Friday, June 12, 2015

From a Tiger Mom to a Startup Founder : A Little Story on How Povi was Conceived

By Seow Lim, creator of Povi

This is a story transformation. It's a story about real life and how a crisis changed my life and inspired me on creating something out of it. Because of it, we are developing a solution to help to connect families that we will soon be sharing with lots of parents around the world. 

But before that, here's a bit of my background. I have been a high tech Silicon Valley executive for over 15 years. I am also a mom of two boys. Born in a middle income family in Malaysia, my parents always instilled the importance of academics in me. My life from 10 years old had been school, tutoring classes and extra-curricular activities. Excelling in academics had been the primary goals imposed for over first half of my life. And yes, I met my parent's expectations: I have engineering degrees from Imperial College of London (UK) and Stanford University in California(USA). 

I met my husband in Engineering school in London. He was my assigned lab partner the first day. Frankly, I hated him in the first year. I couldn’t tolerate this guy who is smarter than me academically, finished all his work earlier than me. In the second year, on the day of my birthday, I was miserably ill in bed. He knocked my dorm room door, walked in, sat beside my bed, handed me a red (yes believe me it was red) frog stuffed animal and said: "Happy birthday, hope this frog could one day turn into your prince."…. And that was the beginning of our love story. 

We both were fortunate to be admitted by Stanford and arrived in the US for graduate school together. We met many great people, who are our best friends. We are happily married, have two beautiful boys 13 and 7. I have a very supportive husband who constantly encourage me to pursue successes in my career while juggling to be a ‘tiger’ mom. 

During the first 10 years of my life as a mom, I had attempted to bring up my first child like how my parents had brought me up. I was very focused with making sure he learnt ABC and 123 as early as possible. I filled a whole room stuffed with educational toys, motor skills toys, puzzles etc. My older son lived up to my expectations. He won all Math competitions I entered him into. He designed games himself starting from 2nd grade. 

However, when my son was in his 6th grade, my perfect life fell apart. 
I was called in to meet with his school counselor. She looked into my eyes and said: "Your child is very smart but he is not happy". How painful could that be? I couldn't stop asking myself why I failed. I worked so hard to be the best mom ever. What mistakes had I made in the process? 

The day after, I walked into my Senior VP office telling him that I need to leave my job. I just completed 2013 finalizing 5 acquisitions that grew the business from 200 people to 800, growing the business 6 times, I walked out from the promotion that I was waiting for, that I worked so hard for 1 ½ year for. 

But, what’s more important in my life than ensuring that I can help my son to be happy? And if I had not done enough for him, I have to do more. 

I bought all the best selling parenting books such as the The Whole-Brain Child (Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson) and Nurture Shock (Po Bronson)I read about the work that Professor John Heckmann had done with the Heckmann Equation, and Professor Angela Duckworth with Character Lab and the definition of character skills. I began to subscribe to all the well known parenting blogs like Aha Parenting, Huff Parents and ....... I am so grateful to these bloggers for sharing their experience and aggregating everyone else’s experience. I started to join Facebook mom groups to learn from other moms their experiences every day. 

I also went to mom's group meetings that I never had time to go when I was working full time. That’s when I began to realize that there is a lot more I can do as a parent than just focusing purely on academic success. I need to help him find more balance in his life. He needs to learn Emotional Intelligence, executive functions, self regulation and so on– to be able to recognize emotions, share emotions, more interactions. I need to help him manage his time better, balancing between academic, screen time, and interactions time. With all these learnings, and the fact that I am home at 3 PM to be with him every day, spending time having deeper conversations with him beyond how’s school, what’s homework, I am reaching out a lot more to his thoughts and feelings. 

I listen to his likes and dislikes, his dreams; and start thinking about how to optimize for his dreams, versus trying to get him to walk my footsteps.With lots of help from the great teachers my child has in his school, I started adjusting his schedules, encouraging him into track and field; he is starting to realize his other talents beyond Math. He is actually a great sprinter. He is fast! Just within the last 1 ½ year, my son has improved. He is very self-motivated to do well academically, but at the same time, he is much more approachable socially and much more well-balanced. Most importantly, he is a lot happier!! 

Throughout the whole time, I have also been looking for products like toys or software like the ones that I stuffed in my toy room, but focusing on Emotional Intelligence (EQ) development, helping kids learn emotions, learn executive functions, learn self control, develop more well-balanced lifestyle etc, but I couldn’t find any. I found the products in the market to be very focused on academic, motor skills development or pure fun and entertainment. Maybe other parents want and need these products too? I started online surveys of moms on the moms groups that I joined. I was pleasantly surprised that over 700 moms from all over the world had responded to my surveys. 

I asked the questions like "Which developmental areas do you think you want to see better solutions in? Rank them". Over 70% moms chose EQ and social skills, 60% chose good habits, only 7% chose academic, 7% chose motor skills. Yes, parents see the same issues too, and they want better products to help with EQ, social skills and good habits development!

I started a company. I know I wanted to do something that’s good for others. I had named the company AntWish. Ants are social animals and they work together closely to build stronger communities. I wish that whatever I make could help build stronger communities, hence the name. 

We started with a mission: to help parents cultivate wholesome, well-balanced, happy and healthy children. We eventually brand our products Povi.

Povi didn’t start out like how it is today. Like every start up we had idea-ted, iterated multiple times and continued to refine our product market fit based on what parents and children tell us. 

It’s a product that applies technology – so often a cause of disconnection in parents and kids’ lives – to facilitate stronger connection between them. More specifically, it is a plush toy powered by a crowd-sourced EQ content platform: it tells stories, written and curated by parents, teachers and psychologists online. The stories prompt conversations between parents and children that develop children’s social-emotional skills.

One might think that Povi is the latest in a long line of technological tools that take the place of human interaction, in this case for children.  Yet instead of diminishing conversation and connection in a child’s life, it helps them flourish. It applies the Internet of things to become a conduit between a family and an ever-growing network of experts in children’s development. It enhances, but does not take over, conversation between kids and parents. And it gives children invaluable social-emotional tools with which to engage with the world as they grow up.

* To find out more about the Road to Povi, read my next blog. Before you go, LIKE us on Facebook!

I would love to give you a heads-up that we will be running a Kickstarter campaign on Tue, May 24, 2016. We would greatly appreciate your help to be one of our early backers to make Povi a reality.

You can choose to back our project for your family, a school, your team members at work or even non-profits.

We would greatly appreciate you also sharing this important message with whom you know will benefit from joining our community!

Thank you very much! Do email me at to catch up anytime!


  1. I did the exact same thing, since baby I always ensure all her toys are educational, teach her to read, puzzles... etc. Everyone says she's smart and I agreed that she's a fast learner. She's only 5. But she seems unhappy most of the time, grumpy for no reason, throw tantrums, being rude too. Sigh... I need help, please share more. Thanks.

  2. I did the exact same thing, since baby I always ensure all her toys are educational, teach her to read, puzzles... etc. Everyone says she's smart and I agreed that she's a fast learner. She's only 5. But she seems unhappy most of the time, grumpy for no reason, throw tantrums, being rude too. Sigh... I need help, please share more. Thanks.

  3. I did the exact same thing, since baby I always ensure all her toys are educational, teach her to read, puzzles... etc. Everyone says she's smart and I agreed that she's a fast learner. She's only 5. But she seems unhappy most of the time, grumpy for no reason, throw tantrums, being rude too. Sigh... I need help, please share more. Thanks.

  4. What a wonderful story, a lot of lessons learned for me, as I am also from Malaysia. I had my daughter 2 yrs ago. Both my husband and I wanted her to be happy more than anything else, we named her "Joyce" to remind us of "joy". I am so lost at how to bring her up balancing academics excellence and emotional intelligence. A lot of parents need your help! Thanks for sharing your story, and thanks for coming up with a product that can help a lot of families to have happy, healthy and emotionally intelligent children!

    I have a blog too on my journey in raising a toddler in the hopes that she will be of great character and emotionally intelligent :-) Here's my blog:

  5. Wow - this is promising. Just reading your post makes me excited as I could relate to what you went through. I am looking forward to your next blog. BIG HUG

  6. That is a brilliant story - my daughter created an app for iphone and android you might like positive penguins ( to help primary aged kids understand their feelings come from their thoughts and we can be more mindful of our thoughts and either let them go or challenge them. - I believe the more products and services we can have to teach children the social emotional skills or real life skills the better. Thank you for sharing your story.

  7. As a paediatric professional I feel it's a good idea for you to realize that your son's life can't be about academics only. However it seems to me you are applying what you did about academics to emotional and social intelligence: you are trying to perform and have your son perform on those as well. Maybe letting him develop in a non supervised way would also be beneficial, don't interact with your kid just to interact following preset questions, just try to be. Be with him. Ask him questions if you want to know the answers to these questions and don't ask any questions the day you are tired and have something else going on. Parenting is not something you should major in, it is not a sport or a race.

    1. I agree. I believe it is you spending time with your son that makes him a happier child. All those eq and social skills stuff are supposed to be acquired through healthy social interactions with real humans and not toys nor software tools.In fact in my opinion, such tools might deprive children from social time with real humans. I applaud your sacrifice in career for your son's happiness, and I hope you continue to spend a lot of time with him and his brother. No toys could replace your presence in nurturing them.