Good secrets are hard to keep. Ever since the first weeks of the Nike+ Accelerator in Portland, we’ve been hearing from investors and mentors in and around the program about a unique fast moving company, with a very large vision, led by unique Founders with the capacity to think and execute BIG, in a very difficult space (Pre-teens). That Company is GeoPalz, led by its Founders, friends Richard Schmelzer and Alexandra O’Leary, who since 1997 have created significant companies in both the digital and physical realm.
Having already built and exited a successful company that every parent of a Croc-wearing young child has either purchased or seen, Jibbitz (purchased by Crocs, they are the clip-on characters kids put on their Crocs), and WorldPrints (acquired by Excite@Home) among others, the duo has set out to achieve an ambitious goal with a similarly ambitious product: Getting kids to be more active. The Boulder-based company is already the category leader in delivering character-based pedometers to young children under the GeoPalz banner,trackers which unlock rewards and desktop gameplay when a child reaches its parentally set goals. Now, the Company is rolling out iBitz and has announced a major co-branding deal with Disney’s Club Penguin!
The idea was spawned when the Founders noticed that GeoPalz kids “graduate”, when their parents give them their first smartphone. The insight, then, was to tie a new device with a “cooler” tween appropriate form factor, to the iPhone, and other smart devices. The appropriate level of activity would then unlock rewards and application use, across digital devices, including your TV, as well as provide life to the virtual pet whose existence is tied to activity. In essence, physical activity, tracked by a cool gadget, would provide not only a fun game-like experience itself, but also provide access control to the universe of devices and applications that tweens want. Badly. Imagine that your 11 year old wanted to use Instagram or Snapchat or Wanelo or watch an episode of iCarly, but couldn’t until they walked 2 miles! The parent in us that often hides broccoli in our kids pizza, loves this approach.
Given the challenges of marketing to a dually fickle audience (parents, and tweens), designing, manufacturing and shipping millions of units of a complex consumer electronic devices to retail and direct to consumers, the Children’s Online Protection Act, which creates additional overhead in working with tweens online, and creating engaging consumer experiences across mobile platform that fulfills the ambitions of the Founders, GeoPalz has its work cut out for it. Then again, with multiple successes under their belt, and the payoff at stake, we are excited to see how this progresses. At scale, the business could get very interesting: The Company not only will be driving significant high margin revenue off device sales in the millions, but also could if successful sit at the access point to every device, every application, across multiple platforms–mobile, tablet, and TV. “Developer, do you want access to millions of kids? Perhaps our SDK would do you well!”
Now that too is an ambition we can get behind!
You can read about the Company and their Nike+Accelerator Spotlight in a great Geekwire post here.