Krissa Watry‘s career started in a less-traveled place — space. The MIT-educated rocket scientist spent nearly a decade in the aerospace sector as a U.S. Air Force officer and has worked in technology programs with the DoD, NASA, and commercial space industry, including launching satellites and sending items to the International Space Station.
Despite Watry’s success in the commercial and government aerospace sectors, she felt like she wanted to contribute to the technology space on this planet.
“I had tech in my hands at a really young age,” says Watry. “I wanted to make an impact on Earth, so I founded B2B2C Dynepic as a product design firm.” The veteran founder brought in her mother and early childhood educator for 40+ years, Jacqueline Arn, as a business partner.
Inspired by her own early exposure to technology, Watry focused on how children can interact with tech from an early age in a safe space with parents’ approval and supervision as the world gets more connected.
“Kids are the early adopters, yet no one was really focused on how they connected into the digital world,” says Watry. She’s right — children 8 and younger are spending up to two hours a day on screens, with 42 percent of them owning their own tablet devices.
“I kept watching all of my friends take tech out of their children’s hands because they were scared of it. The more they were educated, the more they were taking the tech out,” says Watry. “I started thinking if there’s a way to make this a safe playground for kids to be able to play, be able to learn, and get those skills that will mend their future.”
“When kids are born they have no understanding of the past. They only see the way the world is today and they think about what it could do for tomorrow,” says Watry. “This is a hard challenge. It’s harder than docking to a space station.”
With this goal in mind, Watry moved forward with Dynepic’s educational toy line, with backing from the National Science Foundation. However, she quickly realized that it wasn’t a good fit within the toy industry; it was just too complex for distribution and marketing. “They all looked at me and said, you’re ten years ahead. We’re not Google or Apple; we don’t know how to do this,” says Watry.
She gathered feedback from companies and parents, along with their voiced concerns about privacy laws. She pivoted Dynepic into a secure ‘Internet for Kids’ platform with the release of their first product, iOKids.
“I realized that if I built a platform that could power all of their toys, we could sell it to them as a service. It’s taken three years to build up this platform, but we’re finally at a point where we are fully privacy-certified by the FTC. Now, we’re at the table with all the top toy companies for upcoming rollouts.”
iOKids is a secure connection for kids to interact with games, wearables, interactive toys, and more within a safe, manageable space. Most apps only allow ages 13 and older, but with iOKids, companies can integrate iOKids to handle child authentication, parental consent, and moderated kid-safe features. It helps the companies increase their audience as well as get to market faster.
It contains a social community network where kids can connect with their friends with parental approval. Similar to when parents were able to knock on your best friend’s door to ask permission, iOKids connects parents to keep a watchful eye on their children’s interactions.
“I got feedback since everyone parents a little differently,” says Watry. “What we found was that kids that are 12-years-old had a much different upbringing than those that are 3-5 years old. The younger ones had their own device the entire time and the older ones grew up borrowing their parents. We watched the big evolution of how kids interact and responded to that.”
The iOKids platform connects with a family network, playPORTAL, for parents to manage all of their kids’ profiles, their data, and approve friendships. The playPORTAL gateway will morph with the age of the current user and only show appropriate content.
Watry shares that Dynepic just closed a seed-level bridge funding round as they get ready to publicly launch their next iOKids app — ShotDoctor. The app, first launched at CES 2018, lets kids compete with their friends and learn how to shoot basketballs. They can also share points with their coach.
The Charleston-based startup has raised about $1 million to date, backed by female-focused The JumpFund and other Southeastern funds, and is currently participating in the current Techstars Boulder cohort.
“We’re hoping to expand our network since the Southeast doesn’t have the leads for us to scale,” says Watry. “What we are trying to do is so big — a gateway for kid-safe connected play. It’s taken a while to get off the ground — most toy companies tried and failed. We’ve definitely had an evaluation compression being in the Southeast, but that said, being a female-run tech startup, I’ve had great support in the area.”