Zigazoo, a TikTok-like app for kids, gets funding from Serena Williams, Jimmy Kimmel

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He factors to his assortment; there is a blue rock with orange stars and one other with a flower. A number of seconds later, the video carousel switches to a different clip. This time it is a woman named Avery who pops just a few quarters into her gumball machine and tells her 97 subscribers, “It is blue! I guessed proper.”

If not for the tiny voices and faces, you may suppose you have fallen down a TikTok rabbit gap. However that is the world of Zigazoo, a social media app for teenagers ages three to 12.

The short-form video platform launched final summer season with a mission to develop wholesome social media and streaming habits at an early age. It lets youngsters browse or take part in 30-second video challenges or actions created by zoos, museums, academics, musicians and TV studios, encouraging them to reply questions comparable to “What’s in your thoughts?” or “What do you need to be while you develop up?” Children can then share recorded responses with their Zigazoo buddies or its community of 120,000 subscribers. There’s singing, dancing and pet show-and-tells.

At a time when Fb (FB) faces backlash for reportedly engaged on a youngsters model of Instagram, with advocacy teams citing extreme time on units and social media as a foremost concern, Zigazoo is attracting constructive consideration. The corporate stated the platform has grown by about 100% for the reason that starting of 2021 and has had 20 million video views to this point — two-thirds of that occurring in 2021.

On Thursday, the corporate introduced a $4 million spherical of funding led by MaC Enterprise Capital, and a handful of movie star traders, together with Jimmy Kimmel, Serena Williams by means of her enterprise capital agency Serena Ventures, and Matthew Rutler, investor and head of expertise at MasterClass.

Williams, a serial tech investor and mom to three-year-old Olympia, stated she was drawn to Zigazoo as a result of it was designed particularly for teenagers, moderately than retrofitting a product made for adults.

“Current social media websites weren’t essentially designed with younger youngsters in thoughts and require parental supervision to ensure youngsters solely devour content material supposed for his or her age group,” Williams advised CNN Enterprise in an e mail. “Children-first platforms like Zigazoo are essential as a result of security is of their DNA and content material is particularly developed to satisfy youngsters’s social and emotional wants.”

Zigazoo co-founders Zak and Leah Ringelstein, former elementary college academics, created the app within the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic after struggling to search out interactive, participating content material for his or her three younger youngsters.

“We all know the very best degree of pondering occurs at creation, and we have been watching our personal youngsters zone out and binge on YouTube,” Zak Ringelstein stated. “We acknowledged that not solely was there loads of content material that we’d by no means choose for our youngster to observe however that children can and need to do extra. They need to be with buddies. They need to create, construct, and work together.”

Zigazoo co-founders Zak and Leah Ringelstein with their three children

Leah Ringelstein stated they began orchestrated challenges round the home for his or her youngsters, comparable to “Does it sink or float?” or trying to find objects that begin with every letter of the alphabet. With a background as tech entrepreneurs — the Ringelsteins launched and bought Dropbox-for-education platform UClass to Renaissance Studying, a Google Capital Firm, for an undisclosed sum in 2015 — they folded these workouts into an app and made the historically passive expertise of viewing movies into one thing inventive and social.

The app’s challeges fall into varied classes — artwork, math, well being and health, and extra — and are available from its content material companions. For instance, a Netflix problem options character Chico Bon Bon: Monkey With a Software Belt demonstrating downhill acceleration with toy vehicles, whereas a Peanuts problem highlights how Zigazoo customers may help shield the planet for Earth Day.

The app requires an grownup over the age of 18 to enroll by way of a Fb, Google (GOOG) or Apple (AAPL) account. Dad and mom can then resolve if they need their kid’s movies to be seen on the Zigazoo feed or set to non-public.
Zigazoo aims to develop healthy social media and streaming habits at a young age
Every video is run by means of a third-party skilled moderation service; the corporate has posted 125,000 to this point in 2021. Its moderators work throughout a 19 hour window 7 days every week to make sure movies keep on matter for every problem, don’t embrace private data — no final names or addresses — language is clear and content material is freed from “shoving, throwing, anger, yelling, bullying, sarcasm, or sulking,” in keeping with its coverage web page. Movies that examine these packing containers seem on the app’s made feed; these that don’t are made personal.
Zigazoo can also be a part of the kidSAFE Seal Program, an unbiased security certification service designed for children-friendly applied sciences.

The app has earned excessive reward from nonprofit Frequent Sense Media, which makes tech suggestions for households. “It is actually not possible to emphasize how favorable and significant this strategy is,” stated Christine Elgersma, senior editor of social media and studying apps at Frequent Sense. “If all social media had been designed with the notion that children may use it, we might be in a really totally different place at the moment. As an alternative, we’re enjoying catch-up and attempting to place bandaids on points that maybe may have been averted if preliminary design and launch positioned youngsters and youths on the middle.”

Zigazoo was designed specifically for young children

As Zigazoo grows by means of phrase of mouth, it has additionally fallen into the fingers of movie star mother and father — together with Rutler and his associate, singer Christina Aguilera — whose 6-year-old daughter consumes movies on the app. “There’s nothing else on the market like this in any respect within the youngsters schooling house,” stated Rutler on why he wished to take a position. “I did not actually need my daughter to be spending time on among the [apps] we discovered early on within the pandemic. I like that there are extra thrilling choices now.”

Elergsma believes present social media platforms and different apps for teenagers can look to Zigazoo for instance of supply a social but secure place for kids to be on-line.

“Children aren’t messaging one another, responding to plenty of notifications, attempting to get ‘Zigazoo well-known,’ store inside the app, meet strangers, or doing any of the opposite issues that make TikTok widespread,” Elergsma stated. “As a result of Zigazoo encourages offscreen exploration and studying after which permits youngsters to point out what they found, it strikes an ideal steadiness. It is completely okay for teenagers to be on apps like this.”

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