YogiPlay unveils learning app service for children (exclusive)

The iPad and other smart devices are becoming an ideal platform for entertaining children. But the problem with content for kids on the App Store is that it is just too hard to find.

So YogiPlay is announcing today it is creating a mobile learning app service for children. Its purpose is to curate great apps for kids and give parents a single destination to find content that is age-appropriate for their children.

Menlo Park, Calif.-based YogiPlay is the brainchild of Cedric and Michal Sellin (pictured), a husband-and-wife team that aims to address the growing frustration of parents who are struggling to find the right learning apps for their kids. The platform is a destination web site dubbed YogiWorld. Parents can sign up for free to get access to a YogiPlay Parent Center account. More than 35,000 parents have already signed up during a quiet beta period. YogiPlay-boosted apps have been downloaded 100,000 times.

“We are parents ourselves and we have had frustrations finding the right apps for our children,” said Michal, chief technology officer of the company, in an interview with GamesBeat. “We can see that tablets are perfect learning devices for children, particularly in the age 3 to 8 category. But it’s just really hard to find the 5 percent of the apps that have been created for kids.”

The app has already launched, and it has had more than 100,000 downloads and 20,000 active customers. YogiPlay invites developers of high-quality kids apps to be part of the platform. Those developers integrate YogiPlay’s software development kit (SDK) into their apps.

Parents can sign up for the service and download recommended apps for their kids. Once the kids play, YogiPlay collects analytics information. It can then build a personalized recommendation for that child which suggests other apps that the child is likely to enjoy. Right now, the parent center is accessible via the web. In a few weeks, the parent center will be optimized for HTML5 so both the apps and the parent center will be accessible via mobile browsers on the iOS, Android, Kindle, and Nook platforms.

Every app is curated to be age-appropriate by a panel of educational experts. They rate each app for learning value and quality. Parents can offer their own insights into their child’s learning and play progress in the parent center.

“YogiPlay has been an incredible resource for myself and my family,” said Alexandre Bayen, father of a four-year old girl. “Before using YogiPlay, we spent hours online searching for apps guided by generally unhelpful, generic reviews.  The problem we kept running into was that on the surface most apps sounded good, but when our daughter started to play with them, the apps were either low in learning value or not very fun.  Now, all we have to do is let our daughter play with YogiPlay boosted-apps and then we get customized recommendations for other apps that are perfect for her. YogiPlay makes finding the right apps for your kids super easy. And as a busy parent, I love that.”

The Sellins are alumni of Stanford University and are engineers with entrepreneurial backgrounds. Cedric was a founding team member of Aruba Wireless Networks and Michal was one of the first engineers at Google. They decided to apply their search and data analytics background to the problem of finding and recommending apps for kids. Michal said that when kid-appropriate content accounts for only 5 percent of the titles on the App Store, it becomes impossible to find considering there are 624,000 active apps.

“The alternative to this is reading through endless reviews,” Cedric said.

The Sellins have recruited a mix of parents, engineers, game designers, and early childhood learning experts. The team has experience working at firms including LeapFrog, Sony Network Entertainment, Imagini, Landor, GapKids, and Industrious Kid. For now, the company is more interested in amassing a large number of users rather than making money at the outset.

The available YogiPlay-boosted apps today include Goldilocks and the Three Bears (by KwiqApps), Juno’s Piano and Juno Jr. The Day The Music Stopped (by The Juno Company), Fun St. Intl (by Basho & Friends), DoReMi 1-2-3 on Android (by Creativity Inc.), and BingAnimal & Bibi’s Nest (by Decamages). Though it created a couple of games early on just to test the platform,YogiPlay has decided not to produce its own content, Michal said.

The company has 10 employees, and it has raised $1 million from DN Capital and Richmond Park Partners. YogiPlay was founded in 2011. Competitors include Fingerprint Digital, KinderTown, Famigo, Callaway, Ocean Media, and TocoBoco. YogiPlay is trying to outdo the rivals by making better recommendations based on the data that it collects on each child’s learning needs and usage.

“We know that play is the best way to learn,” Michal said.


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