steps to weed out some of the most offensive right-wing hate groups, alternative social network Gab has seen a surge in ...Gab is becoming a haven for hate spee [...]

FortuneIndiegogo's Difficult Path to Offering Equity CrowdfundingFortuneIndiegogo founder Slava Rubin discusses how Indiegogo's equity crowdfunding service has been performing since its launch in 2016. Photograph by Indiegogo. E-mail; Tweet; Facebook; Linkedin. Share icons. [...]

The HinduKoodiyattam centre goes for crowdfundingThe HinduThe goal is to raise the sum through the crowdfunding platform BitGiving ( /nepathya) to train a new generation of artistes in what constitutes the only surviving form of ancient Sanskrit theatre in the [...]

CFB Finance


  • Crowdfunding
  • Crowdfund
  • Peer to Peer Lending
  • FinTech
  • Reg A+
  • Reg CF
  • Crowdfunding USA

Press Release

Live Crowdfunding .tv

What's Next Step in Regulation A+ JOBS ACTS Title IIII :L Interview : Steve Cinelli with Brian Korn Securities and Crowdfunding/Peer-to-Peer Lending Lawyer, Watch more video library | Conference | Interview | Campaign Showcase | Research | Education |