Colombian startup develops early education APP for children under 6

Global Business

Amid fierce market competition for computer and phone apps, companies are looking for any edge they can get. One Colombian startup is seeing success in the children’s education market and some are crediting the youngest member of its editorial team. CCTV America’s Michelle Begue reported this story from Colombia.

Thomas Castellanos loves to do what many boys his age do: play sports, learn piano and sing. But unlike most 6-year-olds, during his spare time Thomas has an important job at a Colombian company called Kindery.

“What I do is overlook the illustrations, see if children will understand the story so they can develop their imagination,” Thomas said.

Kindery developed an app for mobile devices and tablets that is geared towards children ages 3 to 6. The children’s comic book is designed for children who don’t yet know how to read. Its characters are designed to help children overcome fears they may have associated with starting school.

“The kid who is playing will see all the illustrations in black and white. They press the red button and they can start to record their voice. And wherever they record it will start to color by itself,” Thomas added.

The application is aimed at helping children develop social and cognitive skills. An international literacy review found more than 60 percent of elementary age children in Colombia have poor reading comprehension. Kindery said its goal is to help children develop those language skills even before they recognize letters and words.

“If you don’t develop your language before you are 5 years of age, then you will have trouble learning how to read, and trouble developing comprehension skills for the rest of your life,” COO of Kindery Jessica Pena said.

With only 18 months in business Chief Operating Officer Jessica Pena said Thomas is a vital part of Kindery’s five-person team. When Kindery won a $45,000 prize in a videogame development contest hosted by the Colombian Technology Ministry, it was Thomas chosen to receive the honor.

Support from the government as well as private startup incubator Wayra, has helped this company along the way. And a high point came when the Colombian Chamber of Electronic Commerce named Kindery the country’s best mobile app for 2014.

“That validates us, because it proves that what we are doing is done well, we have had a great reception. We have been downloaded in 80 countries with 10,000 downloads in 120 thousand devices,” CEO of Kindery Juan Felipe Salcedo said.

But Salcedo said that app startups in Latin America still have their challenges when competing against large toy developers that create their own apps such as Fisher Price.