Start-ups for kids at TechCrunch50
A growing number of youngsters want sites of their own. Here are four start-ups happy to oblige.
This year's TechCrunch50 conference in San Francisco is starting out family-friendly with four companies aimed at grabbing the ever-dwindling attention of the under-18 crowd. (Editor's note: Links are coming later--these sites are all soft launching later Monday.)
iThryv was pitched as a banking site for kids. Like the game Spore, you start out small and things get more complex as you grow. When you're younger expenses are tracked with big, colorful graphs. Later in life it gets more complex to include things like car and college payments, all the way to budgeting and savings.
The service also includes some business planning for kids looking to make money. For instance the historical lemonade stand is given its own wiki complete with what tools kids need to start the business. This includes links to business card makers and some ready-made signage. They can then use the tool to track expenditures, and eventual revenue alongside the rest of their financial information.
The site makes a big assumption that its users have credit cards--at least early on in life. Without it there are always paper receipts. Maybe a site like Shoeboxed needs to make a kiddie version.
Hangout.net is yet another virtual world. Kids can design their own virtual pad and adorn it and themselves with real-life products. These items reside in their online home, and all link back to online stores that sell them.
One of the standout features is that there's a built-in physics engine and each item is completely adjustable. During the demo a pool table was thrown around the virtual room, knocking into other items with some level of believability. Presumably savvy users would create their own Rube Goldberg machines then share them with others.
Users can visit their friends' virtual rooms and interact with items they've chosen. There are also a handful of media items that users can interact with like the said pool table for a casual round of pool, playing the drums, or watching videos off YouTube.
Blah Girls, in the words of its celebrity founder Ashton Kutcher, is a "dynamic, interactive, celebrity pop culture environment" played out through the eyes of three fictional characters. It centers on a Web video player with the three stereotypical children literally blahing about the latest celebrity gossip. Intermixed are asides the likes of Family Guy.
Part of it is a destination to get users to the site to view the celebrity gossip blog, but most are bound to see the videos elsewhere like on YouTube and other sites where the videos will be distributed.
One cutting-edge item is that each user gets a custom response to their comment, so depending on what you've written it'll send you a video back based on words or phrases it recognizes. The same goes for the site's search. However, the Blah Girl responses are currently limited to addressing positive or negative comments with stock answers.
Ultimately the site plans to make money with ads and branding found within its content including the clothes the characters are wearing and things they're talking about. Below Kutcher talks with CNET's Kara Tsuboi about Blah Girls:
Tweegee is a virtual world that mixes e-mail, personal organization, and Flash gaming. It centers on an anime-like avatar that users build part by part. Likewise they can use a similar building tool to make their own hosted site that comes ready-made with templates based on what the kids are interested.
Tweegee had by far the cutest presentation with two actual children helping out with the demo. Where the site failed to get my attention was its main use, which walks the line between being a wannabe Facebook and a GTD solution for budding 8-year-old organizers.
The next round of presenters is just around the corner. Stay tuned.