Previously, we covered startup PixyKids’ pre-launch funding, and now the social network for the younger demographic is ready for public access. The site is officially launching in public beta today, as well as introducing its new name and brand: Kazaana, From an Indian term meaning “treasure,” the new name is supposed to evoke the creative and sharing tools around the network, as well as just be a fun-sounding word for kids to use. Co-founder and CEO Rajul Kadakia told BetaKit that she’s also hoping it will convey the value of the network to parents and other older family members.
“We’re a family-centric platform, versus just a kid-centric platform,” she said in an interview. “PixyKids didn’t really encompass the whole family, it was just about kids, and that’s not really who we are, so we decided to take a name that was a little more encompassing.”
Despite the about-face with the name, the site is still sticking to its original mission: to provide a space for kids, parents and other close relatives to come together and share experiences. The startup has done extensive market testing to make sure that’s what Kazaana provides, which is why the platform is based around a core set of launch features designed to appeal to all the things kids love to get out of their digital experiences.
Those features include the ability to create and interact via 3D avatars that bear a fair resemblance to popular PC and console video game title The Sims, video chat similar to Skype, and also virtual spaces kids can “own” and decorate. According to Kadakia, they found while creating Kazaana that these kinds of customization features where what kids were looking for, more so even than social factors, in an online virtual shared space.
“3D avatars and customization ranked number one in our tests above everything, even all the social features,” she said. “They really like them, and even with all the ones we have, they’re asking for more. That’s why we’re working on more now.” Kadakia points to the success of 3D avatars on consoles, such as the Wii’s Mii and Xbox avatars, as examples of how that’s been popular elsewhere among younger users.
It’s that focus on customization that will help Kazaana remain unique and attractive even if Facebook begins to target younger users, as a recent WSJ article claimed they could. Also, Kadakia believes her network’s strong focus on security, which has earned it a number of privacy certifications from organizations, like the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, will help it stand apart from Facebook, which bases much of its business model around gathering information associated with its users and using that for marketing purposes.
Kazaana still might face an uphill climb, since it wants to both convince kids that it’s a great place to hang out and socialize, as well as keep parents and relatives in the loop about what they’re doing. But especially for the younger kids, it should provide a simpler way to connect than via existing, business-focused tools like Skype. Also, the startup is planning the introduction of additional features, including a mobile app that Kadakia described as somewhat like Instagram for kids, which also allows them to view their social feed from the site. Native mobile apps should also help with reach, which is what Kazaana will need plenty of in order to execute on its monetization strategies down the road, which center on virtual currency and goods to drive revenue.