Dynepic raises $675k to safely allow children to create a digital footprint

The company was co-founded by a former United States Air Force and NASA security expert

Financial trends and news by Steven Loeb
June 19, 2018
Short URL:

It seems like we don't go a single day now without some scandal breaking having to with our data, either how it's handled or how it's disseminated or how it's secured. As much as that's a big problem for adults who have expectations of privacy, it's an even bigger issue when it comes to kids. So much so that companies have been blocked from collecting or using any of their data .

Likely almost everyone can agree that it's a good thing to protect children; nobody wants them to be targeted and to have their data misused. The problem is that same policy also ends up cutting them off from a lot of the new technologies that are emerging, such as the Internet of Things. How can children develop a digital footprint if they are being, essentially, ghosted by most of the Web?

Dynepic is solving that problem with its platform, which allows developers to connect children to the digital world without violating laws around privacy and data sharing. It protects their data while also allowing children to partake in all aspects of technology. 

On Wednesday, Dynepic announced it received $675,000 in funding from Good Growth Capital, Black Lab Sports, Charleston Angel Partners, and Techstars. The financing comes as the company completed the Techstars Boulder program. With this round, Dynepic has now raised $1.5 million in total.

Creating a safe platform for kids to connect digitally

Launched in 2014, Dynepic is the creator of playPORTAL, a connected play platform for developing child privacy-certified apps. The company was co-founded by CEO Krissa Watry, a former USAF and NASA security expert, who wanted to help children have access to technology, but wound up running into a ton of roadblocks. 

"I was in the aerospace world, launching stuff into space and building stuff, designing stuff, to dock with the Space Station, and I really wanted to make an impact on this Earth. I thought that IoT was going to make a really big change to how we interact in the world. This was back 2011 or 2012 and I started looking at the entire ecosystem and you had the new players that were unfolding, you saw a lot of people trying to looking at smart homes and connected health and quantified self and they were looking at building platforms for the adult sector," Watry told me in an interview.

"I wanted to give back because I’d had such success in engineering and wanted to inspire the next generation. As I looked at it, I said, 'Kids are really the early adopters of technology. If anyone knows how to use all the tech in the house, it’s probably kids.' The more we got into it, we realized that actually there’s so many barriers for this technology to be offered to kids that most companies block kids from the space, or, if they’re a kids company, they really limit the connected technology that they offer towards kids just due to the safety and the security and the child privacy."

Since most developer tools right now cut children off in their terms of service, even Google doesn't allow for apps to use their APIs and sign-in for children's apps, Dynepic was forced to build a service from the ground up. That also allowed the company to put its focus on safety and security, including where collected data is stored and who can access it. 

"If you think about it from an adult perspective, you might use a Google sign-in, that third party app would go grab your information from Google and then use it from inside that app you just signed into. For kids, obviously, there’s no original data store, so we had to go create the sign-in, we had to create the secure cloud platform, where parents could initiate the child’s profile and their friends list, and then when a child logs-in you don’t want to transfer their information, so the user actually can access their information through a third party app by reaching back to our servers, where their data is housed. So we never transfer that information to the third party," Watry said. 

As app and toy developers might not have credentials or the time or the desire to focus on the data security aspect, Dynepic does it for them, and the platform also makes it easier for parents to have control over what data is shared. 

"Kids today, their information is being strewn all over the Internet, in a way that parents have no idea how it’s being used and they have no way to control or delete it. I used to work in ultra secure communications satellites and manage presidential networks by our war fighters communication, and it’s definitely challenging. We live in a cyber security world, and data privacy and cyber security are big challenges. We definitely are focused completely on privacy and data security and doing what’s required to provide that in a safe way."

Dynepic is currently being used in two initial products, including edtech company ToyUp, which has designed a connected toy to teach children different languages, and ShotDoctor, which is a kid-safe basketball training app.

"Think of it like a coach on your wrist, so it does gesture recognition while you’re a shooting basketball, and it will look at your guide hand rotation and give you form feedback to achieve the perfect jumpshot. That’s a super cool that’s out and being used by kids today. Our platform allows the kids to safely log in, being able to save all their scores to their profiles, be able to compete against other players on the platform and then safely share out to their coaches as well," Watry explained.

Dynepic has others customers that currently in development, including some in the retail space, who are using it for in-store experiences, as well as museums and performing arts centers, who use it for interactive experiences, and to allow children to continue with the experience once they leave. 

Focusing on the family

While there are a number of platforms for developers to creates apps for adults, such as Firebase and PubNub, Dyepic's prime competitor right now is probably SuperAwesome, which is a marketing platform for children.

"They have a kids safe ad network and they do have a kids sign-in but it’s only for kids, and ours is all ages and ours is backed by a family network that allows you to pull all your friends and family in when you log into play. Theirs is just lets kids authenticate into an app," Watry explained. 

That focus on being available for not only children, but adults as well, is allowing the company to build up a much broader and deeper ecosystem.

"Being available for all ages is really critical because we think play is really a family experience. When we first started we really were kid and parent focused and we started to notice that our platform is about 25 percent kids because once a parent comes on, they add grandma and grandpa and siblings and aunts and uncles and neighbors and nannies and coaches," Watry explained. 

"When you look at an ecosystem, kids make up a smaller percentage, so you really need a safe place where everybody can interact and play. Especially as less families maybe sit around the table and play a connected game, you might actually play a connected game with family members that live in another state and so we’re extending that idea of playing in a kid safe way across all ages."

Dynepic will use the capital it just raised for marketing and engineering to expand its playPORTAL platform, and grow its developer community, by building out its SDKs. 

"Our funding is really for us to properly field the developer tools, so all the different SDKs that developers will use to be able to create their next hit app or connected device that includes kids," said Watry.

"We’re looking at how to offer a digital currency option that allow for direct purchase capability to help drive ROIs. We have a number of competition and profile-based interactions. How do you launch kids safe chat that’s moderated inside your app? Those kinds of features are all being packaged. So we’re kind of taking the core features that everybody needs for the different customers that we have in our pipeline and we’re building out those core features into SDKs that will drag and drop options for developers to deploy."

Dynepic's big vision

In the short run, Dynepic's goals are what you'd expect: to be the platform for building connected products and applications that can be used by children. 

"When we look at where we will be down the road, I hope people choose to use our platform. I hope that families insist on our privacy compliance framework for the way we treat data since our users own their data and they can delete it at any time. That is a core principal that we have at the company. I think in Europe that’s become more of a standard with GDPR, and we’ve taken that as a core principal for our company," said Watry.

The long-term goals are much, much grander, however, and they fit into Watry's previous experience in the the Air Force and at NASA. 

"We’re not limited to connected play on this planet, so I’m from the aerospace world and we hope to have connected play that extends out of our atmosphere," she told me. "The future I imagine, personally I don’t think is too far off, but we see ourselves as a galactic platform long-term. Small space craft and lunar rovers and even going to Mars, our connections out of this world will be something that we hope to power as well. That’s a long-term vision."

What that means, essentially, is that as technologies continue to develop, Dynepic will have opened up that world for children to safely play in, allowing them to be included even when our technology inevitably takes us to worlds beyond our own. 

"We had to create the safe doorway, and once there is a safe doorway our goal is that kids are not behind screens anymore because once there’s a safe way for kids to connect into the digital world, the things around them can basically come alive. So you don’t have to just be behind a screen. I think that we all feel that is the future, that things are only going more digital, and so it’s not going to less digital, and, when I looked at it, no one was trying to figure out: how are kids going to connect?," she said.

"It’s not like they can just be cut off because, as the world becomes smart, and the door only opens when you walk through it, how’s the door going to know who you are? So there had to be secure framework that gets put in place, but we have a big vision for the company and where we plan to go."

Related companies, investors and entrepreneurs

Description: Launched in 2014, Dynepic, Inc. is the creator of playPORTAL, a connected play platform that makes developing child privacy-certified app...