Though Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has said he’s interested in opening up the social network to children under 13, he has yet to pursue the opportunity. And that has left the door open for a host of other start-ups trying to be the equivalent of Facebook for kids. Now, a new challenger called Pixykids is emerging out of stealth hoping to take up the mantle with a platform that blends social networking, virtual worlds, video chatting and self-expression. It also invites the entire family to participate in a child’s activities.
Pixykids announced today that it has secured $3 million in funding including a $2 million investment from ATA Ventures. The money will go toward launching an immersive social platform for children ages 6-12 starting in the second quarter. Others have tried to work this same market including Imbee, Everloop, KidZui, Moshi Monsters, WoozIn, Club Penguin, but most have focused on gaming, virtual worlds or social networking. But Pixykids is looking to break out by being a one-stop shop for all kinds of interactivity for children.
Children will be able to make a 3-D avatar and their own wall, create artwork and upload photos and videos that feed into their own portfolio. They’ll be able to share that with family members including parents, grandparents and uncles and aunts along with other friends on Pixykids. There will be tools for chatting and video conferencing and many other features to come. Pixykids is looking to become a Facebook-like platform for a curated list of applications. It’s starting with some of its own applications but is reaching out to developers to build apps for Pixykids. So there could be games, animation or movie making apps added depending on what users want.
“We consider ourselves at the intersection of Facebook and Disney,” said CEO and co-founder Rajul Kadakia. “Pixykids has user generated and personal content. It’s not just text or chat, but photos and videos and identity with engaging apps that connect people. What’s unique is that we’re also like Disney with rich interactive content and sticky play patterns for the family.”
Unlike Facebook, Pixykids complies with COPPA, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, which oversees rules for sites aimed at children under the age of 13. COPPA requires sites that want to collect and use childrens’ personal information to get verifiable parental consent, which can entail receiving a signed form or accepting and verifying a credit card number. Pixykids also has measures in place to monitor for bad words and abuse, and there’s also a self-flagging system so kids can tattle on bullies and rule-breakers. And parents are the ones who approve the friends a kid can interact with on the site. The idea is to set the kids free inside the world and let them draw in their parents and other family members when they want to share.
Michael Adair, Pixykids’ COO said said one of the key aspects of Pixykids will be the involvement of the entire family. He said Pixykids can serve as a family-friendly alternative for Skype, YouTube and other services that are not COPPA compliant.
“We’re not just a kids site, it’s about doing stuff you care about and sharing with the extended family,” said Adair, who was previously VP of Corporate Development and Finance at Glam Media and Head of North American Sales Finance at Google.
He said the service will look to monetize through a variety of ways, including freemium service, subscriptions, virtual goods and potentially third-party sponsorships. Kadakia created Pixykids after first trying an online scrapbooking service. But she realized the bigger opportunity was in taking some of the same ideas and applying them to children. Pixykids will open up a beta in the second quarter with a public launch scheduled for the third quarter.
Pixykids is entering a crowded market but I like the whole-family and one-stop shop approach it’s taking. I could see wanting to check-in and finding out what my nieces and nephews are doing or chat with them online.