uKnowKids Epilogue and Announcement

Ten years ago, in partnership with Tim Woda and a group of amazing investors, advisors, employees, and family, I set out to make the digital world a safer place for kids and their families by founding the digital family safety company, uKnow.com and its flagship product, uKnowKids.

The first company I founded after graduating from Wharton in 2001, buySAFE, focused on making e-commerce safer for consumers and more profitable for merchants. If you have ever seen the Norton Safe Shopping Guarantee on an ecommerce website, you have been protected by buySAFE.

Keeping e-commerce shoppers safe was interesting work, but in my view, helping parents protect their kids online and on mobile devices was far more important, and so I left buySAFE and started uKnow.com in 2009.

The uKnow / uKnowKids team was inspired by a personal tragedy that impacted a child in my extended family, and so we used our digital security, data intelligence, and tech startup expertise to help moms and dads struggling with the challenges of parenting kids in this digital age.

In 2009, the digital world still seemed relatively new, and compared to today’s technologies, it was pretty basic. Apple’s iPhone 3GS was the hot tech product that year and its big features were a 3 megapixel camera and a digital compass. Symbian, not iOS or Android, was the dominant mobile phone operating system in the world. MySpace was HUGE.

Things have changed quite a bit since then. MySpace is gone, and in its place, Instagram, Snapchat, Kik, WhatsApp, FaceTime, iMessenger, and TikTok have all become popular apps with kids. None of these things existed when uKnowKids was born.

Over the past decade, we created smart tools for parents to protect their kids from bad guys and bullies; we coached families and educators on digital citizenship; and we helped more than a quarter million families keep their kids safe online and on their mobile devices in more than ninety countries around the world.

Thousands of parents have written to us with personal stories describing how uKnowKids helped to save their kids from harm and improved many young lives.

I am proud of the products we built, the educational content we developed, and the positive impact we had. I am grateful for the parents that put their trust in us, and for the influencers, teachers, investors and policy makers that helped us create and tell the world about uKnowKids. I am thankful for my uKnowKids teammates who have worked tirelessly and sacrificed along with me. I am especially thankful for my wife and family who have supported me through thick and thin.

A fellow entrepreneur once described entrepreneurship as the following..

“It’s like a man riding a lion. People think, ‘This guy’s brave.’ And he’s thinking, ‘How the hell did I get on a lion, and how do I keep from getting eaten?”
– Toby Thomas, CEO of EnSite Solutions

My uKnowKids journey ends here, and it was an exciting, scary, challenging ride for sure. In the end, I am a better dad, husband, coach, teacher and entrepreneur because of my uKnow / uKnowKids experience.

Last week, I was pleased to announce that Bark.us is taking over where we leave off. The uKnowKids mission to protect digital kids will live on with Bark.

While uKnowKids made a positive difference in the world, many digital family safety problems remain unresolved as the big tech companies make it harder and harder for parents to keep their kids safe in this new digital world.

I am confident that our users and our legacy are in great hands with Bark’s impressive team. While I am disappointed we could not complete this mission independently, I am also pleased to hand the uKnowKids baton to Bark. The world will be a better place as a result of the work that Bark does in the future.

As for me, I am on to my next adventure. I don’t yet know where that will take me, but as a serial entrepreneur, I expect it will be an exciting, challenging ride once again.

In the short run, I will spend time with family and do advisory work with Bark and other tech startups when interesting opportunities arise. 

I will also stay involved in the digital safety / security world by using my network and voice to advocate digital family safety with the big tech companies, policy makers, and the media on behalf of parents and their kids. We need to keep up the fight here.

As my next venture takes shape, I will be sure to share it with you here on my blog. In the meantime, I wish you and your family the best in 2020.

Good night uKnowKids!

Sincerely,
Steve Woda

‘Cause we all just want to be big tech stars!

I love the technology world.  There is so much creativity, and the following video is a great example of that.  This music video is a parody of Nickelback's Rock Star music video.  Check it out.  There is more reality in this video than most of us would like to admit. 🙂

I saw this video on Brad Feld's great blog, "Feld Thoughts", so special thanks to Brad for bringing it to our attention.

The Problem: Sexting and Predators

It is hard for me to believe, but today is the nine year anniversary of buySAFE’s birthdate.  Time sure does fly by when you are having a good time. 

When I left buySAFE a few months ago, I promised to keep you up to date on my next entrepreneurial adventure.  In the spirit of start-up birthdays, I thought I would share with you a few interesting details about my next venture.

Sexting is rampant. Predators are everywhere. Obviously, buySAFE was founded to make the Internet safer for online shoppers, and we did that for tens of millions of consumers.  This time around, we want to make technology safer for our kids (Fatherhood has a way of inspiring you to do such things).  Our new start-up is tackling two serious, prevalent and complex problems: Sexting and Predators.  The market simply hasn’t provided any effective solutions for parents yet, and we intend to fill that gap.

The business was inspired by my brother, Tim Woda, who as the parent of older children, has had to confront these difficult issues directly.  It seems like every time I speak with a parent of tweens or teens, they express the same frustrations and fear about allowing their kids to use digital technologies.  Since there are more than 37 million kids in the U.S. and more than 1.2 billion kids globally between the ages of 9 and 17, I believe there is an interesting business opportunity here.

The following is a short video overview of the Sexting and Predator problems that parents face today.  If you have any feedback or suggestions, please feel free to leave a comment.  I welcome your assistance.  Also, please share this video with your friends and family.  I believe it is important that we educate parents to make sure they are fully aware of the digital dangers they must manage on behalf of their kids. 

I recognize that I haven’t told you how we are going to attack these scary problems, but I will over the coming months.  I wanted to tease you first!  🙂  Before telling you everything, we have to finish building out our product and raise a bit of capital to finance our public launch.  Both of these activities are ongoing (and going well), and I will share more as we make additional progress.

I will continue to provide you with regular updates here on this blog, but if you want to get more frequent updates, feel free to become a fan on my Facebook Fan Page.  I am using it to share my daily thoughts on this start-up adventure.  Thanks, and stay tuned!

Thank you buySAFE!

Buysafelogo
Today, I am starting a new chapter in my entrepreneurial story. It is with both a bit of sadness and a lot of excitement that I share with you the news that I have left buySAFE to pursue other start-up and entrepreneurial interests. In addition, I have joined buySAFE’s Board of Advisors so that I can continue to assist the company in whatever fashion is necessary.  Click here to see buySAFE's announcement on the buySAFE blog.

After almost nine years of building buySAFE, I am leaving the Company in very capable hands, with fresh funding, and the brightest future that the Company has ever had. It has been a deeply satisfying experience to create something valuable, and I want to sincerely thank our customers, our partners, my colleagues and the many investors who made buySAFE possible. I am obviously looking forward to my next adventure, but I am also very much looking forward to buySAFE’s continued success over the coming months and years.

I founded buySAFE after getting burned in an online transaction on eBay. As a student, I didn’t have any extra money to lose to ecommerce fraudsters, and so I decided that there had to be a better way to buy and sell products online. buySAFE was born!

This adventure started for me while I was earning my MBA at Wharton in 2000, and as with all start-ups, there have been huge successes and great challenges. For me, both have proven to be invaluable learning experiences.

Developing buySAFE’s early business/technology plan, acquiring our major financial institution and strategic partners (including two major strategic partners to be announced in the coming months), and raising our $30 million in venture capital financing were all challenges that I ultimately found to be great learning experiences. Over time, I was able to lead almost every aspect of buySAFE’s business operations, and all of these experiences were amazing for me personally and professionally. I plan to share with you many of the lessons I learned at buySAFE over the coming months.

Perhaps the thing I am most proud of at buySAFE is our team. Early on, I recruited Jeff Grass, Tim Woda, and Hans Dreyer to buySAFE. Today, Jeff is buySAFE’s CEO, Tim is the VP – Sales, and Hans is the VP – Operations. They are the core of our team even to this day. The rest of our team is amazing as well, and it has been a pleasure working with each and every one of them.

I never intended to spend almost a decade working on my Wharton class project, but along the way, buySAFE provided me with an amazing opportunity to make great friends, to learn important new skills, and to see that anything is possible with persistence and creativity. It also taught me that you can’t build a company by yourself.

Although I could never hope to name all of the folks that deserve my thanks, I wish I could. A few folks in particular – my wife, my brother, and buySAFE’s employees, customers, investors, and advisors – have all obviously been invaluable to both me and buySAFE. To all of you, thank you! I sincerely appreciate your investments in time, capital, expertise, and support. There would be no buySAFE without you.

As far as the next chapter in my entrepreneurial story, I am not ready to share the details quite yet, but please stay tuned. I will share my adventures with you here on my blog, so if you are interested, please make sure to subscribe using the form below.

Thank you buySAFE!

Related posts:

"Steve Woda, Founder and Chairman of buySAFE, Pursues New Entrepreneurial Ventures" on the buySAFE blog

"Founder of buySAFE, Steve Woda, Steps Down" on AuctionBytes.com

1 in 5 young employees want this more than money!

Youngman
More money!  That is obviously what you expect your employees to want the most, but it turns out that for many young employees, freedom is what matters most to them.

1 in 5 young employees say that the "freedom to use technology how they want while they’re at work" is the number one thing they want out of their jobs.

Sam Narisi wrote a nice article on this recently, and it is an interesting read.

These employees want access to social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.  They want to use the favorite personal devices whether that be Blackberries, iPhones or their own laptops.  They want to use the Internet for their personal business.

To be honest, I don't think this is important only to young employees.  I suspect that a large percentage of older employees would echo those thoughts.  As you manage your teams, keep these needs in mind.  It will inevitably help you lead more effectively if you can offer a work environment that caters to your employees and the things they hold most dear.

Shopping Advisor approved by Mozilla for Firefox

Sa_firefox_addon
After two months of testing in Mozilla's developmental sandbox,
Mozilla approved the buySAFE Shopping Advisor for public distribution
via the Firefox Add-on site starting this week.

If you aren't already using Shopping Advisor with your Firefox
browser, you should install it as an add-on today.  You can check it
out on the official Mozilla Firefox Add-on site here… https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/9009

I am obviously excited about this big milestone, and as always, I hope you will continue to provide us with your feedback, insights and ideas on
Shopping Advisor over the coming weeks and months.

Have fun, and happy new year!

Steve

Dancing with First Round Capital

Firstroundcapital
First Round Capital's 2008 Holiday Card (video) proves once again why every early-stage entrepreneur wants to find a way to meet with this terrific investor group.  Check it out! 

These guys are creative; they have been in the trenches themselves (multiple times!); they have been successful (multiple times!); and most of all, they like working with entrepreneurs because they are entrepreneurs.

I have had the pleasure of working with and knowing lots of technology investors, and along the way, I have learned a thing or two about who you want to try and work with (and what you want to avoid).  These guys are good.  Period.  In addition, their holiday video is brilliant,
low-cost, and fun, and it highlights their strengths in an intangible,
yet powerful manner.

Let me share one quick story that illustrates why I like these guys so much.  Although they won't likely remember it, both Howard Morgan and Josh Kopelman provided me with a helping hand while I was trying to get buySAFE launched back in 2001.  I was introduced to Howard via a mutual friend, John Tedesco, and Howard offered to meet with me in NYC and provide me with feedback on my business plan.  At the time, the venture was called BondMyAuction.  I was not ready for primetime, and yet, Howard spent two hours listening to me and coaching me on how I could improve my plan.  Howard also introduced me to Josh Kopelman.  At the time, Josh was an executive at eBay because he had recently sold his business, Half.com, to the ecommerce giant.  For no reason other than to be helpful to me, Josh also spent almost two hours on the phone giving me feedback and advice on how to proceed. 

I will be forever grateful for their assistance since I was no more than an aspiring entrepreneur with a paper napkin business plan.  Their help was both gracious and inspiring.  In many ways, they (along with a few others like them) gave me the extra motivation and confidence that I needed to stick it out through the inevitable challenges of getting a business launched.  Since then, I have tried to return the favor with other aspiring entrepreneurs because of their good example (although I am quite sure that I could never be as helpful as they were for me).

Again, check out First Round Capital's holiday video, and I think you will agree with me.  These guys are authentic, and entrepreneurs clearly have good reason to want to work with them.

Nice job Howard and Josh!  For everyone else, enjoy!  http://holiday.firstround.com/