AI-driven cyberbullying prevention startup Kidas is fundraising after switching focus to PC games - Technical.ly Philly

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AI-driven cyberbullying prevention startup Kidas is fundraising after switching focus to PC games

The Philly and Israel-based startup recently alerted parents to an 11-year-old sharing his phone number online during a streaming session to thousands of strangers, founder Ron Kerbs said.

Kidas is a cyberbullying prevention startup.

(Screenshot)

Philadelphia and Israel-based startup Kidas has started fundraising for a pre-seed round, founder Ron Kerbs told Technical.ly. The AI-powered video game monitoring system alerts parents when their child comes in contact with bullying or predatory behavior while gaming.

Kerbs, a recent University of Pennsylvania grad, launched Kidas in 2019 and participated in Comcast NBCUniversal LIFT Labs‘ 2020 accelerator on the future of work.

The raise comes amid a switch to a PC focus for its technology. Until recently, the startup used hardware to monitor gaming on Xbox consoles, looking out for language or behavior aligned with bullying, depression or predators. The AI searches for specific words or phrases and understands the gist of a conversation. It will email the player’s parents if something alarming was conveyed, and is focused on kids ages 8 to 14, who can be most at risk for predatory behavior.

As of April 2021, the demand for the tech to integrate to PC games was growing, and switching to a software vs. a hardware product saved the company money, Kerbs said. It allowed them to break into a growing market of games like Fortnite and RoBlox, and can be used with gaming communications platform Discord.

Ron Kerbs. (Photo vis LinkedIn)

“We launched the paid version, and had bad cases of things we detected — severe cases of cyberbullying that we were able to catch and parents could intervene,” Kerbs said.

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In one recent case, parents of an 11-year-old were alerted when the software detected some serious cyberbullying by friends and fellow players online. Another 11-year-old had shared his phone number online during a streaming session to thousands of strangers, Kerbs said.

In those serious cases, the service sends parents an immediate email, on top of the weekly report, so they can address it with their children. The service costs $6 a month, or $60 for a yearly subscription, and the switch to software means parents can directly download it online and use right away.

Kerbs said the startup has begun fundraising and isn’t disclosing the amount just yet, as it’s ongoing. Crunchbase is reporting a $1.1 million raise — which isn’t correct, the founder said, but it is “somewhere along that line.”

The raise will go toward growing a marketing and development team. Since Technical.ly checked in this past December, the team has also grown, and a few more roles will be added in coming months, Kerbs said. He and one other U.S. employee are in the Philly area, while three full-time technologists are in Israel. A sixth full-time employee is in Canada.

In the future, that growth will be pointed at getting the software onto anywhere kids are playing games, such as a tablet, phone, Nintendo Switch or other gaming consoles. Kerbs said the team learned a lot when they began distributing their hardware last year, and the switch clarified their mission.

“Our main goal of the round was accelerating growth,” Kerbs said of the pivot and growing the team. “Your strategy is scaling in the way you need to.”

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