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KidZui vets Web for kids

A new Web company features hundreds of thousands of reviewed sites, images, and video for kids age 3 to 12.

Few YouTube videos are age-appropriate for a toddler or a pre-teen. And even fewer parents will take the time to find that dinosaur-related clip amid a slew of music and college-partying videos.

But a new Web company aims to do the work for parents. KidZui, a subscription-based browser that will cost parents $9.95 a month or $99.95 a year, offers a cordoned-off Internet for kids that features hundreds of thousands of reviewed sites, images and video for kids age 3 to 12. KidZui (pronounced kid-ZOO-ee) plans to open its service Wednesday after roughly three years of development.

"With Internet filters, most parents think they're blocking the worst of the Web, but there's so much great content for kids," said Cliff Boro, KidZui CEO and a serial tech entrepreneur. "We're taking the power of the Net and bringing it to kids in a kid-friendly way."

Kids sites are all the rage. Everyone from Disney to PBS to Mattel has launched new virtual worlds in recent months or years with various attractions for kids. PBS, for example, recently unveiled a subscription-based virtual environment that uses games to teach kids the basics of reading or math.

What's different about KidZui is that instead of trying to create a new imaginary world for children online, it has pulled together content from the Web, ensured it's appropriate for kids, and then built an engaging environment for kids around that content.

To build its service, the company hired as many as 200 contractors--parents and teachers--to rate and review Web sites and videos. It then categorized each piece of content into an appropriate age group. The company employs an editorial team to keep its library fresh.

Once parents sign up for the service, their kids (up to 10 per family) can log onto KidZui, create and decorate a personal avatar, and surf among a collection of 500,000 Web sites, pictures, and videos reviewed by the KidZui team. Categories of content on KidZui include animals, hobbies, or fairies--and the material changes depending on the child's age or if a parent adds or deletes sites or subjects. Kids can earn points to decorate an avatar by looking at new sites.

The San Diego-based company has raised $8 million in the last two years. In September 2006, Emergence Capital Partners and First Round Capital put in $3 million in a series A round of funding; and then, in July of last year, Maveron, the venture firm of Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, led a round of $5 million. Tom Kalinske, former CEO of Mattel and educational company Leapfrog, sits on the company's board.

The company will offer parents a free trial period for 30 days, or a charter membership of $4.95 per month or $49.95 per year to those who sign up in its first month.