If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it thousands of times: Children are the future. Both literally and figuratively, that’s a hard one to debate. Now then, if adults are adopting digital technologies at an astounding rate, to better their own lives, connect, and learn, why not the world’s whippersnappers? Some might balk at the sight of a five-year-old on an iPhone, but when digital devices and technology become means not just to make money off of young people through games or carrier contracts, but tools of early education, the critics quiet down significantly. We’ve covered a few cool young startups, like Motion Math and Launchpad Toys, which are mixing some serious learning with more than an ounce of fun — in an effort to make mobile devices educational resources for kids.
Today, Fingerprint, a new startup based in San Francisco, is joining in on the wave of mobile education for kids — with a round of early funding and a team well-versed in children’s entertainment and education to boot. In an effort to build a network of learning and entertainment apps for kids, the startup is today announcing that it has raised $1.4 million in seed funding from K2MediaLabs, THQ, Reed Elsevier Ventures, and Suffolk Ventures.
As to its team, Fingerprint was co-founded by CEO Nancy MacIntyre, who was executive vice president of product and marketing at LeapFrog Enterprises, and Kevin Wendle and Daniel Klaus of K2Media Labs. It also has Heather Regan (the former COO of Everloop), CTO Brad Edelman, who was previously the founder and CTO of PlayFirst, as well as Darren Atherton on board, who was formerly Head of Production and Online at LucasArts and previously worked at both EA and Mattel. According to Fingerprint’s website, the team collectively generated over $4 billion in revenue, 500 million downloads, 200 video games, 100 interactive books, and 12 technology patents.
Even if these numbers are bloated, the team is familiar with the space to be sure. But, so what? As the market for education and gaming apps for kids grows, there are still plenty of challenges to be faced; namely, parents have a tough time finding appropriate (and truly educational) content in overloaded app stores, let alone staying engaged in their kids’ digital play experience once they find suitable apps.
Within a few years, millions of kids will be using Android and iOS devices, so Fingerprint is aiming to make sure that kids from ages three to eight — and their parents — are provided with a shared fun and educational experience, while delivering a platform that allows developers to showcase clean, well-designed apps.
To do this, Fingerprint will be launching applications that include features that enable social sharing and communication between kids and adults, gameplay snapshots for parents, a recommendation engine for new games based on users’ patterns of play and progress, as well as a virtual reward system that encourages kids and parents to stay engaged.
Of course, to build a truly robust and meaningful platform, Fingerprint needs to offer compelling business opportunities for developers — so the startup has created a distribution network for third-party developers that enables them to design and deploy their games so that they can easily be discovered, downloaded, and shared by Fingerprint users. To this end, the team says that it will allow developers to “fingerprint” their games, which means that they’ll be able to easily tap into sharing and engagement features that expose their apps to new audiences and reduce customer acquisition and support infrastructure costs.
Additionally, the Fingerprint CEO said, developers will be able to integrate the platform’s tracking tool that collects data so that parents can see what their child is learning and how they’re progressing through the apps — as well as recommending what they should play next.
To kick things off, starting in October, Fingerprint will be launching four flagship applications, which users can get an early taste of here, whereafter it will begin working with third-party app developers to design and distribute new titles.
Touch devices present an incredible educational opportunity for young people (hell, PCWorld even called the iPad the Toy of the Year in 2010), and while there are some interesting startups out there making headway, the market remains largely untapped.
It’s not a zero sum game, and educational app developers have the opportunity to create cross-pollinating and collaborative communities (or networks) of apps that provide distribution and innovation opportunities for developers, as well as amazing resources for kids. That’s what Fingerprint seems to be doing: Going after high end content that brings education to kids, but also making sure that developers are along for the ride. It’s a smart play, and it will be interesting to see how Fingerprint positions itself going forward. More to come, to be sure.