Episode #488: How saving mobile app developers $16,000 per user led to a business – with AgeCheq founder Roy Smith

Episode #488

I open this episode with asking the question “what is COPPA?” – the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. Designed to protect young children from the perils of online life it has, over the last 4 years, shifted its focus to include mobile applications and games. Why should you care? Well, as of July 1, 2013 if you develop mobile applications you need to be COPPA-compliant or face steep fines should you get caught. The problem is that in order to be COPPA compliant you may actually need to use a fax machine or a stamp and you certainly need to understand what it means to sell mobile apps to children and the consequences.

To help us through this very process – from identifying what COPPA is, to what it takes to be compliant to what this means to the mobile app industry – is Roy Smith, founder of AgeCheq. Roy is the co-founder of FlyCast and AppMobi and identified a huge opportunity to help large and small app development shops to ensure they don’t get slapped with a debilitating fine for not being COPPA ready.

This law, if not adhered to, could cast a shadow on this nascent mobile industry so listen up and take action to ensure you don’t suffer from it when it gets enforced.

Enjoy!



Key takeaways from this episode. Click on the link and the video will take you to that clip

1. Can you build a mobile company outside of San Francisco? 3:00
2. What is COPPA? 7:00
3. What is the REAL issue that COPPA addresses in mobile? 8:20
4. Are developers aware of COPPA? 9:35
5. What does COPPA mean to mobile developers? What do they need to do? 12:50
6. Why build AgeCheq? 19:20
7. Should COPPA compliance fall to the app stores? 22:40
8. What happened to FlyCast and AppMobi? 25:45
9. How did you identify this opportunity? 29:00
10. What is AgeCheq? How does it work for developers and parents? 31:31
11. How did you figure out if this is a big market? 37:00
12. How does AgeCheq become the gold standard brand in the industry? 38:35
13. What has the process been to build the company to date? 42:50
14. How do you leverage the latest identity technologies for COPPA compliance? 46:10
15. How do you find the top app developers for first customers? 50:10
16. What is the AgeCheq revenue model? 55:00
17. Why AgeCheq is analogous to the early days of PayPal? 59:30
18. How AgeCheq becomes a recommendation engine 61:20

Raw Transcript Click here to download the transcript as a pdf

Rob: Hello, everybody, and welcome to Untether.tv. I’m your host and founder, Rob Woodbridge.
Well, what the hell is COPPA. What the hell is this, that you have to adhere to. If you are an app developer, a game developer, or a parent, you have to worry about something like this.
It’s called the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. And did you know that if you are not compliant… and we’re going to find out what it is in a second, but here’s a teaser. If you are not compliant, it could cost you $16,000. And that’s not just $16,000. That’s $16,000 per user. And if you are an app maker, I would be quaking in my boots.
But that’s why you come here. You come here to learn about what you can do. And we have the guy that can help you right now. His name is Roy Smith. He’s the founder and CEO of a company called AgeCheq. And he is going to make this process, COPPA compliance, easy for you, the developer, and a piece of cake for you, the parent who is concerned about your kids online and with the app space.
So I’m bringing in Roy right now. Thank you so much for doing this. I really appreciate your time, man.

Roy: Thank you for having me. Wonderful.

Rob: We were saying just before we got on the air is that you’re in Pennsylvania. You are in where… just outside of Lancaster, Pennsylvania?

Roy: In York, Pennsylvania. This is where the streets are paved with peppermint patties, and we all have barbells.

Rob: Nice. Love it. Well, you know, you were saying that… is that the Mecca, or the hub, of technology for Pennsylvania?

Roy: No. I say that as a joke. I mean, it’s very… it’s a farming-type community, and people… as we were involved with AppMobi and its prior companies, people would always say, “Why are you there?” And the answer is,
“That’s where we founded it.” So…

Rob: It’s exactly…

Roy: …no particular reason. Have we had to do it again, we might have gone somewhere that had more infrastructure. But we were able to do it there.

Rob: It’s funny. You know, that’s an odd question. “Why did you found it there?” “Well, that’s because my house was right on the street, and I lived in that house, and I thought of the idea there, and I wanted to build a company, right?” So it’s not like you leave, and then you go into New York, and then you come up with a brilliant idea. It just strikes you where you are, which is…
I’m always interested in this. Because, you know, there is a… and maybe you can answer this before we just get into the content here. Is that, you know, you said that about AppMobi, and those of you that don’t know, Roy’s a co-founder of a company called AppMobi. I interviewed his co-
founder way back in the day. I think it was July 2010. It was Sam Abedeer, and the episode is up on Untether.tv.
But I’m interested in all that, because I see a lot of entrepreneurs starting companies in rural areas, and that’s the promise of mobile. You can start it in your basement. It doesn’t matter where you are, because you’ve got this global distribution system.
But then, you know, they just kind of migrate west, right? They end up… all of them end up heading to San Francisco. And I’m wondering, would you… you know, is that something that you would have done? Should have done?

Roy: Well, I started my first high-tech company in this area in 1985, which was a company called Turtle Beat Systems, that ended up making sound cards for PCs when the multimedia revolution happened. So back then, there was really no infrastructure to support us. You know, we couldn’t get any bank financing. There were very few VCs that would even take the time to come from DC or New York to even talk to us.
So that was tough. I have to say, with the internet and the world getting much, much smaller… you know, I’ve been involved in quite a few start-ups since then. These days, it’s much less of an issue. I mean, you can find qualified people… like engineers. People always say, “Well, how do you get engineers? You’re in the middle of a very rural area.” Well, I’ll tell you what. There’s a lot of great engineering talent that doesn’t want to live in New York…

Rob: That’s right.

Roy: …and doesn’t want to live in San Francisco. And if you can make yourself known in an area like we are, they come to us. I mean, we never really had a pr-… we weren’t staffing up 300 or 400 engineers. But to do a couple dozen engineers that are really quality guys, we didn’t have any trouble.
So I think the world’s gotten a lot smaller and flatter.

Rob: Yeah. And it’s great that way. And Ottowa is the city that I live in. It’s the same way. We used to be a fiber-optics and a telecom city. And, you know, mid-’80s, we made that transition into a software city. And it’s always been the kind of bubbling under. And it hasn’t been hard to find engineers, because the companies have been able to remain nimble and agile and a little bit smaller than in Toronto and the surrounding areas.
But I’m just, I’m always interested by that. Plus…

Roy: I mean, the telecommuting is now very doable, so…

Rob: Yeah.

Roy: …the physical location of people isn’t nearly the issue it used to be.

Rob: No kidding. Yeah. Well, especially like what we’re doing right now, right?

Roy: Exactly.

Rob: It’s HD, high quality audio and video with a free program and internet connection. So, but that’s not what we’re to talk about.
Sorry about that. I’m always interested about this whole, I always believe that mobile has a democratized entrepreneurship. And it’s a combination of technologies we have at hand. And the ability to distribute them. Why would you leave?

Roy: I totally agree with you. I constantly remark. You can get an outsourced back end. You don’t have to build things. Content manage webpages. You don’t have to build your own web-page. It’s really easy to make start-ups these days. And the VC’s are hurting because these startups don’t need five or ten million dollars to get started.
You can do a really butt kicking start-up for half a million to a million dollars. And you don’t need VC money for that. You can get that from friends and family.

Rob: You know, even of that money, half a million to a million dollars, most of that is in the outward stuff. In the marketing and awareness making. Because the technology, the infrastructure, is relatively speaking, free. Right?

Roy: Right. As we speak on a free tele-interview package, yes. You’re right.

Rob: And it makes it harder and harder for VC’s to find those companies that they can put that money in. Because it’s going towards something that’s so intangible. It’s not locking an IP, it’s getting product out the door. We can talk about this forever but I …

Roy: That’s another show.

Rob: Yeah, exactly. And you know, you’ve seen that ramp. Having done this, as you have, since those early years in the technology industry. I’d like to see the difference in the last twenty-five, twenty-seven years. I think that’s astounding. I will have you on for that show.
Part of the challenge is the result of all of this technology. Is that it is much easier now to get kids in the wrong spot. Or have them land in the wrong spot; use the wrong apps, go to the wrong web-site. And that’s why The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, COPPA, was actually drafted and put into law.

Roy: Theoretically, the original version of COPPA was drafted in ’98 and went into effect in 2000. And that was in response to web-sites, you know, adult web-sites and gambling. And sites that would tell kids to get their parents credit card, and there a lot of bad things happening. So, it was a very good law.

Rob: And then it was amended, obviously. Because most people now, most kids, and I have seven year old twins, and things that we worry about now is that we hand them. When I used to hand them my Blackberry it was okay. They couldn’t do anything with them anyway. But, as soon as you get an iPhone, or you get an android device, you hand it to them and they have full reign of the world. And app worlds, and web worlds. And it was amended, when was the law amended to include mobile devices and tablets?

Roy: They worked on it for four years and it was ratified at the end of 2012 and it went into effect July 1 of this year. So, it’s into effect three, four months.

Rob: Yeah. What’s the most staggering thing about this thing? About the law.

Roy: There’s a lot things that have surprised me about this as I’ve educated myself. One of the things, comments I want to make. You were talking about kids going to the wrong place, or getting themselves in a bad place, that is an issue. But, an app that you would consider a bad app for a kid. The kid probably can’t get into.
The real issue, I think of the updated version of COPPA, is this surreptitious capturing of private data that is done by app developers, and the third-parties that they use to supply advertising and in-app purchases, gamification, things like that. That the kid has no concept of what the value, or they don’t anything about it. Like being you could be geo-tagged.
A kid could run an app, and an app can geo-tag that kid. And then the kid types in his name. Well it’s that hard for somebody to, out in the big bad world, to look that up and say here’s a kid that lives there. And that is the reason for COPPA 2.0. I call it COPPA 2.0 as an informal term. That’s not a real term the FTC would go for, but it’s the new version of COPPA that has been beefed up to support protecting all the stuff that apps can capture.

Rob: And as I alluded to in the beginning. This is a law, and what’s the awareness of COPPA compliance in the mobile world?

Roy: Well, extremely low. Last week I was at a convention called the GDC Next Convention, which is game developers and app developers. You probably couldn’t pick a more targeted audience. And I spent two days going through the entire show floor, and I have to say that out of all of the development houses I talked to, development houses or publishers, I was surprised by how many people didn’t know what COPPA was at all. And that was, like, 25 percent.
The number that had some idea that there was a COPPA that was out there, and they thought, “Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, we’re COPPA-compliant.”
That would be, like, 50 percent. So that’s the wide part in the middle.
And about 25 percent of the people knew the law very well and understood its effect on them. And those guys, I didn’t have to talk to them for very long at all. They were like, okay, I get what you’re doing. How do we…

Rob: How do we get involved?

Roy: How do we sign up. Yeah.

Rob: Yeah. So…

Roy: So we…

Rob: Go ahead.

Roy: That’s within the developers. Now, if you want to talk about parents, I mean, it’s nothing. The thing is, when the government passes a law, the government doesn’t have a marketing department. They don’t have ads for a law. So in essence, the way these things get publicized is the FTC’s going to find some probably highly deserving company who’s done some bad things, or you know, captured some data and allowed it to be disseminated to third parties, and didn’t tell parents about it. And they’re going to get fined.
That’s what happened with the original COPPA. And the biggest fine I’m aware of us about $3 million, which was to PlayDom.

Rob: And this was COPPA 1.0.

Roy: That was COPPA 1.0, yeah.

Rob: Okay.

Roy: I think that was in ’98.

Rob: Okay.

Roy: So as of now, to our knowledge, there have not been any fines levied for COPPA 2.0, because it’s only been out for a couple of months. But they’re coming. And when they come, I think that’s when blogs will start writing about it, it’ll get news coverage, and of course the developers will say, “Holy crap.”

Rob: Mother…

Roy: Yeah. I was not… you know, I was not aware of…
The humorous part of what I found last week is, you know, you talk to these developers, they know about it, and they say, “Yeah, we’re COPPA-
compliant.” I say, “Oh, really? Well, where’s your parental disclosure.”
And it was kind of like back when you’re in high school, when kids were talking about rumors about how sex worked, and, you know, you can’t get pregnant on your first time. It’s like, it was just… you could see that whole thing blowing apart when you say, “You don’t have a contact with the parent. How could you possibly be COPPA-compliant? You don’t have a disclosure. Where’s your… you know, what happens when a parent revokes their permission? What are you going to do?”
And they just sort of look at… it was, like, uncomfortable awakening for them when I would say this.

Rob: And they would realize it. Because you have to… you know, as an app maker… I mean, walk us through that. And then I want to take a step back and figure out how you got into this space. Because, you know, it might not be a logical path from whence you started, right?

Roy: Yeah.

Rob: But the law states that you have to have… anybody under 13, what is it, that they have to have not just parental permission, but there… it goes much deeper than that, doesn’t it?

Roy: Yeah. There’s a lot… basically, I’ll give you my pre-canned…

Rob: Sure.

Roy: …trade show-fresh wrap on this. The law tries to do a very good thing, but it was written by people who have no idea how the app world works, in terms of technological and plumbing-wise. So it puts onto app developers… and I say interchangeably app and game developers.

Rob: Sure.

Roy: Because most games are apps. Most apps are games. But we do go back and forth with that. The law puts a bunch of responsibility on the app developer that the app developer has never had anything like that on them. And specifically, if the person running the game is 12 or under… it’s under 13. If you’re 13 years old, you’re not covered by COPPA. The day before you’re 13, you are, okay?

Rob: Gotcha.

Roy: So it’s 12 and under. There’s a common misconception that it’s 13 and under, which would be another year. It’s actually 12 and under. But if you have an app that could reasonably be used by 12 and under, then you have to take steps to protect the privacy of those users. And the way you do that is you have to verify the ID of the parent or guardian of the child. So you have to create a relationship with that child’s parent through some means.
There’s four different ways that are approved for a developer to; they call it verifiable parental identification. There’s four different ways to do it, and none of them are very convenient. We’re talking about a lot of friction here. But if you’re a developer…

Rob: Does one involve a fax? Does one involve a fax?

Roy: Yes.

Rob: It does.

Roy: Fax is considered the number three least annoying method of verifying your identity, the fourth one is mail. Print out the form and mail it to you, so that’s what we’re working with here.

Rob: Oh man, I was joking, fax.

Roy: Yeah, fax is number three on the hit list.

Rob: And then mail is number four, so what are one and two? They must be a little bit more convenient than those two.

Roy: Well, you can do a financial transaction is one, so I have to sell mom something, which there’s some friction right there. The second one is what they call ’email plus,’ which is a complex situation of parent gives email address, developer sends the email to parent, parent replies and then sometime later it’s done again, so that you basically tried to avoid the kid getting the parent’s email address and having 30 minutes to say, “Yes I approve GTA IV for little Timmy.”

Rob: That’s not convenient either is it? It’s not full-proof.

Roy: No, it’s totally not convenient, but that’s just the beginning. I’ve created the relationship with the parent and now I have a quote unquote, secure method of the parent approving the app. But before the parent can approve the app, I, the developer have to give them what’s called a parental disclosure. A parental disclosure is a complete list of all the privacy, they call it PII, Personally Identifiable Information, the government loves they’re acronyms.

Rob: Oh yeah.

Roy: So if my app, let’s say I’m a game developer, if my app asked the kid for their name, okay that’s one thing. Do I GeoTag, do I have in-app purchases, these are basic things, which everybody would think of but it gets more complicated because, let’s say I use and ad network, to display ad’s in the game. Well the ad network is a complete separate entity below that and the ad network could do all kinds of nasty stuff that the game developer has no clue about. But yet, the game developer is responsible for the privacy issues that are covered by the ad network and all of this has to be shown to the parent in an understandable way, before the parent approves the child to be able to play the app. And it get’s better, this is all supposed to happen before the app is downloaded.

Rob: Oh my.

Roy: So all this back and forth has to happen before the app gets downloaded. Once the app gets downloaded, there is supposed to be some methodology that the developer, who was responsible for all this, says
“Okay, I have the relationship with the parent, showed them all the stuff, parent approved, app is approved, kid is now playing game.”

Rob: Oh my goodness, and this could take, if you mail these forms in, this could take weeks.

Roy: Well yeah, I mean we all know how kids want to play the game, daddy I need it right now, this is the opposite end of the spectrum. So there’s one final aspect to this, then I’ll be done talking about the explanation of this wonderful law. It’s called revocation, which is when the parent says,
“Okay Timmy was using this app and it post to Facebook and he put a picture on Facebook that I’m not comfortable with. So I am going to revoke my permission for that app,” under the law, parent says to developer, I revoke my permission, developer must delete all data that they captured as a part of accessing Timmy. But more importantly, any third party services that they use for monetization or gamification or anything like that, even optimization of their app’s engagement, they have to be notified to remove their data that was captured on Timmy.

Rob: Wow.

Roy: So if you’re a developer and you want to be COPPA compliant you have three choices, you can ignore the law, which is what pretty much everybody is doing right now. Number two, you could build this yourself, which would take certainly a number of months and you’d have to make sure you did it right and it’s a complex system. Or you could use something like what we’re doing at AgeCheq. But the second thing, there’s a real reason why that would be inadvisable, because even if it’s a big developer, let’s say Disney goes, “Okay it’s awful, but we’re going to build our own COPPA compliance system.” Okay. So mom and dads are parentally identified and we have this whole situation. Next day, Timmy shows up with an app from Electronic Arts. Parent goes, well, I just identified myself yesterday. What? Well, this is Electronic Arts. We have to do it again.
So, it’s basically an untenable situation for every developer to have to do all this. Once I understood this situation, the whole thing cries out for there to be a central clearinghouse that prevents this connection between the developer and the parent, and administrates it so that parents will have one dashboard, they get identified once, and every developer who has an app is on this system. It basically minimizes all this friction. There’s still friction, but we are able to minimize it to a great extent. Once you understand how weird this law is and what it forces developers to do, you see the pain that’s there.

Rob: You know, it’s funny because I have a few questions on that entire process and even the way that you’re building the company. It’s funny. I was having a conversation just the other night about creating anticipation for my kids. I grew up in that world where you waited for things. You were very patient for an album, like a vinyl album to come out in the record store, and then you didn’t even know when it came out. You had no access unless you went into the store. It created part of that anticipation. My kids don’t have any of that anticipation anymore. It’s like, Dad, I want a free game, I want to download it, I want to play it now, right? So maybe this is a forced way to convince, make sure that, “Well, we have to mail the form in, Billy. It’s going to take three weeks. I don’t condone it,”
but maybe that’s what they’re trying to do.

Roy: Well, you can imagine what would happen to the app industry. If you look at the Apple app store, if you had to fax in or mail in a form every time you wanted to play an app. I mean, it’s the end of the industry. It’s over.

Rob: It’s pretty funny. I mean, it’s not funny that that would happen, but it’s funny that that is even an option at this point, with digital. But the other thing is when a parent, we’ve all heard of the Smurfs incident on iOS where you log into a game or when you log into the app store and you download a game, you remain logged in for ten minutes, and then a whole bunch of kids were basically, unbeknownst to them, charging their parents’
cards tens or hundreds or thousands of dollars in the middle of this Smurf game. Whether or not the Smurf game took advantage of that window or it was just a flaw, I mean, Apple addressed this issue later on. Is it incumbent on the app stores to become COPPA compliant on behalf of the app developers?

Roy: Only to the degree that they can because I would say that the government would look at the app store as being one of these third-arty providers. They provide monetization, so for example, the data that’s collected by the app store on behalf of the app, one could make a case that when the parent does a revoke, that the app store should be notified and the app store should delete all of their analytic data that they picked up, the in-app purchase records of that child. That’s an unexplored territory, though. The app stores have taken steps to become COPPA compliant, but they’re only a small cog in the whole things. The law puts it squarely on the shoulders of the developer. Which, in Washington parlance, they use the term operator.

Rob: Operator, yes.

Roy: You’re an operator if you create, well, that comes from when it was originally written for websites. You have to translate all this jargon back and forth between the real industry and Washington.

Rob: It’s very interesting, simply because you think about the torrent providers like Pirate Bay and all of these things you hear in the news around pirating the stuff. They’re getting shut down everywhere simply because, they don’t host anything, but they’re a conduit. They create the anticipation and they make it easy to find these things. I wonder, I know that you have age restrictions in all the app stores, right? This is for 13 years old. But it’s the parent who has the account. So you’re right, it obfuscates it. I think that this is a very interesting piece because the operator in this instance is probably one or two people in their basement writing an application that is making just…

Roy: The vast majority are indeed developers who, if they got a COPPA fine, they’d be out of business and they’d lose their house.

Rob: Right, and that’s frightening to me. Because we are in that early stage of maturation for the mobile ecosystem. But on the flip side, I have seven-year-old kids. I have twin boys. I think, well, I want them protected, but I also want to protect this industry as well.

Roy: Yeah.

Rob: And you sit right in the middle of this, which is fascinating. And it’s, like, classic entrepreneurship here.
And I want to take a step back for a second. Because, you know, I’m pretty sure… did you ever envision yourself in the middle of something like this when you were…

Roy: No.

Rob: So this is… you noticed that there’s a lot of pain in the industry, and there’s no really easy solution to this. And you just kind of said, well, we can bridge that distance. We can be the middle to that.

Roy: Yeah. I was actually doing another start-up when I learned about this, and I sort of put that one on… you know, keeping itself going a lot, because this is such a much more compelling opportunity.

Rob: Well, talk about that. So what happened with… I’m just going to take a step back, and then we’re going to kind of come back into AgeCheq in a second. But I want to understand how you got here, and that’s the story, is that… so the last I talked, I talked to Sam in 2010.

Roy: Right.

Rob: You guys were just getting into AppMobi.

Roy: Right. That was… when we talked to you last, we were pivoting from FlatCast, which was a…

Rob: Right.

Roy: …pretty well-received radio aggregation app for the iPhone…

Rob: Well ahead of your time there. I’ve got to say, well ahead of your time, there.

Roy: Yeah.

Rob: Like, well ahead of your time.

Roy: Yeah. I just saw iHeartRadio has 40 million users. So yeah, we didn’t quite reach that. We got to about 5 million. But…

Rob: Back in the day, when I interviewed Sam, it was like, this is the guy. This is FlatCast FM. This is the guy, you know? And now we’re talking about radio stations. As you said, 40 million people reach. The music world and the radio world is upended, and…
So you’re making that transition into AppMobi.

Roy: Right. AppMobi, well, the story gets even longer, but let’s just go with that. We pivoted… you know, this is… The start-up world is never organized, and there’s never straight lines. It’s always indirection and stuff like that. But we, as a result of creating versions of FlatCast for different app platforms, we realized the massive pain of, “Oh, okay, you want to do a Blackberry version?” Well, you have to start from zero. You can’t even start from 50 percent. It’s a completely different dev system. Completely different language. All the screens are a different size. It’s just a totally different thing.
And Sam, who is a genius, realized that HTML5 was going to be a way that we could span all those different imaging models, and that he could create a container that would talk to the operating system of the device. So there’d be a container for iOS, a container for Android, a container for Blackberry, a container for Windows Phone. But the bulk of the code would be in JavaScript and HTML5.
And that’s what AppMobi was. And we were pretty successful with that at the time. The development tools part of AppMobi was bought by Intel in February, as you mentioned. At the time we did that, we had 150,000 active developers creating apps that were going across platform using AppMobi’s tools.
And so as a result of that, you know, being there with FlatCast and then AppMobi, I’m very current on what’s happening in the world of mobile app development, and what it’s… what developers need to think about, and all that.
So when that happened, you know, I decided it was time for me to do some new stuff. And I left AppMobi, and I started a company that created explainer videos, because I was doing some explainer videos at AppMobi, and I saw an opportunity. Because typical Epipheo-type explainer videos cost
$20 grand.

Rob: Yeah.

Roy: And I know that most people can’t afford that. So I developed a way to create them much cheaper. So I’m basically, you know, the Earl Shibe of explainer videos.
But I got hired by the App Developers’ Alliance in DC to create an explainer video about what COPPA was going to force onto app developers. And as a result of doing that video, I saw this. The entire pain, massive pain, that would influence the entire mobile app industry. And I said, that’s an opportunity.

Rob: Full stop. Got to attack this challenge.

Roy: Yes. Yeah. Explainer video opportunity this. Solving COPPA this. So…

Rob: I mean, I love that, right. I’ve hired companies to do explainer videos. I mean, I think every start-up, every app, has an explainer video. And it’s true. Like, you are distilling the complex into simple. And then if you can do it in a minute, if you can actually construct it in a minute, you understand the pain very well.

Roy: Yeah.

Rob: Here’s the challenge, is to fix that problem. And nobody was attacking this market?

Roy: No. There’s… are we talking about explainers?

Rob: No, so, we’re talking about COPPA.

Roy: Oh, okay. If you’re talking about COPPA, there’s a very small number of other companies that are attempting to do stuff with COPPA. I believe that because they are coming at it from a regulatory perspective or a, let’s say an enterprise perspective, there’s nobody who’s doing what we’re doing with AgeCheq.
AgeCheq looks at it, definitely, from the perspective of mobile app developer and parent. What we do makes the lives of the developers and the parents much, much easier. We remove a lot of friction. The other companies that are out there, that are involved in this, tend to be more, “We’ll audit your privacy issues and see if you’re compliant and we’ll make suggestions to you.” It’s a lot more corporate, enterprisey stuff.
What we’re doing with AgeCheq, really, there’s probably not room for five or ten companies to do it, because, then you would get this bulkanized world where a parent has an account with this, oh the kid brings an account like that. This is really a first mover opportunity, and I’m pleased to say that we’re the first mover.

Rob: And you guys literally launched at GDC, didn’t you?

Roy: Correct. One week ago from today did we uncloak, so, we’re brand, spanking new.

Rob: So, now it’s time to walk us through. So, AgeCheq, we’ve kind of got a sense of what it does, it’s the middleman between developers, the development community, and the parent. It’s got to be deeper than that. Is there anything you can explain about the process by which AgeCheq works?
How developers use it? How do parents get involved?

Roy: Well, it starts with developers, it’s a chicken and egg process. If you don’t have apps that have AgeCheq on them, there’s no reason to talk to parents. So, this is why my first trade show is an app developer trade show and that’s where the pain is, actually.
Parents, such as you, who have a seven year old, you’re right in the middle of my demographic. You wish that you had tools for this, but, your world isn’t going to come to an end if you don’t have them.

Rob: I have conspiring seven year olds, I have twin boys. So, they bounce each other off, like, “you download, you download”. That’s the mind of a fourteen year old in the body of a seven year old, so, yes.

Roy: Good luck with that.

Rob: Yes, I’m suffering through it. They’re great kids, love them to death. Yes, smarter than me, that’s the problem. Sorry, go on.

Roy: Where was I headed with that?

Rob: Well, we’re right in the sweet spot. So, it’s about getting developers on board first, right?

Roy: Oh, yeah. I was explaining the chicken and egg thing. So, the developers, the first thing I have to do is make them aware that this sword is hanging over their head and it’s not coming. It’s not going to be in January, it already is in effect, it happened in July.
We have a lot of education, that’s why we have explainer videos on our site. We have to get people to come and look at them. But, like I said, at the show half the people were aware of COPPA and, maybe, half of them really understood it. So, my goal is to start with Tier I developers who I can say, okay, I’m not going to name names but a Tier I developer might have 300, 400, 500 different apps and what they would do is, they would sign up for an AgeCheq account, somebody with authority in their corporate world would sign up for an account.
Then, probably, the product manager for each game would go on to the AgeCheq sight and would disclose for each game, there has to be an entry for each game that says, “Here’s the name of the game…here’s some marketing information about it.” We actually present it in a really nice way so it’s not just like a tabular, “here’s what it does”.
If it’s got a logo, we display that in our disclosure page. But, this person has to be technically knowledgeable to say, “Okay, well, the app does do push messaging, it does do Facebook posting.” No in-app purchases, no this, no that, and we provide a very detailed list of check boxes and then we say, “Okay, what third party services do you use?” Let’s say that they use Flurry. Okay, well, they don’t know what Flurry does under its covers. So, we also are signing up all the third party vendors.
That’s another group of people that I talked to at the show and they were all there because their customers are these developers. A company like Flurry would go into AgeCheq and there’s a ‘third party provider’ section, and they would say, “Okay, when somebody uses the Flurry system, we do this, we do that.” Then, that’s it.
Once all of that data has been entered, the next thing that happens is the developer would need to drop in a small piece of code into their app, and we have SDKs for iOS Native, Android Native, HTML5, and coming, as we learned that the game, Unity, is very important.

Rob: Right.

Roy: So we are going to do a Unity SDK. In essence, what that does is at the beginning of the app’s run, right after everything is initialized, this would be right when the split for the splash screen would go away, the thing makes a call to our API and says, “Is this app authorized by the parent to run?”
And our API has been crafted on Amazon, AWS. We understand that we are going to get very high hits on this, so it’s been crafted to be extremely responsive. What the API comes back and says is, “Okay, we know the parent has approved the game,” the game runs exactly as if nothing happened. The kid never sees anything. So that is the ideal lowest-friction method is that the parent approved the game before the kid saw it.
There is an alternate way of it happening which has a little bit more friction. I won’t get into that now, but that would be if the kid downloads the app first and then says, “Mom, I need permission.” So we have a way to handle that too, but the best way in terms of user experience and matching what the law says is that the parent sees the disclosure of all the stuff and approves the app before it’s downloaded onto the kid’s phone. If that happens, the kid is never impacted at all.

Rob: No faxes are harmed during this . . .

Roy: No faxes are generated.

Rob: Exactly. I don’t have a lot of faith in those fax machines anyway, and no stamps are licked, and you are contributing to the demise of the post office, but that’s okay.

Roy: Right.

Rob: So, you know, it’s interesting because this is a classic entrepreneurial tale, but it also has to be something that, like, you have to fund yourself it would seem. Were you able to go out and find investors?
Would you look for investors? Because I think that there is a need, and it’s government policy, and there is a steady stream of customers that would need it, but you are not charging any money. So how do you look at this problem when you realized it, after doing the explainer video, and say, “I’m going to attack it?” Like, what’s the first thing you did?

Roy: Yeah. First thing I did, which I always do is try to figure out,
“What’s the total available market?” How big is this pain? What happens if I’m able to be 50 percent of the solution of the pain. With something this big, I mean this is really every app that goes a phone on any platform. This is kind of a huge thing. It’s almost one of those things like, “Hey, if I can do this, I’ll figure out how to make money.”
But I do have some really good ways of making money, while still making all the stuff free. It’s free for parents, and it’s free for developers. My real goal in crafting that, I could have charged developers, because I’m taking away major pain for them, but I really believe this is a first mover thing, and I want to get everybody to come into this, with no friction as possible. So, if I can say, “I’ve got 80 percent of the app world.”
It becomes like a gravity thing like, “Well I have to solve COPPA, I could do it myself, or I could use what everybody else is using and it’s free.”

Rob: Yeah, okay.

Roy: I’m trying to build that scenario where it’s like, AgeCheq is what you do to get yourself COPPA compliant.

Rob: What do you think it’s going to take to be kind of the age stamp of approval when it comes to numbers or when it comes to the relationships, because that is… very few companies have done, like the Better Business Bureau, I don’t even know if it’s relevant anymore. It’s big.

Roy: What you said was actually a misnomer, because we’re not approving anything. All we’re doing is, we’re creating a plumbing system for the COPPA law to do what it’s supposed to do. So, we don’t approve anything, and therefore there’s no curation. You can’t argue with what we’re doing. We’re really just facilitating COPPA to work.

Rob: Right. But you’re looking to say like, AgeCheq, cha-ching.

Roy: Yeah, AgeCheq is going to be a brand. It’s going to be a brand. Look at this way, if you’re a parent that went through the one-time pain to set up an AgeCheq account, which there is still some friction, you have to identify yourself, and so on, and you have a dashboard and stuff. When your kid comes up to you with a game, you’re going to say, “Well, does it have the AgeCheq logo?” Because that means I’m booked, you’re good to go. And the kid will swiftly learn. So, I’m trying to build that equity and that brand. And again, it’s a gravity thing. Once you have the big brands, and that’s who I’m going after, you know, is the companies that have three, four, five hundred apps. At the show, I talked to companies that have approaching a billion downloads of their apps. So, one or two, or three or of those, and now it starts to move in the right direction.

Rob: What was the response of those guys. Like, I’m going to assume the guys that have billions of downloads and hundreds of apps are quite aware of this.

Roy: You’re right.

Rob: And they may have been looking at this already, ahead of time, and starting to implement, or are they behind as well?

Roy: You’re exactly right, and it’s what you would expect. Remember I was talking about the 25 percent . . .

Rob: Yeah.

Roy: . . . of the developers who really knew what was going on with COPPA?
That intersected perfectly with the companies that have vast numbers of installs and downloads. I didn’t have to explain COPPA or what it meant or how they were subject to pain from it, it was all about, “Well, what does your system do? You know, how does a parent . . . ” And it was all about,
“How does your solution to the thing work?” I never had to talk about it.

Rob: You know, it’s almost like, and don’t take this the wrong way, because I think we’re talking about two different things, but in the olden days where there was an adult pass or something like that, right. Where there was a third-party provider that managed your identity among all of the other adult sites. In the web world we used this as a, not the adult-
side of it, but that blanket on top as, I think that it’s a precursor of what we are seeing today in this, you know, SDK world that we’ve got.
You know, that expertise was outsourced so that these sites could manage their own content and payment and identification verification was obfuscated from them by this thing. And I think that, you know, different demographic, the other side of demographic, but, you know, that created a huge market for a little while for those guys.

Roy: Yeah.

Rob: And I think that the same thing can, you know, obviously this is something that is here. But they charged you for that or they took a percentage of the fees.

Roy: Right. Right.

Rob: So I’m always intrigued. Like, you know, to get those big guys, you have to be a platform that will not disappear.

Roy: Right.

Rob: Right? That has financial security.

Roy: I mean, everybody likes our idea, but the big question is, “Well, you know, how do I know you’re going to be there tomorrow?”

Rob: Right.

Roy: Well, I can’t answer that. You know, would you trust me if I had
$20,000,000 in the bank from Kleiner Perkins?

Rob: And would they be?

Roy: Maybe. But, you know, maybe you wouldn’t. You know, that’s not something I can solve.

Rob: Right.

Roy: You know, I saw this problem. I created this thing to fix it. We’re moving forward whether you’re in the boat or not. You know, whenever you get into the boat, whenever it’s comfortable for you, that’s fine. We’d love to have you in early, because then you could help get other people in the boat, but if you’re not comfortable until later, that’s fine. Or if you want to do it yourself, please feel free, you know. Enjoy your life.
So I can’t hard-sell that, because I am a startup.

Rob: Yeah.

Roy: The thing is that there is so much attraction and gravity to this pain that I’ve solved, you know, I’m highly confident that I’m going to be here a year or two or three years from now.

Rob: Talk about, I mean, maybe, that process that you went through to be able to build this. Like, you saw the pain, and you’ve staffed this team up yourself, and you started building the technology. And, you know, you’ve done all of this now to present the product…

Roy: Yeah.

Rob: …to the end user, and it’s ready to go right now?

Roy: Yeah, ironically, all of the stuff that we had to build didn’t involve creating anything new and spectacular. It’s all hooking LEGO blocks together. Well, like, Amazon’s AWS, if I had to go out and build a scalable worldwide network that could provide the kind of quality that AWS can with elastic computing and load balancers and all that, I would need 20,000,000 to do that.

Rob: Yeah . . . [SS] . . .

Roy: Or many, many more, I don’t know. But I’m availing myself of Amazon, so that’s a check off my list. I don’t have no back end done. You know, now we just have to write the code the administrates all this stuff and, you know, figure out . . . kind of the hard part is that, you know, we have flowcharts of parent starts. Parent says, “I want an AgeCheq account, you know, what do we have to do?” And then there are branches, and it’s plumbing.

Rob: [laughs]

Roy: It’s really, there’s nothing technologically crazy about what we’re doing. We’re facilitating a complex law that requires a vast amount of parents and a pretty large amount of developers to interact in completely unmanageable ways. We are managing it. We are a central clearing house.

Rob: And was there any point in time over this, you know, since you’ve been doing this, from the idea inception, development, and when, you know, you landed the GDC last week, how many times did you go through your head, like, ” We can’t do this.”? Did it ever dawn on you that, like, this was not going to be something that you could do?

Roy: No, no, no. Once I realized what affect this would have on the industry and I sort of, in my mind, put together, “Well, we’d have to do this and we’d have to do that,” it just kept getting better. Because I’ve got smart guys working with me that say, “Well, we wouldn’t have to have a login here, because we already know this. Oh, you just reduced friction, check mark.”

Rob: [laughs]

Roy: So it’s, like, everywhere . . . it’s kind of like e-commerce, like doing an e-commerce funnel. You know, everywhere you can reduce a click, you get 20 or 30 percent more conversion, and so we’re all about saying,
“Okay, the law is where we are starting. We have to provide compliance with the law.”

Rob: You have your parameters with that.

Roy: Yes, that’s right. That’s our parameters.

Rob: Yep.

Roy: And we know people want their kids to be able to play games and educational games and all that. So the beauty of this, from my perspective is, I don’t have to sell the industry that you should do this, because it’s a good idea. I have my friend, the federal government, beating them over the head with a ridiculous fine if they don’t.

Rob: It works.

Roy: Yeah, I never had a moment of doubt. Once I reached the tipping point here, I have not looked back. [laughs]

Rob: [laughs] All right, so, you know, a lot of this thing has to do with identification. And there are a lot of companies that are out there doing biometrics wearables for identification. The iPhone 5s has come out with the fingerprint scanner as a way of identifying yourself. What do these kinds of technologies do, enhance your business? I mean, how do you leverage that kind of stuff for validating who I am?

Roy: Well, again, we’re subject to what the law says.

Rob: Yeah.

Roy: I don’t think the law understands fingerprint readers so in order to facilitate COPPA compliance, I mean, we think those things are great. And I’ll tell you where we would use them, we would use them for a parent to quickly approve an app.

Rob: Right.

Roy: But the original, verifiable parental identification, we have to follow the prescribed method that is in the law. As I said, there are four ways of doing it, so that wouldn’t work.

Rob: Fingerprints are not one of them. That’s hysterical, yeah.

Roy: Well, look at it this way, when you set up your account for anything, there is a point of pain of, yes, I have to type in my credit card the first time, and whatever. Then I get the benefit of that later. And this is the same way. You’re going to have to go through 15 minutes of proving you are who you say you are and giving me the information about your kids and their devices, because we have to track the devices. It’s a friction point, but once you do that, now you are past it.

Rob: Yeah.

Roy: So if I can make it even easier for a parent to see the disclosure of what the app is going to do and just run their fingerprint on the iPhone 6 or 5s, or whatever it is, I believe that would be considered okay by the FTC.

Rob: Yeah.

Roy: But it’s up to them. Yeah.

Rob: [laughs] Ultimately, it’s the law. Because I see things like . . .
You know, I love this, there is a Toronto-based company called Bio-NEMS
[SP], and they have a wristband that is called the Nemmie, right? And it takes your EKG, and apparently everybody has a very unique EKG, it’s like a fingerprint. And you can do it based on proximity of location and, you know, they have triple authentication to say, like, “It is you, because it’s your EKG in the location in front of the machine that you say you’re sitting in front of.”
So you start to get into these kind of identification challenges, or solutions like this. And even something like, I don’t believe in Google Glass. I mean, I’m a glass wearer, and I don’t like wearing them and the idea of putting another layer on top of this just doesn’t make me feel any better.

Roy: Yeah.

Rob: But, you know, wouldn’t it be interesting? I’m just kind of future gazing here in a second. I’d love your thoughts on this. You know, that authentication piece is that you get a little notification in the glass that says, “Billy just downloaded this app. Do you approve it, yes or no?”
And you say, “yes,” by winking or throwing your head back or nodding or whatever you do with the glass, but then it scans your retina and it says,
“You are who you say you are, authenticated.” It goes through, you know, what you guys are doing at AgeCheq and then allows Billy to download that app, as you said, seamlessly without any interruption in the blink of an eye, so to speak. Is that where you go, or do you think that far ahead?

Roy: I’m not thinking that far ahead. Right now, I’m thinking about getting, you know, the top 20 developers onto this thing and building a system that makes the industry go forward after COPPA 2.0.
So things are cool to think about but, you know, today for me, they are a distraction, because I have to abide by what the law says. And if I start getting creative with stuff like that, you know, somebody could say .
. . you know, it’s not just the FTC, the states actually are prosecuting COPPA.
California particularly has some very creative prosecutors who . . .
you know, COPPA can be, some states have their own versions of COPPA. So I don’t think there’s room for creativity if you are trying to make developers feel, you know, safe and fuzzy that, “Okay, I really am COPPA compliant?”

Rob: That’s the sales pitch. You are 100 percent COPPA complaint.

Roy: Yeah.

Rob: There is no deviation from that. Now, I can understand it. So how do you go out and find these developers? Is it a trade show? Is it walking the beat? Is this just elbow grease?

Roy: Well, there are actually not that many, you know, top tens.

Rob: Big tens, no.

Roy: There are only ten top ten developers.

Rob: Exactly. [laughs]

Roy: One of the beautiful features of this situation is that because of what I have done with that App Mobi, I probably have personal relationships with maybe half of them.

Rob: That is great.

Roy: So I’ve already talked to them, and those plates are already spinning. So the advantage for me is that I’ve lived in this industry since it started and so I know a lot of the people you need to know. Somebody else who is coming who didn’t know those people would find that to be a hoop that they would have to jump over, but, you know, I believe it is not going to come from the independent developers up. I think it’s going to come from major developers who, by the way, all have shareholders who would not want to hear that they are operating in open violation of a U.S. law.

Rob: [laughs]

Roy: They have motivation, they have means, they have apps, so that is really where I am focusing, from the top down. The independent developers, you know, they can probably continue to ignore this for years.

Rob: Yeah.

Roy: I don’t know. I mean, it’s a big world. There are a million apps on each of the apps stores. If your app doesn’t do anything particularly nasty, you know, you can probably ignore this for quite a while. But for me, the big opportunity is to get great deals of gravity, and it works better for the industry that way as well.

Rob: Yes, it does. Yeah, but I would say that even these smaller independent mobile application companies, like, look at a company like Path that is limited in size. It has few users, comparatively, to all of the bigger social platforms, and they got their hand slapped, because a user realized that, “Listen, you are pushing your data out.”

Roy: Yeah.

Rob: And so, you know, you can never hide behind the fact that you didn’t know, because this is something that you have to know. It’s your business to know.

Roy: Right. That is right.

Rob: And I would say, “Check out AgeCheq at agecheq.com because at some point, as you said, somebody is going to get fined, and then this is going to ratchet up and especially the big guys. Some of them are public companies, right?”

Roy: Yeah.

Rob: And they have to be complaint with this or else, you know, they are going to be the first companies that are gone after if they are not doing this appropriately to the law. So that’s where we should send people, right? AgeCheq, there is a great explainer video on the first page.

Roy: There is a multiplicity of explainer videos on the site. We look at it from the perspective of a parent and from a developer, and then there is an overall explainer of what is the problem, why you need AgeCheq.

Rob: I mean, this is obviously from two sides. From a parent’s side, I love this, right?

Roy: Yeah.

Rob: I always worry about what my kids are downloading or what I’m downloading on their behalf.

Roy: Yeah.

Rob: I think that that is amazing, and they’re very influenced by the kids in their school, and they’re often older. So, A, for that. B, I love that fact that this is, you know, the lesson I’ve learned here is that, listen, I’ve always talked about entrepreneurship as, “Go and find a hole and plug.”
And be valuable in that hole. Don’t just be a plug, but you’ve got to be a valuable contributor to that hole. You say like, “You’ve got these guys who are in pain, you’ve got this that’s coming down on them.”
If you can find a way to bridge that and make it easy for the guys that are in pain, you’ve got a business here. The other thing, the third thing is, you talked about this as well; how big is the total addressable market?
If we’re talking about 100 percent of the apps, and I would say that’s probably too many. But if 50 percent of the apps…

Roy: Yeah, 70.

Rob: 70 percent? If 70 percent of the apps needs to be COPPA compliant, or else they’re in trouble, then that is a huge freaking market. You’re right. There’s got to be a way to turn that into revenue at some point, I would hope, because this is something that has to live longer than all of us, probably, I would assume. At least until COPPA 3.0 or 4.0.

Roy: Right, yeah. You always talk to people who want to mismatch you and say, “Yeah, but this is stupid, nobody will ever do this, you suck, go away.”
And the thing people say is, “Well, how do you know this law isn’t going to be changed?”
Well, I don’t know that, but I can tell you it took them four years to pass it. I can tell you that our government is not exactly the most model of efficiency right now. And thirdly, who wants to be the guy lobbying against privacy for children?
So, I don’t think this law is changing anytime soon. So, for the next couple of years, this is the world we have to live with and we make it better. I don’t know how you’re doing on time, but you’ve talked around revenues like I don’t have a revenue model.

Rob: Why don’t we talk about that? You can bring that up. Often people don’t but, I would love to hear what your revenue model looks like.

Roy: Well, when you say I give it away to the parents free and I give it away to the developers free, people say, “Oh, okay, here we go.”

Rob: Here we go.

Roy: I personalized thimble.com.
No, that’s my pet .bomb example company. The thing is, as a result of what we do with AgeCheq, we know a lot about what kids are doing with games. Part of our terms of service is that we absolutely protect people’s personal information, we would never give it out or do anything with it, that would be stupid when you’re in our business.
However, we do aggregate this data in the form of anonymized statistical information and we have some pretty interesting stats there. We know the devices that are used, we know the ages of the kids that are using them, we know the games that they’re playing. That information is very valuable to quite a few people inside and outside the industry.
We’re going to be a provider of that sort of statistical stuff that was ground out of the work of making COPPA work. That information can be sold within the industry and also to other people that are interested.
The second business model is – the free account for a parent is the basic account which allows COPPA to complied with, lets them turn approve ops and revoke their permission and we’re complying with the law. There are enhanced service levels within that.
Did you want to make sure that your child doesn’t start an app between 8 AM and 3 PM while they’re at school? Okay, well that’s account type number one, that’s ten dollars a year. Very inexpensive, but it’s something we have the capability to do. We’re basically a roadblock at the start of the app.
Another thing is, did you want to track how many hours your kid spent while he was playing GTA that you approved? Well, maybe, that’s twenty dollars a year. So, there’s methods of getting a small percentage of parents. The vast majority will say, “I’ll take the free account, thank you very much.” But some, you might call them helicopter parents, would want to know that information and have more granular control than just app on, app off.
Did he clean his room? Oh, he didn’t clean his room. “You’re not going to play your game for three days.” That sort of thing. If you start to think about it, we’re basically in a position of being able to turn on and off the playing of games because of this functionality that we have.

Rob: Multiple streams of revenue though, it’s not just one?

Roy: Multiple streams of revenue, yes.

Rob: And low friction, because low cost, and high value to the parent who’s going to see that value. And conversion will be in that realm of what a SASS conversion is these days. But, the difference is that the baseline, and here’s the thing, is that your product, out of the box without cost, is valuable to both the parent and the developer 100 percent. They’re going to find a value immediately and you don’t handicap that original value, you enhance it with new services and charge for those.

Roy: Exactly, upcharging and rejiggering the data we have to form…it’s basically a new product.

Rob: Yes. That’s great logic and I think that…I see successful companies that are doing that, which is, get it on the device, get it in the device, get it in the software. Build up the relationship, grow that relationship, provide value, and then there’s such a natural transition to revenue that the parent has to trust in you because they have trusted you, not only with their information but they’ve trusted you with guarding their children as well. So, the next piece is, you’ve overcome that trust issue. Payment comes when the value is achieved and, wow, that’s very clear.
I love that you have a bunch of revenue models.

Roy: Yes, actually, there’s even more but I’m not going to get into that. There’s one more thing I wanted to touch on that you mentioned when you were saying that we are semi analogous to this adult ID thing. I get this a lot, people say, “well, give me example of something that’s like what you’re doing.” Well, the example is Paypal.
Prior to that everybody who had a website needed to transact individually with everybody who wanted to buy something. Paypal forms a central industry clearinghouse that, you set up a Paypal account, you only deal with Paypal. The vendor deals with Paypal and they administrate a value enhancing transaction. In their case it’s a buy or a sell, in our case, it’s a approval and monitoring of a child’s app usage. So I prefer that rather than the adult example you…

Rob: Roy, I don’t know why. That’s a perfect example. I was scrambling in my head to think of something. I think I said Porn Pass instead of PayPal. So I’ll go with PayPal from this point forward, okay?

Roy: Sort your audience. Maybe it’s a better one. I don’t know.

Rob: I don’t know. I don’t think so. They must have, like, how did you bring that into this? We’re talking about children, Woodridge. Thank you for saving me. PayPal. That’s what I meant to say. PayPal.

Roy: He meant that.

Rob: Oh, my god. Yes. It’s more analogous to PayPal than it is to anything else. And thank you for clearing that up. It’s like, what am I doing on this interview? Shouldn’t I be, like, he just mentioned porn? Anyways. Enough with that or else you’re going to get some kind children’s security or children’s age restriction on my podcast. That’s great.
So we got the revenue model. We’ve got your history. We understand how important COPPA is. We understand that there’s going to be something that happens as a result of this. I love the go to market strategy of going after the big guys that you’ve already got relationships with, you’ve provided value with it. I love the fact that you bring value to the developers, simplicity to the developers of this complex problem. You bring it to the parent. Over time, you generate trust with the parent. And then you’re going to be adding layers of services on top that will actually enhance the parental controls around the apps and the games that the kids are playing.

Roy: Not only that but if you put on your little blue sky hat, if you’re a parent of an eight-year-old and you say, well, what are good apps that other eight-year-olds are playing, I can answer that question.

Rob: That’s great.

Roy: Nobody else can answer that question. Apple doesn’t know that information. Google Play doesn’t know that information. I know that information. So now we might have a recommendation service that says, AgeCheq says a lot of parents are approving this app for their kids who are nine years old. See, I know the age of the kid, which the stores don’t know that.

Rob: That is amazing. So right now they have this feature in most app stores which is what’s popular around you, but that is not indicative of the age group that is around you.

Roy: Right.

Rob: And who it is. And when you think about this, if you’re a developer listening to this, when you think about one of your biggest challenges, right now is discovery. And you would take every opportunity you can to enhance the ability to get discovered. And if you are actually targeting eight-year-olds, quite frankly, this could be a brilliant way to discover new applications and help your app actually get into the hands of the right people.

Roy: Right.

Rob: Roy, this is a big business.

Roy: I agree. I’m very excited. I’m wearing sunglasses when I go outside, the future’s so bright.

Rob: Well, you know what? I would love to have a followup to this in two or three quarters to see how things are going.

Roy: Sure.

Rob: Or around the time you land your first couple of big game developers or app developers…

Roy: Well, that’ll be too soon. You don’t want to do that next week.

Rob: Next week. I will look for that.

Roy: My goal is by the end of the year.

Rob: Just to land.

Roy: Yeah.

Rob: Okay. So two to three quarters from now, just to see how things are going. And should anything happen with a company in any way, shape, or form that is taken to court for COPPA compliance, I will jump on with you very quickly and give a statement.

Roy: Yes. I expect my phone to ring off the hook the day after that happens. I happen to know from some friends in D.C. that there are a number of those things in the machine, so it won’t be six months before that happens.

Rob: All right. We’ll keep a watch. You’ll hear about this, come back here because, you know what? You’re hearing about these things for pretty much the first time for a lot of you guys out there, a lot of independent developers. It would be very interesting, you can go to AgeCheq.com. I’m sure you can reach out to Roy and send him questions, and understand this a little bit more. Not for anything other than to protect yourself, because we don’t want to see the independent developers disappear off this planet.
You are the bread and the butter here when it comes to the mobile industry. The most innovative applications, both games and native apps, are coming from the independent developers right now. They’re getting soaked up… [makes slurping noise]… right into the big companies, but they start as independent guys, and we want you all to survive. So don’t let this kind of thing derail your dream in the mobile space. Go and take a look at AgeCheq and talk to Roy because I’m pretty sure he’ll answer your questions right now. If you wait, like, a quarter, he’s not going to have enough time. So now’s the time. Now’s the time to talk to him.

Roy: We’re on all the social network channels that you can think of. It’s covered on the . . .

Rob: The website?

Roy: The website. We’re easy to talk to.

Rob: Please, please do so. Roy, this has been amazing. Hopefully we’ve brought some light to the challenges on a number of things. First with COPPA and COPPA compliance. And the other thing is about building, literally, that stamp of approval, which is what AgeCheq is going to become the brand of in the business models. I’m very thankful for how open and honest you’ve been on the show. Thank you so much for doing this, man.

Roy: Thanks for having me. It’s great being here.

Rob: We’ve been speaking with Roy Smith, who is the founder and CEO of a company called AgeCheq, A-G-E-C-H-E-Q dot com. Go and check them out. Find out of if your company is COPPA compliant, and if you’re not, reach out, have a conversation with Roy, sign up. Do what you need to do so that you’re around when I re-interview him in six months to nine months. Until then, we’ll see you next time on UNTETHER.tv. Thanks, Roy.

Roy: Thank you.


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About Roy Smith
Roy Smith AgeCheqWith a career centered on the creation of new technologies and markets that often disrupted existing industry incumbents, Roy Smith founded AgeCheq in 2013 after studying The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) from a developer perspective. Roy recognized that COPPA forces app developers to do many things that they are not good at, such as parental verification and permission, and it was clear to him that someone needed to build a central service to aggregate these functions for all app developers. With deep experience in gaming and app developer tools, Roy founded AgeCheq to meet this growing market need.

Roy has been in the consumer electronics industry since 1979 as an engineer, developer, marketer, and manager, leading companies to multimillion dollar revenue growth and multiple successful exits. An early disruptor in the personal computer industry, Roy co-founded Turtle Beach Systems in 1985, now the top U.S. provider of high quality immersive headphones for computer gaming. Turtle Beach is credited for bringing studio-quality sound to the PC, making it a viable platform for realistic games.

In 2006 Roy co-founded BroadClip, which in 2008 became FlyCast, the first successful radio streaming app for smartphones, with 4.5 million users and over 2,000 channels of content. In 2009 Roy founded appMobi as a mobile app development house. In 2010 appMobi was acquired by FlyCast as the company evolved to provide development tools for mobile apps as appMobi. Roy spearheaded branding and marketing efforts for appMobi, building the company to become the industry’s leading hybrid app development tool provider, and attracting the attention of Intel, which acquired appMobi’s tools division in February 2013.

Roy has participated on the board of directors for numerous startups, and cofounded WellspringFV, a tech startup incubator in 1998.

Having participated in the smartphone revolution from its start, Roy understands the app economy and envisions AgeCheq as the industry defacto solution for managing an app or game’s COPPA compliance. Roy believes AgeCheq represents an opportunity to make a “broken” system work well, for the good of app developers and for parents who want to regain control over the information their children share when using mobile devices.

About the author

Rob Woodbridge

I'm Rob, the founder of UNTETHER.tv and I've spent 14 years immersed in the mobile and pervasive computing world. During this great time I've helped some of the most innovative companies grow their business through mobile. If you are in need of a mobile business advisor or coach, connect with me here to get things rolling.

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