From Screens to Skills: How Technology Can Enhance Parenting in the Digital Age - SE2EP15 - Estelle Lloyd
Our guest today is Estelle Lloyd, the founder of Macademia—an award-winning global EdTech company behind Da Vinci and Azoomee. Macademia is dedicated to providing educational programming and interactive learning activities for families. Through their platforms, Azoomee and Da Vinci, they deliver premium TV shows, documentaries, and interactive experiences in 22 languages, reaching an audience of 250 million kids and families worldwide. Let's dive into this insightful conversation and explore the remarkable work being done by Macademia in shaping the digital learning landscape. https://www.macademia.com/ This Episode is brought to you by Skill Samurai – Coding & STEM Academy www.skillsamurai.com.au
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Speaker 1 (00:08): Welcome to the Parenting in the Digital Age podcast. Many parents are concerned that their child might be falling behind. Others are just looking for ways to help their children thrive, not just in the classroom, but socially and well into their future careers. Each episode we explore the challenges facing parents in the modern world, from behavior, education, and nutrition to device and gaming addiction. We interview a range of leaders in the area of childhood development to help you successfully navigate parenting in the digital age. Here is your host, Jamie Buttigieg.
Jamie: Hello parents and welcome to Parenting in a Digital Age, where we navigate the challenges and opportunities of raising kids in a technology driven world. Our guest today is Estelle Lloyd, the founder of Macadamia, an award winning global ed tech company behind DaVinci and Azumi. Now Macadamia is dedicated to providing educational programming and interactive learning activities for families through their platforms, Azumi and DaVinci. They deliver premium TV shows, documentaries, and interactive experiences in 22 languages, reaching an audience of 250 million kids and families worldwide. So let's dive into this insightful conversation and explore the remarkable work being done by Macadamia in shaping the digital learning landscape. Now Estelle, welcome to the show. Please share with our listeners in your own words, what you do and what you're passionate about. Estelle Lloyd: Hi, Jamie. Hi, everybody. It's so good to be on this show, on this podcast. Right, I'm Estelle Lloyd. I'm co-founder of Macadamia, company was founded in 2015. And really the premises of founding the business was looking at the landscape in 2015 and having three young children myself and really worrying about what was going on and seeing my kids going on YouTube and thinking surely there must be something better for us than... than YouTube, which is by the way, a fantastic resource as an adult. If you want to look for all kinds of information, as for example, how to clean blood from a carpet, which is something that I had to do recently when my little one had a nosebleed. And that's perfect for that. But for young children who don't have that inbuilt filter yet of, you know, what's right for them, what's not, it can be a very daunting experience and very scary for parents. And I don't want to... single out YouTube. Again, I have a lot of love for the platform for everything that they do, but I still think even today that it is a dangerous place for kids. And so we were looking at this in 2015 and thinking surely there must be something that we can offer, that we can build, that parents can use in their day-to-day life whilst recognising that digital is very much part of a family world. We are all on cell on mobile phones. We're all using and enjoying actually the efficiencies and the freedom and the time saving that it provides. And so therefore we started working on this concept, this idea of bringing together resources for kids and parents in a place that is safe. And that started with an app. We built the Azumi app first and foremost. The Azumi app is absolutely lovely. It's a selection of programming for young kids under six. It has cartoons, it has a little bit of factual, it has a lot of mini games, it has some interesting interactive experiences and it's all centered around what our mission is about, which is great storytelling for a smarter and kinder world. So we look at everything that we bring on the platform through that lens. Is it authentic? Is it value-based? Is it interesting? And at the same time fun, you know, it is all vetted by our team of former educators. And so we put together this amazing selection of programming. We also bring some interactivity in the platform, recognizing that kids love to play mini games and have an interactive experience. And that's the Azumi platform and that's what we started. And then we grew from that. In 2019, we acquired another business called DaVinci. And DaVinci has always been, first and foremost, a TV channel for families. So all the kids, I would say seven and plus, and families to watch together and get inspired by beautiful content, again, value-based, again. with a lot of learning embedded in it. And that's what we did. We acquired DaVinci in 2019 and then combined the two entities under the Macadamia umbrella. And together, as you said, we reached 250 million families globally in 22 languages. And we do this through TV channels available on most of the traditional well-known TV platforms. through with the app and most importantly, which has been the most amazing part of this journey with partners who really believe in our mission and have helped us distribute our products very, you know, widely and worldwide in a very quick way in a very short period of time. So we work with 500 plus partners. They include some of the blue chip corporations in the world. Vodafone, Telefonica, Amazon, and many, many more. As I said, they're more than 500 partners that we have globally. Jamie: Yeah, that's extraordinary. So let me get this right. Is it like Netflix, but for families and kids? Is that a fair assumption or am I slightly off there? Estelle Lloyd: Yeah, that's a good comparison. We do have a lot of interactive content, though, which Netflix does not offer, or if they do, in a very, very limited way at this point in time. So I would say our content is 50% interactive, 50% video. Jamie: Okay, and so just so I've got the context right. And for those listening, particularly in Australia or New Zealand, who may not be familiar with the platform, is it, is Azumi and DaVinci combined or are they two separate channels? Are they subscription or do you look, because I know you work with Amazon and some other streaming channels as well. Just give me some context as to, as a parent, because it's a cool thing, right? Like I didn't know this sort of stuff exists. Now I've got kids that I've got a young granddaughter at the minute. I was on YouTube trying to find blues clues or something for the other day. This is the perfect solution for people like me. So like how would I access that sort of programing? Estelle Lloyd: So the Azumi is available as an app. It's in the app stores. DaVinci is available as an app as well as pay TV channels and fast channels only in the US and the UK at this point in time. Our strategy really is to try and be everywhere at every touch point. So we've got connected TV app, for example, on certain platforms. on connected TVs, you can download the app directly on the TV screen and then access the programming through the connected TV app. On fast platforms, which I don't know how much you're familiar with fast platforms in Australia, but they are the sort of linear channels that exist on a cloud-based platform. So it's no longer your terrestrial linear channel that you would be getting. a long time ago through your TV provider. It's now accessible through a laptop, an iPad, a mobile phone, a computer. And it just gives you a linear TV experience where you don't really have to make any selection in the vast amount of content that exists out there. It's just a linear experience where you sit in front of it and you let us make that decision. These are coming back, they are becoming extremely popular. It's a really exciting time for us to put these new channels together. As I said, we've just launched them recently in the US and now in the UK as well. But we're looking at continuing to expand this. And these, by the way, are free advertising supported. So you do get advertising on the channel, but you do not have to have a subscription and you go straight into the channels. There's no friction. Jamie: That's fantastic. That's that's wonderful for families. And it makes it more accessible, which Estelle Lloyd: It does. Jamie: is pretty trite emission. So well done. And thanks for doing that. Can I go back? I know you kind of touched on this, but what inspired the creation of? Macadamia and DaVinci and Azumi, this whole collection of brands and maybe how they differ from other streaming platforms apart from the fact that they're family and kid oriented. But like, where did it all begin? Estelle Lloyd: So as I said, it was really spurred out of a personal need as a family of three young kids at the time. And just looking at what was available, I'm thinking I really want something that is inspiring where I feel my kids are getting an experience that goes beyond being entertained and playing and I was just looking at some of the programming that existed out there and I was able to find very sporadically something that I thought was really lovely, really incredible. And I thought that there was some value to be created with bringing together these independent productions and sometimes even not necessarily independent that existed and then putting them under the same umbrella. easy to find for parents, easy to access. So that's how we started. So let me just tell you a little bit about the type of programming that we look for. And because I think it's really important to understand, you know, what, what is a fit for, for us. I'm going to talk predominantly about the DaVinci platform here, because as you may appreciate, seven plus gives us a lot more flexibility and opportunities in bringing content like this together and also having a lot of co-viewing experience with parents and families. A lot of our programming is centered around what we call 21st century skills and that's really understanding what is required in the world today to really be prepared for what's up next, right? It's really thinking about what as a family do I want my kids to understand and appreciate? about the world that isn't necessarily part of the curriculum at school, or that I feel personally as a family, I want to have a greater focus on. So it could be STEM, it could be, you know, programming around coding or how to become an engineer or what is the life of an engineer? What does it look like? What does it mean to be an engineer? What does it mean to be a graphic designer or a game developer, you know? We have a lot of programming looking at careers and the life of. So we do a lot of interviews of, you know, game designers, for example, which is something that kids, you know, love the idea of, but don't really understand what it means to be a game designer and how you become a game designer. That's one example of programming. We have been doing a lot of work recently around growth mindset. What does growth mindset mean? It's a world that kids hear a lot about, but really what does it mean to them? So recently we produced a series called Becoming Extraordinary, which we've done with a co-production partner, Becoming X, and it's really about exploring the science behind success. And maybe science is not the exact word that I should be using here, but what does it mean to be successful? How do you become the top, person in your field, in your chosen field. How do you even choose where you want to be the best at? And so this series, I love explaining and describing it because it's very representative of who we are and what we are about as a brand. It's interviews of the world's greatest people in their film. It's interviews of Roger Federer. of Julie Roberts, of Channing Tatum, of Tim Pick, the astronaut, of the clerk, former president of South Africa, and really understanding what was the road to success. What did they have to leave behind to become successful and why did they make these decisions and how they were supported and essentially their life story and their journey. I have to say... having watched it numerous times for lots of different reasons, including watching rough cuts and all of that, it is really inspirational. It is a really fantastic program to watch. I've watched it with my kids. We've watched it as a family. And the type of questionings that came out of watching it together was really, for me, the pinnacle of what we were trying to achieve as a brand. You know, talking to my 14-year-old about... how difficult it must be for a Roger Federer to move away from his family, age 14, and go and train in a different part of the world and leave all his friends behind and have that kind of experience at that age. It was really a light bulb moment for my kids, I have to say. And I mean, I'm not saying that they will necessarily follow the same path, but having that understanding of, you know. what passion really means. When you're really passionate about something, how far are you prepared to go? And the way that they tell the story is, there wasn't any other choice in their mind. It was the obvious thing to do. And that came at the end of a long journey already, which started when they were very small. So yeah, I love becoming extraordinary. It's one of my favorite programs on Da Vinci at the moment. Jamie: But that story is not too dissimilar to yours. And I think you're underselling something there. You know, like, you know, when I asked about how this started, you talked about, you know, I noticed there was a need and I had my kids and I was looking for content. I mean, most normal people don't go out and start a content and streaming channel and do what you've done. You know, yeah, well, there's a need. Although, hey, I need that product and whatever. Like, you've done something extraordinary. Like, it's kind of like you were saying with Roger Federer. There was no other way. This is what I was doing. Is that fair to say? Estelle Lloyd: Yeah, very kind of you to say. I mean, yeah, I mean, it's something that I became very passionate about again, because it was burnt out of a personal need. And I've always been an entrepreneur, I've always built businesses. It's not my first time doing this. And I just got into it. And without really thinking about the enormous complexity of running an operation like this. which is global in 22 languages with multiple partners. But yeah, as often entrepreneurs say, if you knew what the journey is about ahead of time, you probably wouldn't do it. But anyway, that's a story for a different time. Jamie: Yeah, I hear you. Don't you worry. Well, you kind of cover my next question. And we're talking about, you know, what do you believe are the key skills children aren't adequately learning in school, and how do you address those in the streaming platform? But you've kind of touched on that. And, you know, the science of success, like, you know, schools should be teaching this stuff. I say this as a parent, you know, and now as a grandparent. Well, you know, like, how about entrepreneurship? You know, how about starting a business for kids? Is that in there or is that on the plan? Estelle Lloyd: Yes. So first of all, and thank you for bringing this up. I mean, I, you know, I'm less familiar with the school system in Australia, but I have to say that, you know, here where I'm based in the UK and where my kids are going to school, I think that teachers are real heroes. You know, it is, it is a tough gig. I mean, it is really, really hard. And I mean, the work they do is just, I mean, just phenomenal and exceptional. And I will never have enough praise for the school system and teachers, I really must say. When it comes to skills, and I think skills potentially is maybe too strong a world, but what I think about the state of mind that kids naturally have and how to bring that in the open and facilitate that, I think that's really what we are looking for right now. I'll tell you a little story, which I love and is very sweet. We produced a program last year. around sustainability and the environment. And we were always looking at new content, new shows, new programming on the environment. And we still do it. So very, very important, as you might imagine, given what we do and trying to build a smarter and kinder world, anything that touches on the environment and sustainability is super, super important. But we weren't able to find something new in the space. And everything that we were looking at felt a little bit like shoving down your throat, kind of like really negative. There's no planet B. Really, it's time to step up. And a lot of anxiety-driven programming that plays a part and is very important and needs to continue being made. But for kids, it's a little bit, it's not necessarily what we're looking for. So we were brainstorming and trying to find a new angle to bring into this topic. And we started having interviews of people involved in the space. And there's this lovely, lovely moment in this programming when a bunch of kids are interviewing an activist, again, trying to inspire kids about thinking what would they want to be when they grow up and exploring what people are actually doing as opposed to just talking about the space. can you play yourself if you decided to go into activism. That is the crazy moment when the activist is describing how he and a bunch of friends rented some canoes to go and block a big old company from accessing a pipeline offshore. And there's three little kids interviewing the activists. They are within the age of seven and I want to say twelve. And one of them at some point says, You took some plastic canoes to go and blog. And for me, that moment was priceless because this is exactly what we are trying to do here. Question everything, you know, be free to say and ask any questions that you want, you know. Everything is out there and nothing is off limits. just question everything, look around you and see if things make sense. And if they don't, just say something about it. And that's all you need to do. You don't need to go and build something. You don't need to spend a lot of money. You don't need to, you can just be yourself and just think about these topics and just start thinking about them in a creative way. And so I... I loved that moment. And it's part of the series, which is available on the app called Hiho Kids Meet, where kids meet lots of different people involved in the space. And then, so to answer your question about entrepreneurship, because I don't want to forget about what your question was. Yes, of course, evidently, that's a big topic as well for us. We are starting to think about it in... perhaps a slightly different way, which is that before entrepreneurship, we think that one topic that is really important for kids and families right now is financial literacy. We think the world really, especially right now, is really in dire need of understanding financial literacy and that's definitely not something that is being taught very well at school. Although I would say what's really interesting is that kids are beginning to understand financial literacy by playing games where there is an in-game currency and that... you know, whether we like it or not, definitely teaching some skills, perhaps not everything that we would like them to understand, such as what's a mortgage, you know, what happens when you buy a house or, Jamie: What's Estelle Lloyd: you know, Jamie: a tangible asset? Estelle Lloyd: if you're lucky to be able to do so. And so, and so that's definitely a topic that we're looking into right now. And we are talking to partners to corporate partners to try and develop this because we want to make it, you know, with the proper production values, we also think that it would be interesting to have a partner involved with us. So we're out in the market right now, pitching this and looking for ways of doing this. But, you know, watch the space. We will have something hopefully out in the app and on the channels within the next 12 to 18 months. Jamie: That's fantastic. And look, financial literacy, you, my wife will tell you how much I go on about this and the need for it in schools and for our own kids, teaching them and you know, and the world's changing, the world is shifting. And so there's a need for that for an update, perhaps the curriculum, or the thought processes behind financial literacy also. You know, I look and I think as a father, like I would I try to teach entrepreneurship to my own kids. whether it's starting a lemonade store or starting an online business, just having a crack at something, just have a go at something and understanding that careers can take all shapes and forms. One of the things we're trying to do in our own business, we actually teach kids to code and we do some math tuition. We've got these learning centers around the world, but I look after Australia. And one of the things I'm trying to do is put together a virtual careers day and we're inviting some of these, you know, like a senior software engineer. A kid doesn't know what that is. Most parents don't know what that is. So having these guys come and speak and girls come and speak and put some context and for kids to be able to set a goal. And you know, when a five year old or a 10 year old or 15 year old see someone speak, you know, that can be impactful and that can be life changing for some of these kids. But to hear there's a channel or a service where I can go to and get some of this information. This is really lighting me up. This is fantastic. Estelle Lloyd: Thank you. Jamie: I was listening to one of your other podcasts in the pre show prep and you mentioned a surprising piece of advice that you once received when starting your own business. I hope you remember that. So what was that piece of advice and how did it impact your job? And this is a bit of an entrepreneurial question. It's not necessarily a parenting question, but what was that surprising piece of advice that you received Estelle Lloyd: Gosh, Jamie: once? Estelle Lloyd: now I'm trying to remember what it was. You know, the days of entrepreneurship are very varied. So it could have been something that resonated with me on that day. And I would say that every day, so I would say that going back to your question about teaching entrepreneurship, I think one of the most important part of the journey of being an entrepreneur is having good mentors and talk who've been there before you, who sort of have been on this journey not too long ago, quite recently. So they're still very up to date and current with how to make decisions and how to actually build a business, which is quite a complex operation to do when you break it apart and into all the various pieces. I would say that one of the. One of the elements of our business, which is unquestionably something that drives not just myself, but the entire organization. We have about 100 people in three separate offices. The main office is in London. We've got an office in Berlin in Germany and then an office in Turkey, in Istanbul. Bless them. They had a terrible earthquake this year and everybody's fine, I'm pleased to say. And then we have a few people on the ground in the US as well. And I would say that the number one motivator, by far the biggest driver for everyone is the mission that we're on. As professionals today, being able to wake up in the morning and know that your mission is to create a smarter kind of world, it is a huge feel good. And as I said, a huge motivator. And finding that purpose, finding that mission was definitely the most important step in building and starting this company. Jamie: Yeah. Estelle Lloyd: I have no idea what I said on the other postcards, by the way. Jamie: It was pretty close, but you're right. In entrepreneurship, every day you have a different belief or a different epiphany or a different view on how things are forming. So I totally get that. So we'll come back to parenting for a minute because I'm fascinated about your entrepreneurial journey. That's more selfishly, of course, but let's come back to parenting. So, we're trying to help kids, both of us, we're trying to help kids build skills for the digital age and the... you know, the new agents approach. We're living through a very exciting time, perhaps a scary time for some people. I think, to me, I think we're living through the next industrial revolution. It's the wrong word for it, but this digital revolution, the whole advent of AI. But how can parents balance the need for their kids to develop digital skills with their concerns about screen time? You know, and this is maybe an interesting question to ask because, you know, your product is a screen time product, but how can parents... find that balance. I don't know if there is an answer to this and just curious. Estelle Lloyd: Listen, it's something I'm battling myself with. You know, as I said, I've got three kids. They do spend a lot of time on their devices. I try to balance it. Of course, I mean, to be honest, we've set rules in our house. They have certain amounts of screen time that they are allowed, particularly my youngest one, who's 10. It's really hard to implement, and sometimes the rules slip a little bit, and at weekends, you know, sometimes we are just a little bit more inclined to give a little bit more time, depending on what's going on and, you know, lots of different factors. Look, unquestionably, it is something that we are grappling with. All of us parents are all worrying that our kids are spending too much time on devices and online. And I feel sometimes when I think about my own childhood, I feel sometimes that it is a bit unfair that we have to deal with this, right? It feels very unfair that we have had this enormous curveball thrown at us, particularly at a time when things are also quite complex and hard, right? And I'm not even mentioning COVID. So, yes, I find it hard myself as well. I mean, Anything that I will say here is not very different from what has been said over and over, is trying to limit screen time and also trying to think about instilling good habits, and really also importantly trying to explain to kids the basic of the danger sometimes of being online. So interestingly, when we built the company early on in 2016, we created a series called Search It Up, which at the time was quite revolutionary because we couldn't find any programming at the time about how to be safe online for kids. Nothing existed. And we thought, how is it that already in 2016 with YouTube and various social platforms having been around for quite a long time, how was it that no nothing like that existed? that was available for kids and parents to really understand how you explain to your kids how to be safe online, how to be good habits, how to look after yourself. And so we created this programming, again, it's called Search It Up, it's won multiple awards and it's about what's personal information. You know, your school uniform is personal information. It says to everyone in the bus, if you're taking the bus, where are you going every day? What happens if you're being bullied online? What is the immediate response? Which often is don't respond. But you have to teach that to your kids. It's not necessarily always common sense. So we built this programming, we produced it. And it's been fantastic to have that. And I would say that there is a lot to say about discussing the basic, you know, few things that that are important to know. What's fake news? I always say to my kids, if you wanna know if something is true, try to find three different sources, one of which would be, come and ask me. I could be one of the sources. You could go on a reputable encyclopedia online and find out if, do you know what I mean? So it's not rocket science, it's not complex, but it's things, we've broken it down into topics and really... brought it back to the basic of what you should know, how to create a strong password, just basic knowledge, but very important one. Jamie: Yeah, and some of the other ways to address those concerns about screen time, you've even built into this product. Like when you look at DaVinci and the programming and the fact that it brings parents and kids together to create some of those natural, authentic conversations, screen time isn't all bad. And we often say this in our own learning centers that we help kids learn to code so they can understand the technology that's coming tomorrow and the technology that exists today. and rather than just being this passive consumer of technology. And DaVinci does a good job of bringing, you know, like having the rather than just having good because I struggle with this to, you know, my kids are on devices consuming content that's relevant to them. And I'm on my own device, right? You know, struggling as a parent consuming my content where, you know, you've got platforms like your own platform in DaVinci that brings those conversations that brings parents and kids together. So I think. I think you guys are doing a tremendous job there. We are coming towards the end of our podcast. And one question we love to ask all of our guests is that if we had an imaginary time machine and Estelle could go back to maybe a 10 or 12 year old version of yourself, what's one piece of advice that you would give to young Estelle? Estelle Lloyd: Oh my God. That is, look, I think I had an amazing childhood which was very different to the childhood that my kids have today. We didn't have, not only we didn't have to worry about iPads and being connected and being online and devices, I also grew up in the countryside so I was out and about, gave me a huge appreciation for nature. the world around us and sustainability and looking after the planet, that I would say is the number one, you know, really like passion that was, you know, created back then. I would say that as a girl, I probably suffered from imposter syndrome for quite a long time in my career. and I would say that it is not something that you can brush off and there is no simple solution or simple answer on how to move past that. But it's definitely something to be aware of and again speaking to mentors and really having conversations openly about that and being able to say look, I don't know if I'm good enough and having the reassurance of other peers. and potentially all the mentors is super important and super valuable. And I think there is a reluctance, particularly in girls, to ask for that help and that level of feedback. And I think we need to learn that. Jamie: Yeah, yeah, that's powerful advice. And along those lines, something I heard long ago, which resonates with me, is that if you're the smartest person in a room, you're in the wrong room. Estelle Lloyd: I love Jamie: And Estelle Lloyd: that! Jamie: so I always try and find rooms where I'm the least knowledgeable, and so I can always grow, and I believe in this process of lifelong learning, which I hope to impart to my own kids and grandkids. Here's just an oddball question, just out of curiosity before we go. Is there any live content on any of your streaming channels? Estelle Lloyd: Oh, great question. Definitely something we're looking into right now. The channels, the linear channel, the fast channels that I mentioned earlier are very, very into live content. They really, really want to have as much of live content as possible. And it completely makes sense for linear channels. We are absolutely looking into that. Sports is one of the areas that we are exploring right now for live content, unsurprisingly. Um, but we're open to discussing any, and by the way, I, and I really hope this podcast is an invitation for anyone listening to come and get in touch with us, if anyone has any content that could be a good fit for our platform or any person who thinks that they would love to distribute the, um, the DaVinci channel, the app or the Azumi app. Um, or even being involved in sponsoring a co-production, for example, in financial literacy, we are having these conversations every single day, always talking to everyone interested in being part of our journey to create a smarter and kinder world. So yes, please don't hesitate. And I'm very easy to find on the obvious LinkedIn and various channels. Jamie: We should have a discussion offline, but there's an opportunity there for Skill Samurai and DaVinci to have an online coding class that happens in real time on a streaming channel. I don't know that it's ever been done before, but it's a great way to get kids into computer science in a healthy way. And who knows, maybe there's an opportunity for us down the track. But look, Estelle, first of all, thanks for your time. Thank you for your generosity. I know I got a ton of stuff out of this conversation today. Estelle Lloyd: I did too. It's been a pleasure. It's been a real pleasure. Jamie: Thank you. I think Estelle Lloyd: And Jamie: you're... Estelle Lloyd: thank you for everything you're doing as well for parenting. And we're all in it together. Jamie: We are indeed, we're all doing our best. So thanks again and bye for now. Cheers. Estelle Lloyd: Thank you, have a good evening, bye bye. Jamie: You too.
If you enjoyed the show, please connect with Jamie on LinkedIn or Instagram. You'll find links in the podcast description. Parenting in the Digital Age is sponsored by Skill Samurai Coding and STEM Academy for Kids. Skill Samurai offers afterschool coding classes and holiday programs to help kids thrive academically and socially while preparing them for the careers of the future. Visit www.skillsamurai.com.au. This episode is sponsored by Skill Samurai - Coding & STEM Academywww.skillsamurai.com.au
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