While Facebook continues to mull over the idea of opening its social network to kids under 13, developers have been persistent in giving the demo its own unique virtual play spaces. Menlo Park, California-based startup Kazaana (formerly PixyKids) has recently joined that group.
But where popular social sites like Moshi Monsters, Club Penguin or Everloop either focus on interactive gaming or social networking, Kazaana plans to bring the two features together.
Founded two years ago by CEO Rajul Kadakia, Altaf Shaikh and Kalpesh Savla, with COO Michael Adair joining shortly after as the fourth co-founder, the inspiration for the free COPPA-compliant site came from the principals’ kids. They were frustrated by their inability to share content on YouTube with friends and family, due to the site’s restrictions. Kadakia then applied her experience from a previous online scrapbooking venture.
“From a digital archive perspective, we’re enabling kids to share their moments and save them for the future. We’re also providing ways for parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles to interact on the site, which helps with the co-parenting process,” says Kadakia.
Behind the scenes
After securing US$3 million from ATA Ventures this past March, the site rebranded from PixyKids to Kazaana (which means treasure in Indian) and went into open beta in late July.
To attract a larger audience, Kazaana has reached out to the blogger community, held focus groups and created two short promotional YouTube videos that have currently been viewed more than 75,000 times.
The platform lets kids play Flash games, text or email friends, personalize 3D-animated avatars, share photos, videos and art, chat using a Skype-like feature, and create customized digital portfolios. A social kids wall called the Chatterbox acts as the site’s hub of communication.
Kazaana partners with Streamer Studios to power the site’s animated avatars. And now with 11 Menlo Park team members and a 13-person developer group in India, Kazaana is looking to branch out.
Given that Kazaana is in its infancy, Kadakia’s team is focused on expanding its user base and is working on an app to bring the experience to mobile devices. It’s also in the process of developing creative apps inspired by photo-based social network Instagram. “We’re working on something proprietary called the photo booth that would let kids add fun filters, effects and stickers to their photos,” explains Kadakia. Plans are also in the works to incorporate animation into the apps, partner with other creative app providers, and monetize the site via a freemium subscription model, virtual goods and third-party sponsorships.
“For example, a tween brand could sponsor some virtual clothing the kids could put on their sharable avatars,” says Adair.