Entrepreneurial Couple Launch Story Creation App for Children

Dr. Renee Dua and Nick Desai Made The Storytime Adventure Creation Platform For Kids To Choose Their Own Adventure.

By Keemia Zhang

Palisades Entrepreneurs ​​Dr. Renee Dua and Nick Desai have launched their third collaborative app, SmartDreams, on April 4th. The app uses AI to generate custom bedtime stories for children, based on their age, reading level, and storytelling preferences.

Desai, who was raised in Orange County, has worked in the entrepreneurial space for thirty years, but began working with his wife, Dr. Dua, in 2014. “Renee and I started a company together in the healthcare space, we’ve been entrepreneurs together ever since then” says Desai. Heal, “an Uber-like app”, provides doctor house calls. “We started, literally, with me driving her around.” The company went on to raise $200 million in funding and operated across ten states before being sold to Humana in 2021.

 

“I’m a kidney doctor, I’ve been in practice for 20 years – and I still do practice, but now I’m home much more with the kids.” remarks Dua. Their three children, aged four to nine, played an active part in the app’s development and design. “If we don’t know what we’re doing, we can hear all about it.”

“The app came out of, literally – one day I was working out of the master bedroom,” explains Desai.” Our daughter comes up to me, and goes “Daddy, I want you to tell me a story. I say get the book, and she says, ‘No, I want you to make a story about a bear eating pizza in a forest.’ And right then, inspiration struck.”

After signing up, parents and children can use SmartDreams by selecting cartoon images of animals, settings, and foods, which are used to generate their unique, specific story each time. “You don’t cut down trees, you don’t spend money, but you get an infinite number of stories.” 

The app took a month to develop using Chat GPT, an artificial intelligence chatbot. Precautions were taken to ensure safe, appropriate content and consumer privacy. The stories are customized  “based on the age of the kid, the story’s length, and the words that are used.” Desai explains. “Each story reflects a life lesson, you know, being a good friend, sharing, teamwork, the environment, each of these things are incorporated very subtly into the story.” Fun facts also appear about the animals and setting selected, as a further educational element.

The couple’s children are described as enthusiastic readers of the app.  “What’s really cute is [their daughter] asks for it now. She understands how the story comes alive. She’s able to pick what she wants to see and learn.” Dua says. Parents can also use the app to select vocabulary words, allowing their children to learn in an imaginative environment. “It’s them learning and me having less work to do to make sure they’re learning […] It’s more for kids to just see their creativity come to life.”

The app is free to use, with additional paid features that require licensing – such as read-alouds from favorite Disney characters – as an upcoming update. Other future developments include custom avatars, where children can upload pictures of themselves to be inserted into the story’s visuals, and custom illustrations. SmartDreams currently works for English and Spanish speakers, and aims to operate in multiple languages.

This reflects the couple’s awareness of the city’s diversity. “You can drive eight miles from here and go to a community where no one speaks English, because they speak Spanish, or Tagalog, or Armenian,” says Desai. “It’s so crazy how lucky we are to have all this diversity.” remarks Dr. Dua. “We love L.A. Unless you live here you don’t appreciate it.”

Both Desai and Dr. Dua are Southern California natives, having completed their graduate studies at UCLA. “We are very proud to be part of the L.A tech scene,” Desai declares. “L.A has something no other place in the world has that fosters startups. L.A is Hollywood, L.A is tech, restaurants, tourism, manufacturing, agriculture, sports, universities,  aerospace. All these things exist in one place – it becomes a crucible for great ideas to come out of that.”

The family have resided in the Palisades since 2009, with SmartDreams as their third startup while in the neighborhood. “We’re as local as local can be.” proclaims Dr. Dua “It’s very much a community of parents who are very invested in the education of their kids – and at the heart of everything we do, we want to be a part of our community.”

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