Meet Thomas Normann-Ekegren, CEO & Founder at Edutainment Company: Maneno

Maneno is an edutainment company that gets children aged between 6 to 12 excited about reading, using a mix of play, adaptive learning technology, engaging stories, and off-app quizzes and prizes. Maneno was born in Copenhagen, Denmark, and we expanded to the U.K. late last year with an upgraded app.

When a child starts reading with Maneno, they are given their own (digital) dragon egg to hatch. The dragon grows as the child reader progresses through reading levels. The child reader is also rewarded with digital coins and gems as they achieve reading goals, finish books, and take on in-app reading challenges. These coins and gems can be used to exchange for equipment – and food in the upgraded version – for their dragon!

The app contains features to support readers with learning needs, such as adaptable screen colour and text sizes, and text-to-speech functions. Maneno also has a wide library of books and audiobooks from award-winning publishers such as Oxford University Press and Sweet Cherry.

We’re currently crowdfunding on Crowdcube to support our market expansion plans and complete feature upgrades to better cater to children with reading support needs.

How did you come up with the idea for the company?

It began when my daughter was having difficulties with reading physical books. She struggled with words, pronunciation, and even recognising lowercase letters as she was taught uppercase letters in school. This experience opened my eyes to the need for reading aids.

Also at that time, I noticed that she was spending hours playing a dolphin training game on the iPad, where she completed challenges and earned points. Moreover, her favourite movie at the time was “How to Train Your Dragon”. I started piecing together the elements of reading aids, gamification, and a loveable dragon character into a reading app and it turned out to be a success in getting her attention to reading, and it also turned her regular screen time into a learning experience.


What would you say makes Maneno stand out against competitors? 

Maneno is not here to replace the joy of physical books. We are in fact, one of the few EdTech companies that bridge the digital world with the physical world. We offer a parent app in the Scandinavian markets that allow parents to log time spent on reading physical books, and that counts towards the total time spent reading and the coins and gems earned in the app. Alongside our app, we also host regular off-app quizzes and offer prizes such as Maneno soft toys.

We believe that all children should have the opportunity to play, experience the joy of stories, and engage their imagination. We channel these beliefs into developing our product to make it fun and accessible for all children. This is also why we are crowdfunding now to improve our accessibility and interactive features and also starting to run pilots with U.K. Special Education Needs schools.


Why do you think more parents need to know about Maneno? 

Reading forms the basis for learning any subject. Reading also has a strong correlation to positive mental well-being, unlocking children’s imagination and providing them with a safe space to engage in their thoughts.

And yet, less than half of children in the U.K. currently enjoy reading. It is also getting more challenging to get children to start reading, given the number of entertainment choices competing for their attention today.

Maneno is a solution to get children to discover the joy of stories and reading again. Reading on digital screens actually has a number of benefits for children, including increased accessibility and text/screen adaptability, especially for readers who require learning support. Reading on Maneno turns screen time into a positive learning experience, allowing children to have fun but also engage with stories and develop their reading skills.

How has the company evolved over the last couple of years? 

When we started Maneno, our customer base was a small group of Danish parents. After receiving positive feedback from Danish parents and children, Maneno quickly gained more customers in Denmark and was adopted by government libraries in both Denmark and Norway.

With funding from investors – Founders Factory and Deepbridge – we started our international expansion plans. Late last year, we made Maneno available in the U.K. to parents and this year, we are starting pilots with U.K. special education needs schools and looking to engage more schools in conducting pilots with us. We are also now available in Central Asia through a distributor. It is an exciting time for us at Maneno and we are working hard to bring our product to more parents and schools worldwide.

What can we hope to see from Maneno in the future? 

Maneno is currently crowdfunding on Crowdcube to fuel our expansion into the U.K. market and beyond, to increase the amount of content that we have on the platform, and to develop features that will make reading even more accessible to children of all reading abilities.

We hope to become the most popular and engaging reading platform for children, and the best-known edutainment product for parents and partners. To achieve that, we are hoping to expand to more English-speaking territories in the near future and eventually scale to more populations that use English as a second language.