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Kiddopia’s Anshu & Anupam Dhanuka: “Too much of a good thing can turn into a bad thing”

Technology has become completely ingrained in our everyday lives, but as beneficial as the digital world can be, many people think that we have become too dependent on it. Many kids are shielded from using technology, because parents tend to have negative feelings about giving their kids too much screen time, especially at an early age. […]

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Technology has become completely ingrained in our everyday lives, but as beneficial as the digital world can be, many people think that we have become too dependent on it. Many kids are shielded from using technology, because parents tend to have negative feelings about giving their kids too much screen time, especially at an early age.

Through Kiddopia, we are trying to break the stigma, and give parents peace of mind by conveying that screen time can be healthy if it is used to keep children engaged and learning through a platform that will help them grow and develop. We have intentionally created Kiddopia to be a safe, diverse and educational platform that fosters growth and creativity. We’re living in a modern world that relies heavily on video content and passive consumption of digital media, and while we’re able to consume more information than ever before, this tends to create impatience within children and a shorter attention span if they’re not actively engaged in screen time.


As part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Anshu Dhanuka & Anupam Dhanuka, co-founders of Kiddopia.

Anupam Dhanuka is the Co-Founder & CEO of Kiddopia USA Inc. He is primarily responsible for the general management and operations of the company and leads the engineering team. Anupam and his wife Anshu Dhanuka became strategic business partners and launched Kiddopia as a start-up venture in July 2017, with a goal of creating a world class “edutainment” apps for preschool kids that is both educational and engaging. Kiddopia has since become an award-winning app, COPPA Certified by kidSAFE, consistently ranks amongst the Top 5 Kids’ Apps in the US according to the Apple App Store and has over two million active users across the globe. Anupam is a passionate tech entrepreneur with in-depth expertise in mobile apps and games. Prior to launching Kiddopia, Anupam received his Master’s Degree in Computer Engineering from the esteemed Carnegie Mellon University. He has over 15 years of experience leading technology teams and has held positions at Morgan Stanley and Dolby Laboratories Inc. Aside from being an entrepreneur, Anupam is a father of a young child, enjoys running and has completed several half-marathons.

Anshu Dhanuka is the Co-Founder & Chief Product Officer of Kiddopia USA Inc. She is responsible for managing Kiddopia’s Game Concept and Design, Graphics, Animation and Marketing Strategy. Dhanuka has strong design skills and provides creative direction to the Kiddopia team. Anshu and her husband Anupam Dhanuka became strategic business partners and launched Kiddopia as a start-up venture in July 2017, with a goal of creating a world class “edutainment” apps for preschool kids that is both educational and engaging. Kiddopia has since become an award-winning app, COPPA Certified by kidSAFE, consistently ranks amongst the Top 5 Kids’ Apps in the US according to the Apple App Store and has over two million active users across the globe. Anshu received her M.A. degree in Finance from Nottingham University Business School. Along with her design skills and immense knowledge of the kid’s digital space, Dhanuka brings in first-hand experience of being a mother of a young child. Through Kiddopia, her mission is to make screen time valuable and safe in the lives of kids at a time when digital media consumption is inevitable.


Thank you so much for participating in our series! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

The iPad came out the same year our daughter celebrated her first birthday and we realized right away that touch screen devices have great potential for early childhood education. We wanted to create games that our daughter would enjoy and grow from and incorporate things she was interested in and loved doing in “real life,” whether it was feeding animals at a petting zoo or decorating a cake. From there, our company Paper Boat Apps was born. We realize there’s a difference between games that simply entertain and those that actually teach and help kids develop. To that end, we’ve created our subscription-based app, Kiddopia, to be the best of both worlds and is tailored to kids between the ages of one and seven years old. Anupam’s background in engineering combined with Anshu being a tech savvy mother with a passion for gaming, made for the perfect combination for creating an experience for kids and parents alike to enjoy together through Kiddopia.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

We took a huge risk in rolling out Kiddopia, and although we were confident in its capabilities after undergoing numerous rounds of testing and spending countless hours to perfect the app, launching a new product can be extremely stressful. As parents ourselves, we were very optimistic about the app, and because it is essentially a collection of all of our past games together in one application, we implemented the features that were effective and eliminated the ones that were not, in order to create the final product. Almost immediately after Kiddopia launched, we were met with an overwhelming amount of support and positive feedback from our audience who had been searching for an app that gave them a reason to feel good about giving their children access to screen time. In general, we didn’t expect the kind of subscriber conversions, retention metrics and positive reviews from our user base. It was a turning point for us and since then we solely and fully focused on Kiddopia opposed to the other initiatives/games that we had in the works. Our vision for the app has come full circle, as parents continue to use Kiddopia as a tool to help their children learn and grow during a crucial time in their development. Kiddopia has resonated with kids worldwide in over 150 different countries and we hope to continue to help parents connect with their children in new and innovative ways as the app continues to evolve. As parents and business owners, we are extremely grateful for the opportunity to make an impact on the lives of young children and humbled by the amount of success we’ve experienced so far on this journey.

Can you tell us about the cutting-edge technological breakthroughs that you are working on with Kiddopia? How do you think this app will help people?

We’ve created an Augmented Reality feature in the Kiddopia app that gives children the perspective of real-life situations that are easily understandable, engaging and visual. The goal is to allow children to explore the virtual world that lives within Kiddopia and see that the features within the app can be translated to the real world.

In addition to Augmented Reality, Kiddopia’s educational games cater to the learning track of each child and their individual needs. Every activity is mapped out, and the narrated questions within the game adapt to their skill levels so children are exposed to the content appropriate to them. The app also has a progress tracking feature that monitors the child’s progress easily with Kiddopia generated reports so that parents can see how their child is performing and targets growth areas they may need assistance with. Education is an individual and personal matter, and we have worked to make sure that each parent can track and understand their child’s unique talents and growth pace.

Our goal is to bring positivity to the lives of children and introduce them to technology early on, in a way that is healthy and facilitates growth, through the integrated technology that Kiddopia uses. We intentionally created this app to be interactive and nurturing in a way that instills positivity and empathy, both traits which we believe can help change the world.

How do you think Kiddopia might change the world?

Technology has become completely ingrained in our everyday lives, but as beneficial as the digital world can be, many people think that we have become too dependent on it. Many kids are shielded from using technology, because parents tend to have negative feelings about giving their kids too much screen time, especially at an early age.

Through Kiddopia, we are trying to break the stigma, and give parents peace of mind by conveying that screen time can be healthy if it is used to keep children engaged and learning through a platform that will help them grow and develop. We have intentionally created Kiddopia to be a safe, diverse and educational platform that fosters growth and creativity.

We’re living in a modern world that relies heavily on video content and passive consumption of digital media, and while we’re able to consume more information than ever before, this tends to create impatience within children and a shorter attention span if they’re not actively engaged in screen time. Since Kiddopia launched, we have developed a rapport with our young users and their families, because we create content that engages them in a productive way and allows them to see results as they watch their children learn to grow through the app. These games give children the tools to develop important characteristics, such as empathy, positivity and problem-solving which are very important qualities, especially in the real world.

Keeping the concept of “Black Mirror” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this sort of technology that people should think more deeply about?

Any form of technology that captivates our attention, even for short periods of time, has the potential to get the user hooked or addicted — it’s become human nature in a digital age and it remains true that “too much of a good thing can turn into a bad thing”. This is why technology use should always be balanced and have its limits, especially when it comes to young children. This is something we have been conscious of while developing Kiddopia and have created tools like screen time controls to help parents limit the use of app according to their individual requirements and parental discretion. It’s extremely safe and privacy-conscious which has become very important in the digital world when it comes to sharing data.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough behind the creation of Kiddopia? Can you tell us that story?

We were building different kids’ games a number of years before Kiddopia came to fruition, and it became challenging to market each app separately. We saw a need from parents who were searching for a comprehensive, one-stop solution to keep their kids engaged in a number of ways, when nothing like this had previously existed. So when the subscription model was launched by the app platforms, we took this as a huge opportunity to collate all our existing kids apps and package them into one app and give the parents the option to use the app as a holistic tool to grow with their children for the long term during the early childhood development years.

What would you need in order to lead this technology to widespread adoption?

Since Kiddopia is a digital platform, users need to have access to a smart phone or tablet, so making these tools more easily accessible and affordable, specifically to children in underserved countries, is the key to widespread adoption. Digital installment methods through credit and debit cards are essential for our subscription-based model, and because these installment methods are not fully adopted in developing countries, it is challenging to reach users in these areas. Kiddopia users are represented by over 150 countries around the world, and our goal is to continue to build awareness while finding ways to make Kiddopia accessible to all.

What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?

Showcasing testimonials from real users has been a very successful medium in communicating that Kiddopia is an effective platform that works. Even Chrissy Teigen is a fan of Kiddopia and uses it frequently with her own kids (and we’re grateful that she and her family have become loyal users ☺.

When parents and teachers first begin using Kiddopia with their children, we encourage them to document the story of their learning journey while providing honest feedback, starting on day one. Through their initial testimonials, many users have expressed concerns about limiting screen time and create awareness around the pitfalls of passive video consumption for kids. However, during their journey with Kiddopia, they organically share their kids learning with Kiddopia and sharing their real-life experiences which is very impactful. We’ve seen the positive effects of showcasing real parents and their children who are going through this journey in real time and that creates a true sense of confidence and trust among new and existing users of Kiddopia.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

We will forever be grateful for our daughter Naavya who is now ten years old. She is the reason and inspiration behind Kiddopia and why we decided to begin this journey and create content for kids. She was not only our beta tester but also our biggest critic. As a child herself, there are times when she has given us some very insightful feedback and once we incorporated those changes, we found that our games were much more engaging and effective. We are fortunate that she has given us a direct and honest perspective that is similar to our users and has helped us to grow our vision.

In Kiddopia’s early development phase, we were hitting a wall and not reaching the anticipated results in terms of engagement, particularly with our Math activities. Even in the real world, it can be a challenge to get children to grasp onto Math, so we needed to re-strategize. After testing out this section with Naavya, she told us that she didn’t believe other kids would play the game unless they were rewarded in some way. Using her valuable insight, we created an incentivized component to the Math section in our next update and sure enough, we saw a 50% increase in session time. The update really spiked the engagement numbers and the whole experience of this learning section, and we had our daughter to thank for that. While we always intend to do what’s best for our children, sometimes we forget to truly listen to them, and when we do, we remember that they’re teaching us as much as we are teaching them.

How have you used your success to bring goodness or positivity to the world?

Education is key, and we believe all children should have access to a reaching their full potential for a bright future, regardless of their circumstances. This is something we are very passionate about, as both parents and entrepreneurs, and we are doing everything in our power to use the platform we’ve built with Kiddopia to make a difference in the lives of our users and beyond. Recently, we have begun to initiate conversations with schools in developing regions and NGOs about the ways we can provide children in these communities with access to tablets, in order to encourage digital learning through Kiddopia and other educational mediums.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each)

  1. Invest in your brand by investing in talented people, regardless of the cost. Hiring those who share your vision and future goals is essential to your success, because a supportive team with a strategic mindset is the foundation of any company.
  2. Implement previously vetted software and/or service providers with a proven track record that fits your needs to streamline and smoothen your operations instead of spending the time and resources to create your own.
  3. Let the market and your customers guide you. When it comes to app creation, you should always plan to first put out a very basic version and see how your audience responds to it before adding all of the bells and whistles. You should always walk before you run in order to avoid setbacks after it’s live — accept and embrace the fact that your app will constantly evolve in order to keep up with your customers’ needs.
  4. Delegate in order to maximize productivity and results. Trust in your team — you don’t have to take on each and every task yourself.
  5. Harness the power of networking. If you are very hands on with the day-to-day execution, it can be challenging to find the time to network with those in your eco-system. Networking is just as important as your operations, so make sure you’re dedicating the time and effort to taking advantage of the networking opportunities that add value to your business.

You are both people of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger!

In an ideal world, we would love for Kiddopia to inspire change in the education system, especially for the underprivileged, by providing resources for children in the early development phase. When children are not given the proper attention and tools to learn at their individual pace and ability, there is a risk of falling through the cracks of the education system. We also hope that Kiddopia inspires social change and acceptance at a young age. Our app encourages diversity, gender parity and inclusivity across all facets and learning tools, and our goal is to educate and create a sense of empathy and acceptance that can be translated into reality. The world is going through some very difficult times at the moment, and we hope that parents will continue to use Kiddopia as a platform to instill values in our children that lead them to become the best version of themselves and drive positive change for generations to come.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

We truly believe that one of the best lessons to live by is to “keep moving forward,” in every aspect of life. We have always felt that by setting clear goals and doing everything in your power to pursue them, regardless of adversity, you will eventually reach the finish line — personally and professionally. For us, it felt like the universe was constantly throwing challenges our way on the road to creating Kiddopia and we had to continuously find ways to adapt and evolve — but we kept pushing forward and learned a lot through the process. Many app developers or companies that creates product will need to go through numerous rounds of revisions and pivots. This is just the nature of the business, so it’s crucial to be agile and nimble in your approach, listen to the market, and adapt until you find a solution that works.

It’s a bit of a David vs. Goliath story. After Kiddopia launched, we began to see some companies with deeper pockets drawing inspiration from the app and replicating some of our games. But while we found this very frustrating, we didn’t get discouraged. Clearly, we were doing something right because we were capturing the attention of those with greater resources and bandwidth. This actually motivated us to channel our energies into evolving our platforms and reaching a wider audience.

“Keep Moving Forward” was a phrase that also helped us through some financial obstacles, right around the same time. We were running Google Ads on our earlier apps when suddenly, we were notified that Google would no longer pay us to run ads, citing some policy changes. At that time, ad monetisation formed a big chunk of our revenue share, so we had to find a way to pivot immediately and keep our revenues on track in order to avoid financial setbacks. Our team decided that the best course of action was to shift to a subscription-based model which ultimately lead to the formation of Kiddopia. Through these challenges, we were able to find solutions that best served our customers and business as a whole, all while continuing to stay the course and working to grow as a company along with the support of family, friends and colleagues.

Some very well-known Venture Capitalists read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say?

Our ultimate goal is for Kiddopia to play a positive role in the childhood development of each and every child across the globe. We hope to instill passion for learning by providing access to a fun and educational platform, regardless of a child’s background, socioeconomic status and ability. We want to provide a platform that expands the mind and fosters creativity for children at an early age, so that they are positioned for success later in life. We believe that technology is the future, but more importantly, so are our children.

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