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App Gives Parents Option Not to Leave Kids to Their Own Devices

Build a better parenting app, and the world will beat a path to your door.

The twist on the old adage holds true for ParentsWare Inc. — though there is a complicated middle step: Your app has to catch the eye of a British celebrity chef, who posts an unsolicited video on Facebook praising your product.

Amir Moussavain

ParentsWare, based in Carmel Valley, makes an easy-to-use app called OurPact. It lets moms or dads set limits on the times a child can use his or her mobile device. OurPact does it by blocking the internet or apps on the child’s device.

ParentsWare has seen the use of OurPact spike in the United Kingdom following the unsolicited plug from Jamie Oliver, a U.K. chef, author and parent of teenagers. Oliver posted an online video praising OurPact in December.

ParentsWare first released its beta version of the app 16 months ago. The business just hit 600,000 users. When a reporter recently visited the company, its servers were getting the most hits from the British Isles. There are users in more than 100 countries, said Edward Hunter, the company’s chief technology officer.

The business uses cloud servers from Amazon.com Inc.

With OurPact, parents are able to set times when their children’s cellphones won’t connect to the internet (via a Wi-Fi or cellular connection). These might be times set aside for school, dinner, homework or bed.

A parent might block access to apps in a similar manner.

One function lets parents block or grant internet access on the spot. Parents have the option of doing it for a certain number of minutes or hours, or “until I say so.”

Three U.S. Patents

ParentsWare has three U.S. patents on its technology and is processing a dozen more, in the United States and abroad. The existing patents cover cloud technology allowing the user to automate device management according to family agreements and schedules.

So far, OurPact is free. In August, ParentsWare plans to introduce a tiered product with free and premium versions. Versions with increased functionality will require payment. Hunter said company officials are still deciding what to charge.

“It should be something people don’t have to think twice about,” he said, estimating that a monthly subscription will probably cost less than $10.

The business plans to release yet another version in December.

Cruise Controlled

Future enhancements might include the ability to transfer control of a device from a parent to a teacher during the school day. Another possibility might be the system that can shut down a young person’s device when it detects motion — that is, when the young person is driving a car.

ParentsWare is looking at several other markets for its technology. It is mulling a product for managing corporate devices, or managing access to enterprise or school networks.

Another application would limit where people could get access to the internet. Access would be granted depending on whether a person was inside or outside a “geofence.”

Still another option would be to place limits on wearable devices, gaming consoles, televisions or other connected devices. ParentsWare might stake out territory in the Internet of Things as more common household or workplace objects get connected.

ParentsWare has a few competitors, Hunter said, though he described competition as fragmented.

Amir Moussavian is founder and chairman of ParentsWare. Moussavian is also CEO of San Diego-based MIR3, a company that specializes in mass notification products. Jim Magner is president and chief operating officer of ParentsWare.

Investors include the executive team and individuals who have been unnamed — with one notable exception. ParentsWare announced recently that New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees made an investment in the company after he started using the app with his family.

“OurPact is a product I believe in,” Brees said in a prepared statement. The amount of his investment was not disclosed.

Hunter said the business might look for an institutional partner after it starts collecting revenue. Venture funding might be another option.

PARENTSWARE INC.

President and COO: Jim Magner

Revenue: Pre-revenue

No. of local employees: 25

Investors: The executive team, undisclosed individuals

Headquarters: Carmel Valley

Year founded: 2013

What makes the company innovative: ParentsWare offers patented cloud technology allowing a user with one mobile device to grant or block access to another mobile device.

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