Goalsetter, a platform that helps parents teach their kids financial literacy, announced the raise of a $ 3.9 million seed round this morning, led by Astia.
PNC Bank, Mastercard, US. Bank, Northwestern Mutual Future Ventures, Elevate Capital, Portfolia’s First Step and Rising America Fund and Pipeline Angels also participated in the round. The round also saw participation from a handful of individual investors including Robert F Smith, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, Baron Davis, Sterling K. Brown, Ryan Bathe, CC Sabathia and Amber Sabathia.
Goalsetter launched in 2019 out of the Entrepreneurs Roundtable Accelerator. Founded by Tanya Court, who lost over $ 1 million in the 2001 bubble burst, the platform teaches financial literacy to children of all ages, helping them learn economic concepts, lingo and the principles of financial health.
After long stints at Nickelodeon and ESPN, Court understands deeply how kids learn and what keeps their attention. She vowed to make sure that her children were never ignorant of what it takes to protect their wealth and create more.
The app also allows parents to give allowance through the app, and even pay out their own specified amount for every quiz question the kid gets right in the app. Plus, family and friends can give ‘goal cards’ instead of gift cards, helping kids save for the things they really want in the future.
The company recently launched a debit card for kids, as well, letting parents control the way the card is used and even lock it until their kids have passed the week’s financial literacy quiz.
Families save an average of $ 120 a month on the platform, and Court says that two families saved over $ 10,000 in the last year.
The company is also launching a massive campaign next week for Black History Month with the goal of closing the wealth gap among Black children and kids of color through financial education.
“It’s one thing to put a debit card into your teenager’s hands,” said Court. “That’s great. That teaches them how to spend money. It’s another thing to teach kids the core concepts about how to build wealth, or to know the difference between putting your money into an investment account, or putting your money into a CD versus a mutual fund versus a savings account. We teach what interest rates are, and what compound interest means. Our focus is on is financial education because it’s not enough to teach kids how to spend.”
Goalsetter raised $ 2.1 million in 2019 and now adds this latest round to that for a total of $ 6 million raised. This latest round was oversubscribed, giving Court the opportunity to be super selective about her investors.
“Every single one of these investors has a demonstrated commitment prior to people marching in the streets in April, to social justice and to investing in diversity and inclusion initiatives and people,” said Court. “Every single one of them. That was really important because we were oversubscribed and we had the luxury of being able to pick who our investors were. Every one of the investors that we invited to our table were investors who we knew invited folks who look like us in 2019 and 2018 and 2017 to their table.”
Parents with kids stuck learning at home during the pandemic have had to look for alternative activities to promote the hands-on learning experiences kids are missing out on due to attending class virtually. The New York-based educational technology startup Thimble aims to help address this problem by offering a subscription service for STEM-based projects that allow kids to make robotics, electronics and other tech using a combination of kits shipped to the home and live online instruction.
Thimble began back in 2016 as Kickstarter project when it raised $ 300,000 in 45 days to develop its STEM-based robotics and programming kits. The next year, it then began selling its kits to schools, largely in New York, for use in the classroom or in after-school programs. Over the years that followed, Thimble scaled its customer base to include around 250 schools across New York, Pennsylvania, and California, who would buy the kits and gain access to teacher training.
But the COVID-19 pandemic changed the course of Thimble’s business.
“A lot of schools were in panic mode. They were not sure what was happening, and so their spending was frozen for some time,” explains Thimble co-founder and CEO Oscar Pedroso, whose background is in education. “Even our top customers that I would call, they would just give [say], ‘hey, this is not a good time. We think we’re going to be closing schools down.”
Pedroso realized that the company would have to quickly pivot to begin selling directly to parents instead.
Image Credits: Thimble
Around April, it made the shift — effectively entering the B2C market for the first time.
The company today offers parents a subscription that allows them to receive up to 15 different STEM-focused project kits and a curriculum that includes live instruction from an educator. One kit is shipped out over the course of three months, though an accelerated program is available that ships with more frequency.
The first kit is basic electronics where kids learn how to build simple circuits, like a doorbell, kitchen timer and a music composer, for example. The kit is designed so kids can experience “quick wins” to keep their attention and whet their appetite for more projects. This leads into future kits like those offering a Wi-Fi robot, a little drone, an LED compass that lights up, and a synthesizer that lets kids become their own D.J.
Image Credits: Thimble
While any family can use the kits to help kids experience hands-on electronics and robotics, Pedroso says that about 70% of subscribers are those where the child already has a knack for doing these sorts of projects. The remaining 30% are those where the parents are looking to introduce the concepts of robotics and programming, to see if the kids show an interest. Around 40% of the students are girls.
The subscription is more expensive than some DIY projects at $ 59.99/per month (or $ 47.99/mo if paid annually), but this is because it includes live instruction in the form of weekly 1-hour Zoom classes. Thimble has part-time employees who are not just able to understand teach the material, but can do so in a way that appeals to children — by being passionate, energetic and capable of jumping in to help if they sense a child is having an issue or getting frustrated. Two of the five teachers are women. One instructor is bilingual and teaches some classes in Spanish.
During class, one teacher instructs while a second helps moderate the chat room and answer the questions that kids ask in there.
The live classes will have around 15-20 students each, but Thimble additionally offers a package for small groups that reduces class size. These could be used by homeschool “pods” or other groups.
Image Credits: Thimble
“We started hearing from pods and then micro-schools,” notes Pedroso. “Those were parents who were connected to other parents, and wanted their kids to be part of the same class. They generally required a little bit more attention and wanted some things a little more customized,” he added.
These subscriptions are more expensive at $ 250/month, but the cost is shared among the group of parents, which brings the price down on per-household basis. Around 10% of the total customer base is on this plan, as most customers are individual families.
Thimble also works with several community programs and nonprofits in select markets that help to subsidize the cost of the kits to make the subscriptions more affordable. These are announced, as available, through schools, newsletters, and other marketing efforts.
Since pivoting to subscriptions, Thimble has re-established a customer base and now has 1,110 paid customers. Some, however, are grandfathered in to an earlier price point, so Thimble needs to scale the business further.
In addition to the Kickstarter, Thimble has raised funds and worked on the business over the year with the help of multiple accelerators, including LearnLaunch in Boston, Halcyon in D.C., and Telluride Venture Accelerator in Colorado.
The startup, co-founded by Joel Cilli in Pittsburgh, is now around 60% closed on its seed round of $ 1 million, but isn’t announcing details of that at this time.
Some of the coolest gadgets on the market today are smartphones. Devices designed for kids are particularly impressive. Not only do they fit sensitive components in a small-yet-sturdy package, but they tailor an “adult” product to a niche audience. Product designers can learn a lesson or two from these devices. Even outside of the tech sector, designers are always looking for ways to differentiate their products, make them more durable, and deliver functionality without feature-bloat.
Before putting together your next product, take note. These six tips inspired by cell phones for kids are anything but child’s play:
1. Put a premium on safety.
If a product isn’t safe to use, it doesn’t matter what other features it has. Spending money on something that puts you or others at risk simply doesn’t make sense.
The designers behind Gabb Wireless’s Z2 kids phone made safety their starting point. Because kids are experts at bypassing or disabling restrictions, the Z2 takes away the need for parental controls.
While the Z2 can call and send texts, it can’t access the internet, social media, or app stores. Kids can still take photos and listen to music on the Z2, but there’s no need to worry about them seeing dangerous content online or developing a social media addiction. And without internet access, there’s less risk of cyberbullying or child predators. When designing your product, approach it the same way. Before worrying about the bells and whistles, make sure the core product doesn’t put the user at risk.
2. Question norms around form.
Who says a cell phone has to be rectangular? Who says it even needs a screen? While there are reasons for these design choices, the point is that innovative designers question assumptions about the shape, look, and feel of the product.
The Relay Kids Phone is a gadget that breaks the rules. This screen-free walkie talkie lets kids leave their family and friends voice messages, which they receive immediately.
Your product shouldn’t look like a carbon copy of its competitors. Design something different: It just might be the next big hit.
3. Make it easy to use.
There’s a reason most apps for children are designed for tablets and not phones. Because their motor skills are still developing, not all kids can navigate something as small as a phone screen.
Although the Jitterbug Flip is often marketed to seniors, it also makes a great phone for kids because of its easy-to-use design. With large buttons and no touch screen, this device makes it easy to text, call, and take photos. Plus, it doesn’t connect to the internet — another feature parents love.
Easy-to-use products aren’t always the coolest ones on the market. But what’s even less cool is a product that is difficult or unpleasant to use. Put usability before pizzazz when designing your own product.
4. Go back to basics.
Some of the best designs are out of sight, out of mind. Think about your home’s HVAC system: You wouldn’t want it making noise or needing adjustment all the time, right? You’re probably happiest with it when it heats and cools your home without extra fuss.
The designers behind the Light Phone II took this same approach. With it, you can call, text, set alarms, play music, and listen to podcasts — and that’s it. There are no social media apps, ads, email, or news feeds.
Basic doesn’t have to mean boring. This phone’s sleek look and simple design are similar to the iPhone. Unlike the iPhone, however, the Light II isn’t packed with distracting or unnecessary features.
5. Consider the “fun” factor.
The best products aren’t addictive, but they do keep users coming back for more. In your design, look for ways to help users have fun. It could be as simple as a color-changing screen, or as complex as a built-in game.
Preloaded with 44 games, the VTech KidiBuzz is the perfect example of this design principle. While it does allow calling and texting, parents control the contact list and which websites and applications are accessible. That way, even younger kids can enjoy it safely.
With this design tip, balance is key. You don’t want to add so many fun features that your product becomes unusable, but you should find small ways to make it engaging.
6. Don’t forget about durability.
There’s nothing worse than spending a fortune on something, only to have it break six hours later. Especially if your product is used outdoors, on job sites, or by children, make sure it can withstand a few bumps and bruises.
Famous for their durability are Nokia phones. A great choice for kids is the Nokia 6.1, which features an all-metal build milled from a single block of series 6000 aluminum. It’s water-resistant, and it features a Gorilla Glass screen that is unlikely to crack or shatter. Users appreciate the long-lasting battery, which is often one of the first things in a phone to go bad.
Your product doesn’t need to be bulletproof, but it should be well built. When in doubt, check in with your users: How do they plan to use the product? How long do they hope to own it? If they’ve owned similar products in the past, at what point did they need to be replaced?
Designing a great product is difficult. You have to get the form and function right, but there are dozens of deeper considerations as well. Is it built to last? Is it fun and easy to use? Does every feature add something to the core product? When it comes to their design, kids’ phones are anything but child’s play. For your next design session, ask your son or daughter to borrow their device. It just might be the inspiration your product team needs.
Designing a website for kids is not a child’s play. We all are surrounded by a digital age and so are our kids and children whose tiny little fingers always remain glued to smartphones and tablets. From homes to schools, mobile devices have become a part of their life and childhood, leaving their toys and outdoor activities way behind.
While the globe around is adapting the learning through online trends, kids also spent a lot of time learning new things online. In 2013, Apple launched a curated‘Kids’ category’ in its app store that already has more than 80,000+ apps by now. It separates the app into three age ranges, spanning those under 5, those aged between 6 and 8, and finally, those for kids aged between 9 and 11.
Connect with your inner child and let your visionary juices flow. It will automatically compel you to design the website accordingly as per the different age groups whether it’s for games, videos, puzzles, stories or colouring-in site or application. Consider the following trends, practical design guidelines, and practices to create better stuff for kids and children.
Design for Different Age Groups
It becomes a challenging thing to keep beautiful, colourful, stimulating and engaging content on the web. The design varies for kids and children of different age groups. You need to narrow your target audience while designing the website.
It is better to target and categorise the website according to the specific age group of children. For example – an 8-year-old child won’t engage with something that is too babyish. At the same time, if they find something that is too odd or difficult to understand, they will switch to some other website.
A pair of poorly designed content and the dark pattern will provoke children to switch on to the next website. It is essential to unleash the inner child in you so that you can create websites that instil learning into their brain and at the same time, empower their personality.
Young ones, especially the one who steps into this category does not have any reading skills initially, so it is advised to use fewer texts and more pictures in brighter colours. Go for brighter colours, big fonts and bold texts that will entice the tiny eyeballs of these pint-sized people.
Put some animated videos within the content as this will catch the attention of kids aged 3-5 years. You can even use sound effects to make your website more attractive to children like what PBS did with their website.
Children lying in this category can now understand the basics of words and their formation. But still, use graphics and images with brighter colours.
Starfall is a website familiar among children aged 6-8. The website contains a lot of images of people, animals, and other recognisable objects.
Well, the children who fall into this category think and fall that they are grown-up now. But it is not so. They are highly proficient and compatible with the sources on the internet and look for educational stuff there. Although the typography remains simple, you need to put word structure more traditional, colour saturated, and palette more complex.
Books of the much-loved children’s famous author Beverly Cleary contain realistic illustrations and platelets, including saturated and muted colour schemes.
Use Child-Friendly colours
Always use bold, bright, vivid and vibrant colours that will entice the eye of little kids. Primary and secondary colours – red, blue, yellow, green, purple and orange – are all happy colours and popular options and colour schemes can include all of them plus more.
Go for a palette of happy and go to click colours. Also, make limited use of jewel and pastel tones or use them in combination with saturated colours.
Make Your Navigation, icons and call-to-action obvious
Children usually prefer websites that are user-friendly and easy to navigate while at the same time, it should serve their queries. Large buttons and exciting fonts size will stand out and make the entire website oversimplified.
Put simple typography
Keep the typography simple and use the following guidelines.
Make the text easier to read by using Sans Serif font. The palette must contain only one typeface, or it can be two for older children. Also, use those colours which creates a contrasting effect against the background.
Gain trust from parents
Parents are always concerned about their children, whether they are visiting the right website or not. Is that website unsafe, or will it distract them for their childhood?
A web designer must include a section on the website that will assure a particular website is safe, secure and age-appropriate.
You need to put yourself in place of kids’ parents and design grown-up sections for parents.
The Wiggles and The ABC Kids are some of the examples that have a separate section with information and resources for parents.
Kids find it difficult to differentiate between advertising and promotion. However, some advertising is clearer from the children’s point of view while it is appropriate than others.
If the ads are your own creatives, make sure they stand out as advertisements.
If the advertisements are from a third party, make sure they’re child friendly and not misleading.
For example, if you are advertising a Mike, the Knight app on the Bob the builder website, the characters and range of colours on the later website will not make it different from the actual website content. However, the colours being bright will attract the children and eventually, the goal of the advertiser will be achieved.
Remember we used to love these kinds of puzzles in our childhood which helped our learning?
The young minds of children always love to learn new things on online platforms. This can be a great opportunity to grab and make the learning fun and engaging for these kids.
Try to impart learning by incorporating puzzles and exciting activities on the website or app. Further, motivate the children and encourage their achievements by keeping the rewards, badges and levels in it.
You can check the website of Funbrain as a reference check. The way they organise mathematics, reading, puzzles, crosses and noughts in learning is all fun and one of the best ways to engage and entertain children for hours.
What’s your take?
Designing a website for kids and children is a whole new thing, unlike the one we create for the grown-ups. Also, by designing a website for kids, you can break the age-old norms of designing a web for adults because it comes with its own set of design guidelines.
With this article, I have compiled all the web designs, trends and best practices that will help you think from the child’s psychological point of view and interest. Refrain your ideas from implementing advanced gestures as this would only confuse and annoy the kids and their parents as well.
Go On, Tell Us What You Think!
Did we miss something? Come on! Tell us what you think about our article on designing websites for kids in the comments section.
A new startup called Kinspire wants to make it easier for parents to find activities to help keep kids occupied — away from a screen. The app, which launches with hundreds of activities vetted by parents and teachers alike, arrives at a time when the coronavirus pandemic has many families continuing to engage in social distancing, cutting kids off from regular playdates and other activities. Meanwhile, millions of schoolchildren are now spending long hours online, engaged in distance learning activities.
For parents, this rapid and dramatic increase in screen time has many looking for alternative ways to keep kids occupied and entertained, preferably offline.
Image Credits: Kinspire
“We needed Kinspire in our lives as parents, so we built it,” explains Rob Seigel, PhD, a father of two and Kinspire’s CEO and co-founder. “Before Kinspire, I found it stressful having to search for an activity on websites and social media, then pitch it to my kids. Inevitably after all that work, they’d say no. Kinspire is the one-stop shop where kids can choose what they want to do, not what looks fun to dad,” he says.
He also wanted the app to offer the convenience of having the instructions and the materials together in one place. When quarantine started in the U.S., Seigel put a team together and built it.
At launch, Kinspire features over 350 screen-free activities, including project-based STEAM activities from Tinkerclass, via NPR’s “Wow in the World” — a kids’ podcast designed to encourage kids to think and “tinker” with ordinary household items. None of this content, at present, is paid, we’re told.
The Kinspire community will source the activities going forward by using the app’s “add activity” feature, after first creating their profile. Seigel says the team moderates the content through a combination of an A.I. moderation service and human review.
When you first open the Kinspire app, you’ll see a vertical feed of images, similar to Instagram. But instead of artsy photos or memes, kids and parents can scroll through the activity suggestions to find something fun to do. Each activity card will feature a photo taken by the Kinspire community, which includes teachers, activity creators, as well as parents and caregivers.
Some of the initial creators participating in Kinspire include Nicole Roccaro of @naturallycuriouschildren, Kari McManamon of @entertainmytoddler, Viviana Maldonado of @makethingsbox_, and Kira Silvera of @totsonlock.
Parents can also filter the suggested activities by age, whether it’s designed for indoors or outdoors, prep time, how much parental involvement is needed, activity type, materials needed, and even the mess level involved. (Now that sounds like a parent built this!)
Image Credits: Kinspire
You can also save favorite activities you may want to try later.
As kids complete the activities in Kinspire, they earn in-app rewards as they accomplish things like doing a creative or scientific project, a nature exploration, engaging in pretend play, practicing cooking, math, music, mindfulness and more. Some of the in-app rewards turn into digital character badges for profiles. Rewards also deliver printable instructions to help kids build origami characters with paper from home.
The app could help homeschoolers, remote learners, and any other families who are struggling to come up with new ideas for kids after exhausting so many during the early days of the pandemic.
The company plans to generate revenue by adding a premium subscription that will allow parents to subscribe to individual content creators to receive exclusive, additional content within Kinspire. This also lets Kinspire’s creative content partners monetize, as they share in that revenue.
Kinspire is also working on shoppable activities, a top user request during testing. This lets parents easily purchase all the necessary materials for an activity directly in the Kinspire app, instead of having to go to Amazon or another store. Kinspire would take a commission on those purchases.
Denver and New York-based Kinspire was founded in May 2020, during the pandemic, by a team with backgrounds in tech and children’s play experiences.
Sara Berliner was on the founding team and is an advisor at YC-backed Hellosaurus, a new interactive video platform and creator tool. Before Kinspire, she co-founded children’s IP studio Star Farm (2002-2008), started and built the Kids & Family group at ScrollMotion, now Ingage (2008-2012), and was Chief Strategy Officer at Night & Day Studios, home of Peekaboo Barn, from 2012-2018. She’s also a mother of two.
Kinspire’s current co-founders Rob Seigel, Dave Tarasi, and Nate Ruiz, meanwhile, have a combined twenty years of experience at startups like HeadsUp, Nodin, SolidFire, and NetApp. CEO Seigel was previously co-Founder and CEO of HeadsUp, CTO at Nodin, and a software engineer at SolidFire/NetApp, in addition to being a father of two boys.
The startup is currently bootstrapped and raising a seed round.
The Kinspire app is a free download on iOS and Android in the U.S. and Canada.
Hazel Health was founded five years ago to provide telemedicine services to children in public schools. Launched by a former Apple software engineer and serial entrepreneur, Nick Woods, and named after one of Woods’ children, Hazel Health has grown to work with school districts responsible for 1.5 million children, and has raised $ 33.5 million to expand its footprint even further across the United States.
The company’s services are even more sorely needed as children are forced into distance learning classrooms by the global COVID-19 pandemic.
Denied the network of services that in-person schooling provides for basic healthcare and nutrition, remote services like Hazel Health become, in some cases, the only window into children’s health that some communities have.
When the first lockdown orders came through, the company began working with school districts to develop remote telemedicine services distributed via applications to continue serving the children for whom it provided basic telemedicine services.
So far, 90% of eligible families have enrolled in the company’s telemedicine program and 70% have engaged with the company’s services. These numbers are even more significant when viewed through the lens of the nearly 40% of the company’s users who indicate they don’t have a primary care physician.
“We built this incredibly powerful model that partnered with schools and brought access to healthcare to families,” said Hazel chief executive, Josh Golomb. “At the schools we had an iPad on a stand. You hit a button and in a few minutes you would be talking to a doctor.”
Hazel Health executive team, from left: Dr. Rob Darzynkiewicz (chief medical officer), Nick Woods (chief tech officer, co-founder), Raquel Antunez (VP Education Markets, co-founder) and Josh Golomb (CEO). Image Credit: Hazel Health
After the onset of the COVID-19 epidemic in the U.S., the company’s Hazel at Home service continues to provide care to kids.
“As soon as COVID happened there was a lot of recognition by districts that we have to have a solution around student health and wellness,” said Golomb. “Pre-COVID we went from 300,000 in our network of districts to now, when we just passed 1.5 million. [The] rate of engagement went down but our overall expansion has increased dramatically.”
With those kinds of numbers it was no wonder that Owl Ventures and Bain Capital Ventures came in to back the company. Additional financing came from Uprising, the UCSF Foundation Investment Company and Centene Corp.
And the demand just keeps increasing, according to Golomb.
“Our pipeline has exploded,” he said. “A lot of the states have made expansion for telehealth and increasing access a priority. We were going to have eight or nine states that we were going to prioritize. That’s priority number one… another big chunk is really making sure that we can invest in expanding the product to support that volume of states and finding ways to support our families and district partners.”
Today The Insights People, a kids, parents and family market intelligence startup, has secured an investment of around €550K from DSW Angels, the business angel network focused on UK regional scale-up companies.
The investment will allow The Insights People to boost its international growth and follows its expansion into Brazil, Mexico and Canada in recent months. The company expects to create around eight new jobs in Manchester in the next six months.
The Insights People surveys 200,000 children and parents a year, providing clients with valuable insights into children’s attitudes, behaviours, and consumption. Its award-winning market intelligence and portal enables users to tailor the results to their own requirements to inform their marketing strategy, identify market trends and evaluate return on investment.
Founded by Nick Richardson in 2017, it now serves clients across 11 countries including Amazon, F1, LEGO, Mattel, SEGA and Warner Bros.
The company has also appointed Stefan Lampinen as Chairman. Stefan’s career includes senior executive roles at Electronic Arts, NOKIA, Microsoft and Warner Bros, as well as being a member of Minecraft’s advisory board and the co-founder and chairman of the Swedish Games Industry Association.
Nick Richardson, CEO of The Insights People said: “We have achieved a lot in our first three years as a business, working with some of the leading global brands, building an incredible 30-plus strong team who continue to collaborate and innovate in a way which I have never witnessed before, and winning critical acclaim and coveted industry awards. The investment from DSW is an important next step to enable our further international expansion and to increase our investment in our research and technology-based teams in Manchester. I am also delighted to welcome Stefan to the team, whose experience will be of great benefit as we scale up our business on all fronts.”
The deal is the second completed since the start of lockdown by DSW Angels, the venture capital arm of Dow Schofield Watts. David Smith, founding partner of DSW Angels said: “The world is changing fast and kids’ consumption patterns are changing with it. The Insights People helps companies to understand their attitudes and behaviour and engage successfully with the next generation of consumers.
“The business has shown great resilience during the lockdown with numerous new client wins and upsells. This was our fastest fundraise to date with all funds committed within the space of a day, which is testament to our investors’ confidence in the DSW Angels proposition and the quality of the business that Nick and the team have created.”
Howdy all, I'm planning to start an e-commerce platform primarily for Kids, including their dress and other accessories. Currently, website development and design are going on. I need some tips or ideas on how to get my first customers? Since this is a bootstrapped startup I've some limitations in my marketing budget?
When Bümo co-founders Joan Nguyen and Chriselle Lim began planning for the rollout of their business, a combination daycare and co-working space for professional parents, they never expected to be offering daycare services virtually.
But in the face of a global pandemic, every company has had to improvise, and in the few months since its launch in 2019, that’s just what Bümo did.
Both Nguyen and Lim are serial entrepreneurs. The two met in their early twenties when Nguyen was trying to launch a fashion business and Lim was solidifying her career as a social media celebrity and designer.
Based in Los Angeles, Bümo had already managed to lock in a $ 2.4 million seed round, which the two founders began raising in November and closed in May.
The company said the money went to boost the development of new curriculum and hire educational and operational staff.
Participants in the round included G5 Capital — the investment arm of Zhejiang Jiangong Real Estate Development Group; Vivian Chou, the daughter of the Hong Kong billionaire textile magnate, Silas Chou; Honest Company founder Jessica Alba; Digital Brand Architects founder Raina Penchansky; the co-founders of JGU Ventures; Thrive former chief product officer, Yardley Pohl, and a clutch of social media celebrities, including Whitney Port and Cara Loren, and the singer, dancer and social media entertainer Jessi Malay.
As the pandemic began to spread across the U.S. and infection rates were rising in Los Angeles, the two founders realized that the cash they’d raised to open their first site at a Westfield mall in LA wouldn’t happen. “We were planning on opening in June,” said Nguyen.
In April the company shifted its attention to virtual classes. The new idea is to replace the online preschool with targeted sessions twice per-week. These classes won’t so much replace kindergarten as provide a two-hour supplement to it.
The company offers two thirty-minute classes for two-to-five students twice per week. So far, about 100 students have enrolled in the program. The initial cost for the two-hour classes is $ 199 per month and there’s a supplemental program that offers additional à la carte skills-based language and learning classes for $ 599, Nguyen said.
The financing that the company raised will be used to build out that more robust — and expensive — suite of educational offerings, according to Bümo.
For Lim and Nguyen the business is the culmination of a 14-year relationship, which began in Newport Beach when Nguyen was trying to start her fashion line and Lim was working at a boutique in Newport Beach.
Like many parents, Zigazoo founder Zak Ringelstein worries about his children’s screen time. His worries only grew when COVID-19 led to school shutdowns and kids came home to a world of remote learning. Now, as lockdowns extend, Ringelstein is learning to embrace screen time as a way to sneak education and entertainment into his kids’ digital diet.
Ringelstein, the former founder of UClass (acquired in 2015), launched Zigazoo, which he describes as a “TikTok for kids.”
Zigazoo is a free app where kids can answer short video-based exercises that they can answer through video and share responses with friends. Exercises range from how to create a baking soda volcano to making fractions out of food, and targets kids from preschool to middle school.
To ensure the app’s privacy, Ringelstein says that parents should be the primary users of the app. Users have to accept a friend request in order for their content to be seen, a move Ringelstein sees as key to avoiding bad actors or potential bullying.
Additionally, Zigazoo uses an API to moderate content.
Ringelstein’s first users were his own kids, a test he says was very rewarding.
Ringelstein’s son participating in a Zigazoo prompt.
The testing process made him realize that kids like to create longer videos, and watch smaller videos, so Zigazoo is figuring out an attention span for viewing. Currently, average time on site per user has gone up to 19 minutes and 43 seconds per day.
Ringelstein pointed to “Sesame Street” as his inspiration. Mixing education and entertainment has proven successful for a number of businesses. Kids were drooling in front of the screen watching the characters of “Sesame Street,” spending mindless hours staring at the television set, he recalls.
In one month, Zigazoo has had 100,000 videos uploaded to and downloaded from its site.
While Zigazoo claims to be a “TikTok” for kids, it is competing with the platform itself. Some teachers have turned to TikTok to create lessons on solar cell systems and experiments.
Others are putting together guides of “kid friendly” TikTok creators. And TikTok itself recently let parents set restrictions on content, DMs and screen time for their kids.
Video-based learning is a better way for students to engage actively in an educational activity, versus passively reading a paragraph from a Google doc, according to Ringelstein.
Combining education with entertainment comes with a set of risks around child safety. Last March, The New York Times wrote a story about how “kidfluencers” has grown as a concept, where parents put their kids online, touting brands, and make money off of it. The resulting ethical concerns are why Ringelstein is confident that Zigazoo is needed.
“Zigazoo is a not a kid play date smack dab in the middle of an adult party like YouTube and TikTok, it is a universe tailor-made for kid safety, learning and enjoyment,” he said.
Ringelstein sees Zigazoo’s “friend” versus “follow” feature as key to the safety of kids: Unlike TikTok, where there is a public feed and users can follow everyone, Zigazoo requires users to opt-in to being followed, similar to Facebook.
The partnerships will allow Zigazoo to post verified content using favorite and well-known characters to teach kids about the subjects they care about. And in a world where digital detoxes are no longer a reality, a smarter screen-time activity seems much needed.
Recently, Zigazoo partnered with The American Federation of Teachers for a capstone project directed at millions of K-12 students. Students are invited to submit a video using Zigazoo to encapsulate their learning experience over the past school year, which AFT says is a “far better way to sum up learning than a high-stakes test.”
This summer Ringelstein is launching “Zigazoo Channels” with a select group of major children’s entertainment companies, podcasts, museums, libraries, zoos, social media influencers and more.