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Kickstarting an App: Kiddology talks about the benefits and pitfalls of crowdfunding an app

Creating an app costs money, and a lot of it. To secure some cash without going through the rigmarole of VC funding, an increasing number of developers are turning to Kickstarter to fund their app projects. So how well does that route work for funding something that's more virtual and not as concrete as a Pebble smart watch?

We recently talked to one such company, Kiddology, which is trying to get started on a collaborative book reading tool for children and their families. We talked with them about their idea, their Kickstarter project and some of the early challenges of using crowdfunding as a way to raise money. We hope to talk to them again about the outcome after their round of crowd-sourced funding is over.

Who is Kiddology? What type of problem are you trying to solve?

The story of Kiddology started more than two years ago. Initially as a game app studio we were creating apps like everyone else. But the problem we saw, that affected us deeply, was that kids were using our games by themselves. Too often I saw kids using apps on their own. On the subway, in restaurants, everywhere-it's become a way to get kids to stay busy, but not necessarily in an educational way.

I came up with an idea. What if the application forced parental involvement, always had an educational focus, but also let family members connect from anywhere in the world. Instead of it being using solitary, Kiddology is to let kids have a way to reach out to a trusted network of friends and family so they don't have to be using tablets by themselves and in Kiddology parents are assured their children are using applications that are useful not just a time-filler.

The problem we also noticed is that when parents, uncle's, aunts, and even grandparents were reading to their kids they were using Skype or FaceTime. Fiddling with a book and trying to look at the screen and not sharing in the experience as well as we think should exist. So we decided to build our own real-time connectivity platform with video chat that lets parents co-read and co-play with their kids no matter where in the world they may be.

So Kiddology was re-born with a new focus and game plan that started with creating Kiyoshi as the mascot to start the change in how families use tablet devices. Today we've created four stories and two educational games to be launched with the new and improved Kiddology; but we want to create so much more and build on the engagement levels in what we already offer.

Why Kickstarter?

We were debating on whether to use Kickstarter or Indiegogo before we launched our campaign. And while the feedback we got from many account creators were varied we went with Kickstarter ultimately because of the community behind the site. We were told and did find that Indiegogo had an incredible customer support process and staff that reached out to us to make us feel very welcomed, but the larger community that supports on Kickstarter is why we ended up going with that choice in the end.

Any challenges that you've encountered with Kickstarter in the early stages?

We've encountered some great challenges. As a software product, enabling incentives that would entice crowdfunding may have been flawed on our end. We've made changes in our offering, but without a tangible product to giveaway it's been difficult. We have seen great support in our vision and press has been very much attracted to share our story, but also our product is for a very specific demographic of parents and not an item that appeals to everyone, thus causing a lower adoption rate.

Another problem we realized early on was that people were not sure if we were just an idea or a team that actually have built something so far. Our application is fully filled up to the real-time syncing but we didn't launch our application on the App Store because we wanted this incredibly important feature built into it prior to launch. We've tried to address those concerns in our campaign, and we're working very hard to still try and attain our goal. Kiddology is built from the heart for parents and families to be better connected, and that will always be our goal no matter what obstacles we face.

At what stage in the app development process did you decide to fund via kickstarter? Was that the plan from the beginning?

We've illustrated, recorded, and programmed four books and one game for the Kiddology platform already, but we decided not to launch it on the App Store until after the Kickstarter campaign, because we felt the video co-play component is our major differentiating factor. We've continued to build out the parental and child engagement components of our in-app books and games, while also continuing progress on the video-sync technology we are going to use, but the crowdfunding resources will help us bring it all together. However we continue to build no matter what comes out of the crowdfunding.

What happens next if Kickstarter is successfully funded? How far will the money take you?

If we are able to successfully reach our Kickstarter goal, we would feel overwhelmingly blessed. The funding will go toward adding our video-sync component. But even if we don't reach the goal we'll continue to build out the Kiddology platform, create new stories, and educational games in the application and hope to launch it in the App Store early 2014.

Our next goal is finalize our platform and ensure our stories and games are engaging with a lot of fun. While our application is in the hands of our users and parents are reading and playing with their kids, we'll continue to develop our technology and web application which will allow kids, parents, aunts, and creative alike to create their own games or stories which we'll then co-publish in Kiddology for everyone to use. Thus letting those that don't know how to code a way to create their own educational books and games within Kiddology.

What happens if Kickstarter is not successful? Do you have another source of funding?

If we aren't successful on Kickstarter our goals don't change. We're still committed to creating the most useful family oriented and educational application ever. We want to see families using tablet devices together, so we press on no matter the obstacles we face. We will still launch our stories and in-app game as a Kiddology platform in early 2014. But while we find new resources through angel investors we will still keep dedicating our selves to building out the technology, it'll just take longer then we wish.

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