Belgian startup Maily unveiled its iPad app today, which is designed to make it easy for kids to communicate with parents, grandparents and friends via email. The app is designed specifically for kids four and up, and doesn’t even require that the user necessarily be literate yet – a graphic and image-rich interface allows kids to send virtual finger-painting as easy as text-filled messages.
It may seem like an odd market to tackle, but even among young kids, tablet use is growing. A Nielsen study from earlier this year found that 70 percent of children aged 12 and under who live in a household with a tablet use said tablet. At the same time, just 15 percent were said to have used them for communicating with friends and family. That low number could provide a significant opportunity, should the right product arrive that manages to make communication functions more appealing to the tween and under 12 set.
“Our vision is to ‘re-invent’ the concept of email for kids from four years old, some of those kids can’t even write or read yet,” Maily co-founder Tom Galle said in an interview. “ With Maily, we offer them tools that allow them to create messages in a strong visual and creative language – adapted to their needs.”
Aside from actually being legally prohibited from using a lot of popular email services from providers like Gmail and Hotmail, kids under 12 also face a number of other barriers when dealing with traditional email, according to Galle.
“Traditional email doesn’t enhance creativity and is a very practical and limited tool,” he explained. “One of the most powerful ways for young children to express themselves are through drawings and creating messages. We bring this to the digital world, by giving them the possibility to share those creations, and with the dimension to get responses by their loved ones.”
The app is free to download, something Galle said is important in helping Maily reach the broadest audience possible. The startup’s primary goal is “to become the standard communication solution for kids from four years old,” he said, which means that the company’s first objective will be growing its user base and gathering feedback. After that, Galle says a number of different revenue models have been considered, starting with paid value-add features that can be unlocked by parents through in-app purchases. Another priority for the company is keeping the app free of any and all advertising, Galle said.
Maily has been bootstrapped to date via co-founders Galle and Raphael Halberthal, but the company says it will be looking for outside funding shortly. As for the future of the startup and possible feature additions, Galle said that it would continue to focus on delivering the best messaging system possible for kids. That narrow focus could become either a significant strength, or a major liability, depending on how kids respond, as other competing tools like Kazaana are taking a more comprehensive approach, covering kids’ creative and self-expressionist urges, too.