mobileminder: Keeping Children Secure on the Networks

The recent proliferation of affordable and easy-to-use smart phones has resulted in many children having unlimited access to the Internet and potential exposure to unsuitable content which is beyond the reach of any parental supervision.

Mobileminder is a product from Dublin-based start up Associate Mobile which allows parents to monitor their children’s mobile-phone activity, and to also utilise their phone’s technology to ensure their safety. The product is currently available for Android smart phones.

Founded in 2011 by Don Corbett and Brian Shannon. Associate Mobile is one of the participants in the Propeller Venture Accelerator program in Dublin City University’s Ryan Academy.

Mobileminder was launched “very quickly” says co-founder Don Corbett. “We wanted to see if it could get any traction, if the market really validated the proposition and if people would really buy it. People did buy it, and we used that as a market research exercise to get viable feedback on how we could build out version two.”

Version two of Mobileminder is, he says, “much, much better, there’s quite a lot of innovative stuff in it, very cutting edge”.

“It’s a complete parental supervision platform for mobiles and also a safety platform for mobiles, so it allows a parent to set a location for their child and when the child reaches the location the parent gets notified that they’ve arrived safely.”

Among the features offered by Mobileminder are:

  • Geo-fencing:The parent can set a geo-fence area and receive a notification when the child enters this area.
  • Flagged words: This allows the parent to input words which might indicate bullying or inappropriate content, and if these appear in the child’s SMS messages, the parent will be alerted.
  • Web browsing filter: The mobile can be set to, “create a safe environment on the mobile for the child to surf the Internet so they won’t go on to an inappropriate site by mistake.”

Don and Brian have noticed that in the blurring of the lines between mobile phone and computer there was a gap in the level of protection afforded to children. “It’s about giving the same tools to a parent on mobile phones that are available for the Internet to protect their child”, explains Don.

Don has identified the controversial areas of “sexting” and cyber-bullying as cases where Mobileminder might prove particularly effective. With proposed anti-sexting legislation pending in many U.S. states Don envisages a high demand in the American market.

Access to the lucrative U.S. market is crucial in this regard, and the Propeller program gives Associated Mobile, “a foothold into the U.S. without having to actually move to the U.S.,” through their links with Arizona State University.
The Propeller programme has been “brilliant” in many ways admits Don, even down to its connection with the Ryan Academy. The Ryan Academy, which this week partnered with Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) to provide entrepreneurship training for postdoctoral researchers at research centres in Irish Universities, holds a special significance for Don.

“Tony Ryan is a legendary Irish entrepreneur. It is great to actually affiliated with something that associated with him.”

As regards life outside Propeller, Don’s aims are simple, “Survival. We want to put things in place that will allow us to give ourselves more runway so we can survive until we can close a funding round.”

He is hopeful that revenues from Mobileminder will be sufficient to allow Associated Mobile to survive, and retain some independence.

“We don’t want to be completely dependent on closing a funding round. The start up world is, well our company is anyway, fighting to create revenue, even if it’s short term revenue through services, just to stay alive so we can build that proposition. We don’t look on ourselves as someone who burns through investor cash while validating our proposition; we’d rather validate the proposition while we’re fighting and struggling, get the investor cash and then scale. That’s kind of the mentality that we’re taking forward here.”

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