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iKids Summer 2014

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ikids_Summer 2014 16 two investment groups in particular are behind some of these companies. Incubator group Techstars, which has a significant presence in Boulder, as well as many other cities in the US, and venture investment company the Foundry Group were both founded by Brad Feld. He is particularly interested in growing the digital startup scene in Boulder. Feld believes in an entrepreneurial ecosystem, a vision he's dubbed as the "Boulder Thesis," which suggests that an environment needs a mix of old and new entrepreneurs, inclusive of all kinds of business experience and ability. The ecosystem thrives on meetups, hackathons, conferences, professional get-togethers and business pitch events. KELOWNA, CANADA Located roughly 240 miles east of Van- couver and 310 miles northeast of Seattle, Canada's Kelowna is similar in size to Boul- der and has the beginnings of the same entrepreneurial ingredients. A number of seasoned local entrepreneurs have turned their interests toward investing in local technology startups, many of which revolve around videogames, animation, social media and virtual worlds. In terms of local kidtech, the success story of Club Penguin, which was acquired by Disney in 2007, plays an important role in Kelowna. As with other large investment locations, an established leader in the area will often result in the appearance of many small startups with a similar interest over time. High-profile former employees include the likes of Club Penguin's co-founders, who have moved on to start some of these new companies: Hyper Hippo is one such Kelowna startup founded by Club Penguin co-founder Lance Priebe. While Hyper Hippo is a game devel- opment company, it also recently launched a new immersive virtual world for kids called Mech Mice. Lane Merrifield is another co-founder of Club Penguin. He recently left Disney to start a new business called Fresh Grade, which develops classroom management and assess- ment products that teachers and parents can use to access up-to-the-minute information about their students through a mobile device. Just Be Friends is a local-social education platform that connects parents, kids, neighbors and schools to help strengthen local communi- ties. Founded by Janice Taylor, who has ap- peared on Oprah, the startup initially launched in San Francisco but eventually moved to Kelowna. A great strength of Club Penguin is its child-safe chat-filtering technology. The former chat technology specialists for the company started a new online chat-filtering business called Two Hat Security, also known in the industry as PottyMouth, to offer other global kid-focused businesses safe online chat technologies. Accelerate Okanagan is one local organi- zation that is advancing much of the startup activity in the region. Now in its third year, Accelerate is an incubator for fledgling busi- nesses, and its only requirement is that com- panies pay a US$200 per month assistance fee and monthly rent for office space. Once paid, a host of resources become available, includ- ing mentorship, legal advice, business advice, access to talent, and cross-collaboration with other Accelerate Okanagan businesses. The incubator also receives government funding. Currently, roughly 50% of the revenue needed to support incubator initiatives comes from government money, but it's anticipated that this percentage will drop year over year. In the last two years, Accelerate Okanagan has raised more than US$8 million from local businesses and entrepreneurs to advance startups, as well as help fund local area meet- ings and get-togethers. Unlike other incuba- tors, Accelerate Okanagan does not ask for any equity, which is a rare opportunity—and one that is helping about eight kid-focused businesses right now. PITTSBURGH, PENNSYLVANIA Believe it. The Pittsburgh community is playing its part in the startup scene—and it's brilliant. Pittsburgh also happens to be home NOTEWORTHY MENTIONS There are a few businesses that don't fall cleanly under the category of kidtech, or do not hail from one of these cities, but they are kid-related businesses worth noting. Washington, DC-based Zoobean launched in 2012 and is a parent-driven online recommendation service that curates apps and books for children. The company also recently made a big splash on the reality startup show Shark Tank. Zoobean landed US$250,000 from one of the show's investors, Mark Cuban, bringing its current fund- raising tally to US$1.2 million. Nix Hydra is a teen girl gaming company based in L.A. that has attracted a lot of attention with its first app release called Egg Baby, which has been downloaded nine million times. The company just landed US$5 million from the Foundry Group. Another business with an active, high-profile Kickstarter campaign is from LeVar Burton of Reading Rainbow fame. His L.A.-based eBook business, RR Kids, was looking to raise more than US$1 million to expand its subscription-based children's eBook of- ferings. At press time, RR Kids had exceeded its goal more than three times over. Game development company Hyper Hippo calls Kelowna, Canada its home

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