The thought of teens and technology makes most parents cringe. But one DC-area tech startup is making it so teens and parents can live in cyber harmony. (We're still not going to "friend" you on Facebook, grandma.)
Steve Woda has been working on digital parenting since launching uKnow in 2009 with his brother Tim. The Arlington, Va., startup's flagship product helps parents better understand what their kids are doing online. The company will launch the next version of uKnowKids early next month. uKnow will also launch two new digital family products in early 2014: One lets family members locate and communicate with each other and the other helps adults manage their own digital footprint. uKnowKids has attracted over 30k users, mostly through web searches and word of mouth. The number of users grows 97% each quarter. The company is also now up to 12 employees and closing out a $2.4M funding round made up of mostly angels.
Steve says uKnowKids is a parental intelligence service, not to be confused with parental control products. It analyzes data rather than place restrictions on kids. So parents monitor their kid's online presence from a respectful distance through alerts when certain language is used by their kids online, when a person over 18 "friends" them, and when pictures are tagged with their name. The software can even determine if a child sets up a secret social media account. It also lets parents know if their kid's tech behavior is normal compared to others their age. So it's OK that your teen girl sent over 4,000 text messages last month because that's the average. (That's a real stat, according to Steve.)
We snapped Steve last year at an Arlington pitch event for charity. The number of uKnowKids users has grown through partnerships with companies like Comcast but the company has also used content marketing to attract customers. The team has created cyber-bullying content pages for nearly every high school in the country, where parents can get educated about online dangers. Steve says it eventually leads them to take action by looking for products like uKnowKids, which has a free version and a $10/month version. The product idea was born after a child in the Woda family accepted a Facebook friend request from a child predator. He now sees the company as a true social venture that can generate revenue and help parents.
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