Thursday, April 10, 2014

Kid-Safe Alternative to YouTube on Web and Mobile

Back in 2008, a startup called Totlol emerged, offering parents a kid-friendly collection of video clips pulled from the YouTube platform on a single destination site. But that company, a one-man show, eventually hit a dead-end and closed up shop. Today, it has returned with new founders who are reviving the brand as well as porting the experience to mobile.

The idea itself is solid enough, though the mobile execution is still a little lacking. As any parent can tell you, YouTube is not a destination you would want your young children to surf unsupervised. In a few clicks, they can go from watching Elmo teaching children about the world around them, to him cursing or ranting at kids in NYC’s Central Park.

In its earlier incarnation, Totlol was trying to solve that problem, by curating a selection of YouTube videos that were more appropriate for younger viewers. But the business was affected by a YouTube Terms of Service change that prohibited the sale of advertising on sites that only provided YouTube videos without other content on the same page.

These days, the need for kid-friendly video content is largely met by a number of cable TV channels, many of which are available on demand, and Netflix. Totlol now hopes to insert itself into this mix with a new website and an affordable, mobile app which is free to use with in-app purchases.

The company’s new founders, Michael Avni, an angel investor and father of three, and Tiffany Stelman, have taken over the brand and business. They feel there’s even more of a need for something like Totlol today than there was when it first launched, in fact, as we’re now living in a multi-screen world, where our devices are connected to the internet at all times, and kids are playing with iPads before they’re able to walk.

Four Last year, the two partners decided to revive Totlol, and created a community site where responsible parents help to build the content library by first watching YouTube videos, then sharing the URL and categorizing it. Site members also help police the content, by flagging videos as inappropriate, which will then alert Totlol’s “Parent Editors” group to take another look. The member who uploaded the flagged video is then contacted to discuss the situation further (and, as one could imagine, further steps may be taken if someone becomes a habitual offender).

The Parent’s Dashboard available on the web is the place where members can contribute to the community by sharing videos, but the mobile app is largely a simple video viewer already in “Kids Mode.”

The new Totlol also pulls videos from YouTube, but plans to add more sources in the future, as well as other features like time limit settings, a visual search engine, and an Android version of the mobile app. Instead of running ads, the plan to generate revenue – at least for now – involves in-app purchases. Parents will be able to buy video playlists in the app, like an educational playlist, for example.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

On Mobile

The iOS app itself could use a little work. After installing, creating an account, and signing in, it still prompted me to login again using Facebook after rebooting my iPhone. And before you can even get started, it throws up math questions to prove you’re the adult (e.g. “what’s 16 + 58?”), so it’s not quite as “hands off” for mom or dad as something like Netflix’s “Just for Kids” section is, which kids can use on their own.

searchThe iPhone app only works in landscape mode, and the big buttons at the bottom of the screen take up so much room that it’s sometimes difficult to really see what’s in the video thumbnail. The video’s title text is also quite small on the smartphone’s interface – Totlol is much better on iPad. And finally, the red background also seems like an odd nod to Netflix, when the rest of the app, the website and brand itself is more blue, white, and orange.

According to Stelman, the design decisions were made with the goal of keeping the app simple for kids’ use, and the team is working to make it more polished in the future.

The four-person startup, based in Israel, is currently bootstrapping. On a broad level, the service competes with kids’ television and Netflix, but more specifically it’s also taking on other startups offering curated experiences for children, like KIDO’Z or Kid  Mode, which offer games in addition to video content, or Happly for iPad which includes educational material.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Keepy – An innovative way to hold on to your memories forever

I still remember days, when all the pictures, taken at the memorable life events were developed and nicely arranged into the albums. I still enjoy reviewing these albums occasionally. However, lately, all taken pictures are digital. They are not printed anymore and saved on the hard drive. Even if you use photos organizer, with enormous amount of the files, it may take significant amount of time to find a picture you are looking for to review or to share with friends.

While there are multiple online services, allowing sharing your memories with friends and relatives, there is definitely a wide range of the improvement which you may seek.

Today, I would like to present a new service, which offers an innovative approach is not to organize these memories, allowing users to enhance pictures, add useful notes, both text, voice, and video, and propose other family members and friends to document their reactions.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic, the ambitious company, based in New York, last year raised $1.1 million investments, some of which were contributed by the Winklevoss brothers (the twins who were part of the founding of Facebook and sued Mark Zuckerberg when they were squeezed out of the company). Just in the first four months since Keepy’s launch, more than 150,000 people have signed up for the service.

There are three plans to use, all equipped with the same rich set of features and ads-free, but with the different amount of keepies to store a month. The free plan is limited by 31 keepy a month, as approximately one a day, which might be more than enough for starter.

Mobile applications for iPhones and Android smart phones are available.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

FeeX – The Robin Hood of Fees

Do you know how many hidden fees you are paying on your way? Actually, if you cannot change and you do not know, you sleep better. But if you know and you can change, you are definitely an informed customer and potential winner in the game.

With one excellent and very popular startup (recently acquired by Google) already under his belt, Waze founder Uri Levine has now set out on a new adventure. While Waze revolutionized the way people navigate using GPS by adding crowdsourcing into the mix, FeeX is trying to do the same with your bills.

The FeeX Damage Meter will show you the percentage of your retirement savings that could be consumed by fees. Then your portfolio will be compared with others from the FeeX community, and if there will be another competitive portfolio with lower fees and better or the same performance, you will be presented with such alternative.

The company has secured $3 million in financing and is well on its way to achieve its goal of becoming the “Robin Hood of Fees.”

The service is definitely free and will remain free for the life of the project.

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