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Circle with Disney parental control device. (Circle Photo)

Circle Media Labs, maker of the Circle with Disney parental control device, has raised $20 million in new investment.

The Portland-based startup makes products that allow parents to set screen time limits and block certain content. Its technology pairs to a home router and lets parents manage online access for every device on a network. Circle also sells a subscription service for devices on 4G LTE or other WiFi networks. Its flagship product, Circle with Disney, currently sells for $40 on Amazon.

Circle CEO Lance Charlish. (Circle Photo)

The company will use the fresh cash for research and development, marketing and strategic partnerships, Circle CEO and co-founder Lance Charlish told GeekWire. Circle is also developing new consumer products as well as services delivered through the cloud and routers made by its partners.

“The news is full of reports of parents struggling to support their children in a connected world,” Charlish said in an email. “We recognize that parents are looking for help in their crucial role guiding their children as they progress through developmental milestones of digital literacy.”

Investors in the Series B round included Circle partners NETGEAR and T-Mobile US, who were joined by Third Kind Venture Capital, Relay Ventures and others. Circle developed a service called FamilyMode for T-Mobile and sells its parental control services through NETGEAR’s routers.

The funding round brings Circle’s total money raised to $30 million. The startup employs more than 60 people in its offices in Portland, Ore. and Cypress, Calif. Charlish said the company was excited about its expansion plans for 2019 but declined to share specifics.

There are countless apps and smart routers that come with built-in parental controls. Circle aims to distinguish itself by providing a holistic solution that manages time and content across devices both in and out of the house — a goal that it has mainly pursued through partnerships.

Researchers are examining the effects of screen time on kids. A recent study found that screen time for children under 2 years old has more than doubled since 1997.

In addition to Charlish, the company’s leadership also includes Chief Creative Officer Jelani Memory, who co-founded the startup, and Chief Technology Officer Tiebing Zhang. Circle was founded in 2014.

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