Fingerprint is “dedicated to creating the next big kid’s company” as their mission statement says, and the San Francisco-based company is making significant progress towards that goal. Software for kids seems like a natural for tablets and smartphones, seeing the strong affinity kids have for a touch-based interface. The [a]list daily spoke with Fingerprint CEO and co-founder Nancy Macintyre about the company’s deal with Sylvan Learning, the evolution of the company’s platform strategy and the reinvention of kid’s software.
Fingerprint CEO Nancy Macintyre
Educational software for kids was once a major category, reaching nearly $500 million in annual sales in 2000 before collapsing to $152 million by 2004, according to NPD. The decline was driven by free web sites offering educational games and the rise of devices like the LeapPad from LeapFrog Enterprises. Now, the incredible growth of smartphones and tablets has created fertile ground for the regrowth of software aimed at kids.
“We started the company thinking we were going to be a consumer business, with a focus on kids” said Macintyre. “In February of this year we launched a new version of our platform that supported safe social, multiplayer games. What started getting calls from big media companies, cable companies and well-known brands, who said ‘we have subscription businesses, wouldn’t it be interesting if we were operating a gaming network with you ‘ We recognized that an enterprise solution where we were powering networks for third parties would be interesting for us.”
Fingerprint’s first partner in this strategy is Astro, the largest pay TV company in Southeast Asia. “We’ve built them a learning and play focused network that will be bundled with their mobile TV-to-go app,” said Macintyre. “We’re putting a game network in front of TV subscribers, and we’re very excited about that.”
“There are many companies out there like a cable MSO or a content creator, and everybody has the same objective ““ to leverage the incredible growth in usage of mobile devices, particularly tablets, aimed towards kids,” said Macintyre. “If you’re a TV company you want to have as many eyeballs as possible on your brand and on your content, and you want to monetize that content as well as possible. If you’re a developer you want to get discovered. By partnering with big organizations that have a large subscriber base already buying content, it’s a logical step that games would also be made available to them.”
Fingerprint is creating apps for kids, but now is also helping other developers find an audience for their kid-friendly games with their platform Fingerprint Play. This allows Fingerprint to find a steady stream of content for its network, and is part of their expansion plans. “Our objective is to scale our user base geographically by partnering with lead partners in a variety of territories, then expanding beyond learning and play to entertainment as well,” said Macintyre. “There’s no reason why we can’t go into various vertical markets.”
The company has started with younger kids, but it doesn’t plan to stop there. “We’re primarily focused on ages 3-8, but there are no technical reasons why the platform that would keep us from expanding to other types of content like ebooks and video, which we’re already doing,” noted Macintyre. “Second, we can expand to other kinds of content. For instance, our partner Astro in Asia might decide they want to do a custom platform experience around the World Cup. There are no barriers to creating a custom sports network that would be targeted to older kids.”
The strategy for Fingerprint is to optimize for each market.”We go into any particular market and try to recruit the best app developers the best content in that market that’s customized and localized for that particular market,” said Macintyre. “In Southeast Asia in particular there is significant focus on education; you must have them to make any education platform work. As well, we like to go beyond ABCs and 123s and offer passion topics that keep kids engaged, that could be science, it could be geography, astronomy, space, or cooking even.
Beyond global expansion, Fingerprint is also using its expertise in the North American market by joining forces with Sylvan Learning. “We’re launching before the end of the year a new network with the Sylvan Learning Center,which is the largest private tutoring company in North America,” said Macintyre. “We’re creating a proprietary learning network for them that will be targeted at kids in K-4. We think it’s the first of its kind custom network, and we’re working directly with their curriculum specialists to develop the apps. We’ll also be hand-picking a variety of third-party apps targeted at this audience. We’re super excited about this because it lets Sylvan kids play games at home that expand on what they get in the Learning Centers.” SylvanPlay will launch on iOS and Android with a suite of four apps created by Fingerprint and its developer network.
The kid’s marketplace is ripe for expansion, Macintyre believes. “I think there are more kids playing educational software than ever before,” said Macintyre. “They’re just not paying for it. Parents are willing to pay for quality educational content — you just have to get the content in front of them and be able to show them the value. That’s one of the things we think Sylvan will be super successful in doing.”