Inclusive innovation is at the heart of our mission at Aura. We believe that creating a safer internet for everyone requires a deep understanding of the different experiences that people of all...
Inclusive innovation is at the heart of our mission at Aura. We believe that creating a safer internet for everyone requires a deep understanding of the different experiences that people of all ages and backgrounds have online.
With this goal in mind, the Aura Innovation Fund identifies and invests in early stage startups that either solve a problem for a community at especially high risk of digital threats or are led by founders from communities underrepresented in tech.
Building on the success of Aura’s first investment in HacWare last year, Aura is proud to announce its second investment in Kidas, which uses AI and machine learning to monitor voice and text chats in video games and alerts parents when their children are at risk of threats like cyberbullying, privacy violations, or predators.
Check out our Q&A with Kidas Founder & CEO Ron Kerbs below.
- You have a decade of experience working with early stage startups and leading technology teams. What is the secret to your success?
- Building the right team. Building a strong team is crucial for success because it enables individuals with complementary skills, knowledge and expertise to work together. Despite being global, the Kidas team fosters a supportive and collaborative work environment which returns increased job satisfaction, engagement and retention, ultimately contributing to the long term success of the organization.
- How did you make the connections and build the network you needed to succeed?
- Building a strong network takes time and effort. Being genuine, respectful and open to learning from others has awarded me opportunities to meet people from all avenues of business. I’m also not afraid to ask for advice when I need it.
Here are some other practical things that have helped me make connections and build the network I need to succeed:
- Attend networking events related to your industry. This is a great way to meet people who share your passion and can offer valuable insights, advice and opportunities.
- Use social media to connect with professionals in your field. LinkedIn and Twitter are excellent platforms for building connections. Join groups and try to contribute to discussions where you can.
- Attend alumni events if you graduated from university or college. These events provide an excellent opportunity to reconnect with former classmates and professors and meet other alumni who may be working in related fields.
- What motivated you to start Kidas? What sets you apart from the competition?
- As an avid gamer myself, I understand first hand the toxicity that exists in gaming communities. Despite the positive cognitive, social and entertainment value video games bring players, harmful scenarios do unfortunately exist. Due to the anonymity of gaming, children are particularly vulnerable to negative interactions where cybercriminals / cyberbullies can freely prey on and harass other players with virtually no accountability. I want to solve this problem.
Kidas is the only online software provider actively protecting children from predators while they play PC games. Kidas’ proprietary machine learning and voice contextualization software, ProtectMe, accurately analyzes and communicates with parents about potential threats, making it the most trusted tool available to families.
Our core values of safety and ethics also set Kidas apart. ProtectMe was designed with safety and ethical considerations in mind, including the prevention of biased responses, ensuring user privacy and data protection, and promoting responsible use of gaming and AI technologies.
- What does Aura’s investment and partnership mean for you and Kidas?
- Kidas’ intelligent innovation in kids’ online safety aligns with the investment goals of the Aura Innovation Fund, which supports the growth of early-stage startups making the internet safer for those especially vulnerable to online threats, including children. Through our new partnership, the ProtectMe software is now available to subscribers through Aura’s all-in-one solution, expanding the platform’s existing capabilities that service the full spectrum of family online safety needs.
- As you continue to raise funding, what's next for Kidas?
- Our goal is to continue expanding consumer access to Kidas through launching new retail and channel partnerships. We are also diligently working on adding new types of machine learning features and plan to release a parent dashboard in the coming months.
- Why do you think there aren’t more startups focused on solving problems for families and children?
- Keeping families and children safe is an important mission with a lot of complexities. Regulations, marketing and technology around privacy, and specifically children, present challenges that dissuade many from bringing their ideas to market.
Recognizing this gap in services, we saw an opportunity to build a solution that fulfills an extremely important need for parents and kids who want to enjoy the video game experience for all it can be without the intrusion of unwanted toxicity.
- What makes children so vulnerable to threats online? How is Kidas innovating solutions that better protect them?
- The increased popularity of social interactions via online gaming has exposed children around the world to serious threats and dangers. Data shows that over 50% of children who play video games (including 19 million in the U.S. alone) have encountered cyberbullying or online predators. These toxic interactions largely occur without parental knowledge, forcing kids to navigate the digital world on their own as hackers, spammers, pedophiles and other dangerous people look to prey on their vulnerability.
Kidas is solving for these threats by empowering parents to…
- Monitor their child’s text and voice communications when gaming (without invading their privacy) and alert them of serious threats to their child’s safety, as well as their vulnerability to financial scams, hacking, credit card fraud, etc.
- Review weekly reports summarizing their child’s gaming activity and obtain personalized recommendations written by Kidas experts on how to communicate and resolve dangerous situations that their kids may encounter.
- Comfortably give their kids the freedom to explore their digital interests with the peace of mind that their children have an extra layer of protection from online threats.
- What advice do you have for other founders at the beginning of their entrepreneurial journeys?
- One piece of advice I would give to a founder of a company is to stay focused on the long-term vision and goals of the organization while being adaptable to changing circumstances. Building a successful company takes time, effort and perseverance, and it is important to stay committed to the overall mission and values of the company, even in the face of challenges or setbacks. At the same time, it is also essential to be open to new ideas, feedback and market trends.
- What's the most valuable lesson you've learned?
- It may sound simple, but it’s truly mission critical to validate your business idea before investing significant time and resources into it. While it is important to have confidence in one’s vision and ideas, it is also critical to test the market and gather feedback from potential customers to ensure that there is a viable demand for the product or service.
- What qualities do you think have been critical to your success?
- We still have a long way to go to get to what we define as success. But we were fortunate to work with and learn from some of the best founders who have advised and invested in us. Here are some of my learnings:
- Persistence: Starting and growing a successful business is a challenging journey and it requires a great deal of persistence and determination. Successful founders are often those who are able to stay focused on their goals and work through challenges, setbacks and failures with resilience and a willingness to learn and adapt.
- Vision: Successful startup founders have a clear vision for what they want to achieve and the impact they want to make with their business.
- Adaptability: You have to be adaptable and flexible to navigate the complex and ever-changing landscape of starting a growing business. Be open to new ideas and feedback, both internal and external.
- What's your proudest moment to date?
- When we started Kidas we had no significant resources and couldn’t pay market salaries. I reached out to some of my former colleagues and offered for them to join me. I couldn’t be more proud that they trusted me and joined when all we had was a vision to make kids safer.
- How do you think about changing the nature of intelligent security and protecting people in their increasingly digital lives?
- The entire gaming ecosystem, including platforms, developers, software and hardware providers, etc., needs to establish an ongoing dialogue focused on implementing solutions that will eliminate toxic behaviors within the space.
Kidas, as the most advanced tool addressing the issues of harassment in online gaming, is using its position to call out toxic behaviors and working behind the scenes with key stakeholders across the industry to implement safety tools and technologies that can protect against cyberattacks.
- What do you do for fun or to relax after a day at the office?
- I am a big fan of active relaxing. I like working out, running, hiking and skiing. Currently I am preparing for the Ragnar race where teams of 6-12 runners run approximately 200 miles over two days and one night.