500 Startups-Backed HighScore House Launches A Family-Friendly Drawing App, FamJam

HighScore House, the family-focused startup whose previous app was a “gamified” chore list tracker for iPad, has today released its latest creation: FamJam. Parents might call it an inter-family communication tool, but that sounds boring. It’s just a fun way for kids to send their iPad drawings to grandma and grandpa without needing their email address.

The company is backed by 500 Startups, and has angel investment from Jason Bailey (GM of Virtual Currency at Super Rewards), Kay Luo (who led PR at LinkedIn and Square), Dan Martell (co-founder of Flowtown), James Levine (former CTO at SimplyHired), Bob Mason (co-founder of Brightcove) and Glenn Graff (formerly of Kaboose).

The FamJam app is cute, maybe a little busy for my tastes, but the feeling it gives off is that of Saturday morning cartoons: loud, colorful, with lots to look at. I think kids will dig it. My child may be just a bit too young to really enjoy this app yet (she’s 2), but given that she’s mastered most of the horror that is the iPad Netflix UI, there’s a good chance that I can teach her how to email Auntie and Grandma from this app, too, after a few tries.

Although there’s a lot going on with the FamJam interface, the overall structure of the app is simple. Mom or Dad set up the accounts with names, photos (optional) and email addresses, and then the kids can start drawing. The drawing interface offers different colors, pen styles (coming soon), backgrounds, stamps, and a photos tool for pulling in camera photos. When finished, the green “done” button lets the kids send off their creation to anyone else who has been previously set up in the app’s contact list.

For what it’s worth, recipients (i.e., grown-ups) can respond to the kid’s in-app messages with drawings or messages of their own, but it’s more likely they’ll use this more for a quick: “nice job!” response than an asynchronous version of DrawSomething, for example. The messages will arrive in-app for other iPad users, but also via email for all family members who don’t use an iPad. The landing page sent out via email looks something like this, with prompts to download the app and social sharing buttons. Recipients can also reply via email to write back, if they don’t have the iPad app themselves. This feature didn’t appear to be real-time in tests, however.

The app is iPad-only for now, but iPhone and Android in the works. According to HighScore House co-founder Kyle Seaman, who created FamJam with Theo Ephraim, the app’s creation was in response to requests from users for a safe communication tool for the family. “Over the last year we’ve discovered three specific needs for families: connecting kids with grandparents and extended family, helping distant parents, who might be travelling for or who are separated, stay connected with their kids, and apps designed for the entire family, not just parents or just kids,” says Seaman.

He notes there’s not really a safe channel which allows kids to have online conversations with other family members, because email is too complicated for FamJam’s target users (ages 4-9) and it doesn’t offer parental controls. Other apps like Instagram and DrawSomething have kid appeal, but aren’t necessarily appropriate and aren’t designed for families because they allow access to unfiltered content from strangers. Plus, the iPad is really starting to get a foothold in families, he says. “For the first time since the TV, babies to grandparents are comfortable on the same technology platform – the iPad,” Seaman says.

FamJam is now available for download on the iPad here for free. A future version will monetize via in-app purchases.