Parents of younger children are having to navigate uncharted territory as it pertains to the relationship their kids have with mobile devices and social media. Parents born before the mid 1990s grew up in a vastly different environment than the one their kids face today. Media was mass and delivered mostly through the television. Mobile devices were not yet in existence. The internet was still coming of age, and social media had not yet been invented.
Today, as almost any parent can attest, kids are spending more and more time, at younger and younger ages accessing the internet via mobile devices. Nearly all children age eight and under live in a home with some type of mobile device, and (pre-pandemic) they were spending on average two hours and 15 minutes a day with screen media, up from one hour 55 minutes in 2013. The COVID-19 pandemic has placed parents in a challenging predicament. Struggling to find time for work, they have turned to mobile devices to entertain their kids throughout the day, and screen time has soared. According to Morning Consult, six out of 10 parents say that before the pandemic, their children’s screen time topped out at three hours. In August 2020, seven out of 10 estimated their kids now spend at least four hours with screens.
So where are kids spending this time? The answer is the vast majority are spending their time watching videos on YouTube. According to this report from Social Media, Television and Children, the most popular social media sites for children 0–7 and 8–16 breaks down as follows:
But younger kids are also emulating their older friends and brothers and sisters, and are finding their way onto social networks like TikTok and Instagram, despite the fact that the majority of these sites require their users to be at least 13 years of age. And by gross amount of time, they may be spending the most on gaming platforms like Minecraft and Roblox. In the nine months ended September 2020, Roblox had a total of 31.3M daily active users globally equating to 82.2 million hours of total collective engagement every day, or an average of 2.6 hours per daily active user each day. 54% of those users were aged 12 and under, meaning Roblox reaches nearly 17M kids 12 and under worldwide each and every day.
As with many other long-gestating trends, the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated things that were already happening. And like it or not, parents have started to accept the reality that their young children are going to continue to spend time on mobile devices. Increased screen time can drive up parental anxiety. Parents reflexively know that much of what their kids are watching online is not appropriate for people their age. Imagine sitting down on the couch next to your three year old son and glancing over at his iPad only to see him laughing at “baby no no” videos. As many others have detailed, YouTube, including YouTube Kids can be very unsafe places for young children. This is not to say that the majority of content on YouTube is bad, but things are designed in such a way that kids can be drawn into endless loops of mesmerizing content. And much of the content on Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok and Facebook is not safe for kids under 13. If kids are going to spend more time on mobile devices the question becomes how to make this work to the parents and kids’ advantage.
Zigazoo: Combining Parent Needs with Kid Wants
Today MaC Venture Capital is excited to announce that we have led the seed round for Zigazoo, a social-video network for children. Dubbed the “TikTok for Kids”, Zigazoo has created an infectious product that both delights kids and satisfies parents. As we discussed above, kids love spending time on mobile devices watching videos and socializing with friends. Parents want educational and safe spaces for their kids online. Zigazoo uses AI and advanced video technology to make streaming an interactive, social learning experience that kids love and parents trust. We are investing alongside a noteworthy group of investors that includes Serena Ventures, Talis Capital, Jimmy Kimmel, Wheelhouse Entertainment, Chris Williams, Matt Rutler, Jeremy Padawer (Jazwares), Tech Coast Angels, and James “Baby Doll” Dixon.
The Zigazoo app is centered around kids recording videos of themselves completing a variety of “challenges” that range from creating a baking soda volcano to making fractions out of food, and targets kids from preschool to middle school. Those videos are then posted to the app and can be tagged and shared with friends. The challenges themselves are driven by Zigazoo content partners who issue these calls to action. Zigazoo currently has over 35 channel partners who include the Phoenix and Philadelphia Zoos, Glazer Children’s Museum, Sweet Farm, Encantos Media, the award-winning children’s music artist, author, kids’ yoga & mindfulness expert Kira Willey, Peppa Pig and others.
On Zigazoo Classrooms, teachers and pod leaders can create their own private classroom communities and moderate content on their own. Educators can use this classroom to create custom challenges or pull any Zigazoo challenges to assign directly to their students. Students that are part of a classroom can only see what has been assigned to them.
Zigazoo was founded by Zak Ringelstein, a successful entrepreneur with quite a bit under his belt: a Teach for America alumni and Forbes 30 Under 30 designee, Zak previously built and sold an EdTech company called UClass which connected over 5,000 U.S. public schools with resources, dashboards and forums for students, teachers and administrators. He was Maine’s 2018 Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate — and the first-ever millennial nominee for U.S. Senate by the Democratic party — and authored the “$60K Minimum Teacher Salary” Policy (a variation of which was endorsed by most 2020 democratic candidates for president).
Zak’s team is equally as impressive. Head of marketing, Saiji Kanak has five years marketing experience from Rakuten where he managed digital marketing affiliate strategies for numerous clients including those in financial services, fashion, food, and technology. Head of Engineering Keith McManimen has 20 years of experience in various technical positions, including most recently at Comcast where he was as Director of Software and Engineering for Xfinity Mobile. Head of Strategic Partnerships David Yang spent four years at Nickelodeon in Partner Marketing roles working with companies like Disney, Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures, 20th Century Fox, and Nintendo. Rounding out the team is Leah Ringelstein as Zigazoo’s Head of Education. Like her husband Zak, Leah is also a former Teach for America educator and was co-founder of UClass.
A Holistic and Social Approach to Learning
Through learning, kids hit specific language, social, cognitive and physical milestones as they grow. This learning can be visual, auditory, tactile or kinesthetic. There is also knowledge based learning where information is absorbed through reading (or being read) books, listening to a lecture, or watching videos. Then there is skill based learning, which is also sometimes called purpose or project based learning, where learning happens by way of doing. Project-based learning tends to be mission-oriented and social.
Given Zigazoo was developed by an educator, it’s not surprising that the means by which kids learn through the app is a combination of different learning styles and methods. By no means is it easy to wrap a learning product in a candy wrapper that is enjoyable and authentic to kids, but that is exactly what Zigazoo has done.
Andreessen Horowitz recently published a series of essays called Social Strikes Back where they explore the trends behind the rise of new social companies. In their essay Community Takes All: The Power of Social+ they talk about how the best version of every consumer product is the one that’s intrinsically social. This is certainly true in education, and Zigazoo exemplifies the social+ education company. On Zigazoo, kids aren’t just in their own single-player viewing experiences; they do challenges and share their video responses with friends in a social community.
A Commitment to Safety
Zigazoo takes moderation very seriously and goes to great lengths to create a safe environment for its users, and they have received stellar reviews from child safety groups that include Common Sense Media and Protect Young Eyes. They take a four-point approach to providing a safe and fun environment for their users:
- Verified, Secure Sign-Up Process: In order to sign up to use Zigazoo, you must single sign-on through verified Facebook, Google, or Apple accounts. There is no random creation of usernames. In accordance with our terms and conditions, Zigazoo accounts must be created by users over 18 years of age for children.
- User Controls and Human Moderation: Users have control over whether they want their content to be seen on the Zigazoo feed. Zigazoo puts every single piece of feed content through a stringent human moderation process that reviews for a number of different issues.
- Controlled, Positive Interactions: Unlike TikTok, Facebook, and YouTube — there is no private messaging, commenting, or negative emojis on Zigazoo. Users only see videos that make it through our stringent human moderation process and interact using positive-only emojis that promote healthy online relationships.
- Friend vs Follow Feature: Unlike TikTok, where there is a public feed and users can follow everyone, Zigazoo requires users to opt-in to being followed, similar to Facebook.
The Big Opportunity
On a simplistic level, as parents we want a better alternative for our kids when it comes to social and video options. Zigazoo is a fun and engaging product that allows kids to have fun with friends while acquiring knowledge in different areas. In the vast landscape of apps used by kids, very few embody the elements of video, social, fun and learning in the way Zigazoo does.
We have witnessed the large cultural trend of young kids growing up with mobile devices and social and video apps. The data is clear on the direction of time spent by kids 12 and under on various social media platforms, games and other video apps. Zigazoo is building into this trend.
All of this presents an enormous business opportunity. Scott Galloway has argued that edutainment has the potential to be a $30 billion yearly recurring revenue business. And as this 2019 PWC Kids Digital Media report points out:
- The global kids digital advertising market will continue to grow in excess of 20% to $1.7 billion by 2021.
- As kids’ media and content is increasingly consumed via desktop, mobile and tablet devices, brands will move more advertising spend onto these digital platforms, and shift spend away from traditional (non digital) channels.
- Kids TV audiences are declining, as kids increasingly prefer digital alternatives. TV viewership in the 2–11 age group has declined nearly 30% since 2014.
- Increasing spend and activity has attracted investors to the digital kids and kidtech sectors (see the chart below).
- Kidtech is emerging as an important technology to support brands and publishers to engage kids online.
We feel parents, educators, and children will continue to find increasing value in social+ edutainment that leverages the best in mobile and social technology to deliver a product that helps kids learn in a multitude of ways, and in mediums that are very native to their world. We’re excited to be backing Zigazoo, an early leader in this space.
Michael Palank led the Zigazoo Series Seed round for MaC Venture Capital.
About MaC Venture Capital
MaC Venture Capital is a seed-stage venture capital firm that invests in technology startups leveraging shifts in cultural trends and behaviors. Our diverse backgrounds in technology, business, government, entertainment, and finance allow us to accelerate entrepreneurs on the verge of their breakthrough moment. We provide hands-on support crucial for building and scaling category-leading companies, including operations strategy, brand building, recruiting, and mission-critical introductions. At MaC, our mission is to invest in visionary founders building the future we want to see.