As the father of two young boys, Daily Interactive Networks co-founder Brian Monnin knows how tough it can be to find quality content online. Between mind-numbing games and inappropriate videos, the 41-year-old Monnin simply got fed up and decided to do something about it.
That’s why he created Happly, a free iPad app that’s designed to help kids safely explore the Internet while finding high-quality content from National Geographic photographers, award-winning child book illustrators, top-notch chefs and more.
“The iPad is clearly a great addition to our home but we’ve had our share of not-so-cool experiences with connected devices too,” said Monnin, who previously worked at MSNBC.com, Brightcove and MetaStories. “I feel it’s just as important that parents are involved in discovering cool new stories and activities for their families as it is blocking the bad stuff out.”
We chatted with Monnin, who partnered with his former colleague at MetaStories, Greg Harris, for the latest installment of Startup Spotlight.
Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: “Happly is an iPad app that helps families share the best content on the Internet and avoid uncensored websites, violent games and inappropriate videos.”
Inspiration hit us when: “My 5-year old son Duncan took us from Angry Birds to a video on YouTube that taught my 9-year old son Theo how to drop the F-bomb.”
VC, Angel or Bootstrap: Bootstrap any way you can and find paying customers fast. The market will define you better than any advisor, VC or board member will.
Our ‘secret sauce’ is: “Greg Harris. The company co-founder is the former Creative Director of National Geographic Digital. After he re-designed nationalgeographic.com Steve Jobs chose his work to be featured during the original iPad launch to show off Web browsing on the revolutionary new device. Apple has shown us that great design is every bit as important as scalable code. Daily Interactive and Happly are lucky to have him.”
The smartest move we’ve made so far: “Hired a lead engineer every bit as competent as our product and design leadership. I’d tell you his name but technology hiring is so wickedly competitive right now that the recruiters would be at his door faster than he can write code.”
The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: “Telling the recruiters about the great talent we have in this interview.”
Would you rather have Gates, Jobs, Zuckerberg or Bezos in your corner: “Stonesifer. Patty Stonesifer is my entrepreneurial hero. Besides the fact these guys are un-available, I’d take the former CEO of The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in my corner any day. She was tasked with creating the ultimate start up going from 0-60 with the world’s smartest people watching and equally high expectations. She not only succeeded but re-booted global philanthropy in the process. She happens to be in Bezos corner, too, as an Amazon board member so I’d seek her support as much as Gates and Bezos have.”
Our world domination strategy starts when: “Kids choose Happly over Angry Birds.”
We are truly unique because: “We listen to our children for ideas and innovation that demand instant satisfaction and simplicity.”
The biggest hurdle we’ve overcome is: “Making last month’s payroll. Bootstrapping has its challenges too.”
What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: “Get a loan from your family (with interest) before you take money from a stranger. It will keep you grounded and motivated to achieve milestones before the next family gathering.”