It all started when former journalist Heather Dahl, who previously worked for Sterling-based cybersecurity firm Neustar, got the whiff of a good story.
“My little nephew, who was five, didn’t know the bad guys lived in the internet or on his devices or on the computer,” she said.
Dahl wanted him to realize that the online world wasn’t all peaches and cream — but in a fun and constructive way. Yet she couldn’t find anything “that was awesome and caught the attention of a five-year-old.”
So, said Dahl, “We had to write it ourselves.”
In June 2013, she teamed up with Dallas-based cybersecurity analyst Chase Cunningham and Brussels-based illustrator Shirow Di Rosso. They launched The Cynja, a comic book series that restores a sense of adventure and danger to children exploring the cyberworld.
Their collaboration itself was made possible only by online communication.
“The three of us never met until our book was at the publisher,” said Dahl, who is loosely based out of GP Tech Labs.
The series is also syndicated on a handful of websites, including investigative cybersecurity journalist Bob Sullivan’s BobSullivan.net.
Eventually, The Cynja saw an opportunity to pivot.
Parents, who may or may not have browsed the books themselves, kept asking Dahl for advice on protecting their web-surfing children.
— The Cynja (@TheCynja) July 29, 2015
In response, the company decided to produce a “secured, controlled CynjaSpace” — a platform that protects kids online, keeps tabs on their naughtiness (swearwords and such), all in an illustrated world inspired by the comic series.
Dahl calls it “cyberspace with training wheels.”
The Cynja launched the app’s MVP in iOS at Comic-Con International in San Diego in July.
Now, the company is looking to raise $1 million in preparation for the official launch in November. According to an SEC filing, it has so far reached $230,000 of that goal.