Two year old AI startup Kidas, makers of a video game monitoring system that alerts parents when a child comes in contact with bullying or predatory behavior, has raised a $2 million pre-seed round, its founder told Technical.ly.
The company came onto the scene in Philadelphia after being founded in 2019 by Ron Kerbs. He moved to Philadelphia to attend University of Pennsylvania, and then participated in Comcast NBCUniversal LIFT Labs’ 2020 accelerator on the future of work. The company became a multi-country startup, with Kerbs and one other US employee in Philly and three full-time technologists in Israel. A sixth full-time employee is in Canada.
Comcast LIFT Labs and Techstars made an initial investment in the company post-accelerator, and Kidas has since raised $2 million in a pre-seed round by investors Contour Venture Partners and New York Venture Partners, with additional participation from Rob Seaver, Margery Kraus, Bharath Madhusudan and some additional angel investors. Kerbs met Contour Ventures and Madhusudan through connections made at his time at Wharton, and the rest through the Techstars network, he said.
Kerbs told Technical.ly this summer, when explaining the company’s recent pivot to PC games, that they had begun fundraising, with plans to put the capital toward growing a marketing and development team. Until earlier this year, 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, and will email the player’s parents if something alarming was conveyed. The product is focused on kids ages 8 to 14, who can be most at risk for predatory behavior.
“It is our mission to help provide a safe online gaming environment for our children as they spend more time online interacting with digital avatars who could be anyone,” Kerbs said in a statement. “Our team built the Kidas software with guidance from a handful of the world’s leading bullying experts and researchers to change the landscape of safety in the gaming community and help give parents peace of mind.”
But a demand for the tech to integrate to PC games was growing, and switching to a software vs. a hardware product earlier this year saved the company money, Kerbs said. It also allowed the team to break into a growing market of games like Fortnite and Roblox, and can be used with gaming communications platform Discord.
This pre-seed round of fundraising will also go toward growing the company’s partnerships with organizations like PTA groups and school districts, esports camps and tournaments, along with companies in the gaming space, Kerbs said.
“Gaming is growing so fast while safety tech lags behind leaving companies trying to play catch up – sadly often after negative events have already happened,” Trace Cohen, Managing Director at NYVP said of their investment. “Gaming needs to be a safe environment and Kidas offers a new way to inform parents of events and equip parents and caretakers with tools to talk to their kids about it properly.”