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When Caroline Hu Flexer and her husband noticed that their 2-year-old daughter was enamored with their iPhones, they didn’t just find her an age-appropriate app, they built her one.
“With the touchscreen … I could see that there was a lot of learning potential,” Flexer said “But there weren’t any high quality apps — let alone educational apps — for kids at the time.”
So, in 2008, she and her husband, Michael, partnered with their friend Nicci Gabriel. And by combining their talents in business, engineering and design, they launched their first app “Wheels on the Bus,” which went on to win several awards, including “Best Children’s App” at the Consumer Electronics Show.
Four years later, the trio has 14 award-winning apps and 2.4 million paid downloads under their belts. And, on Wednesday their company, Duck Duck Moose, is announcing that it’s raised $7 million in Series A financing from Sequoia Capital, Lightspeed Venture Partners and Stanford Universities.
With the new money, the nine-person company (which included just four people until earlier this year) plans to hire more designers, engineers and marketing staff so that it can expand its portfolio of apps. The company currently focuses on preschool and early elementary school kids and plans to scale up with apps for older elementary school children.
Since Duck Duck Moose’s first app, plenty of other app developers (including other parents) have released educational apps. But Fletcher attributes their continued success to their design process, which reflects her past experience working for design firm IDEO.
From beginning to end, she said, they kid test the prototypes to observe how children interact with them and then adjust accordingly.
Additionally, they work with an advisory board of teachers, as the apps follow the Common Core State Standards and are used at home as well as in school, Flexer said.
It’s also worth noting that all of the content in their apps is original — even the soundtrack is provided by the founders, as Flexer plays the violin and her husband plays the cello.
As we’ve written previously, k-12 education is a booming area for venture capital investment. And the growth in consumer adoption of mobile devices will likely only support additional innovation.