Montreal-based HighScore House, the startup aimed at helping kids generate enthusiasm for chores through gamification, today launched its latest app. FamJam, the new app, takes the company in a different direction, but it’s one that HighScore House founder Kyle Seaman told BetaKit in an interview came naturally out of their experience interacting with families through its original approach.
“Famjam is the communication hub for families and is based on a lot of what we’ve learnt from HighScore House,” he said. “Over the last year we’ve discovered three specific needs for families: Connecting with grandparents and extended family; helping distant parents, who might be travelling for work or who are separated, stay connected with their kids; and apps designed for the entire family, not just parents or just kids.”
FamJam is designed to address all those needs, by “keeping kids at the center,” but also introducing a number of communication features to help address those pain points listed above. It takes advantage of HighScore House’s experience, but also a unique trend happening right now in terms of a confluence of comfort around technology.
“For the first time since the TV, babies to grandparents are comfortable on the same technology platform – the iPad, which is quickly becoming the central device in many families,” Seaman notes. “FamJam is an iPad app, but we’ve designed it so anyone on the families contact list, like grandpa, only needs an email address to stay in touch with his grandchildren.”
FamJam allows kids and parents or other relatives to stay in touch via picture and drawing sharing. It’s a little like a family friendly, kid safe version of Instagram or Draw Something, and that’s intentional. HighScore House wanted to create a tool that both resembled those popular apps, which kids are naturally interested in, and also provide the security and safety that parents crave.
“Email, Instagram and Draw Something are apps that kids want to be using, unfortunately they just aren’t designed for kids or for families,” Seaman said. “Limitations like a single user accounts per device, and generally unfiltered or unsafe content and access to strangers makes most parents weary of letting their kids use the apps.”
FamJam ensures privacy by making it so that only parents can add people to the pre-approved sharing list, and since there’s no public-facing account or contact info, the circle stays closed. Seaman compares it to a virtual fridge door, where parents can share their kids’ drawings with a tight-knit inner circle.
The app is new territory for HighScore House, but their general goal of providing software that’s aimed at and designed for kids is still in place. In future versions, the startup will add in-app purchases to the free app, as well as a web-based ecommerce solution where family members can buy prints of the drawings made by children in the app. Existing HighScore House investor Dave McClure of 500 Startups has contributed to new funding for FamJam, as well as new investors Bob Mason and Glenn Graff.
The startup’s vision of how best to serve kids is clearly evolving, and this does seem to address a gap in currently available offerings aimed at children. Still, it remains uncertain how this’ll compare against things like SMS and other app-based sharing activity, and whether or not it’ll provide a viable alternative to the adult-oriented apps that kids are already gravitating towards.