Pulling children away from technology can become a daily battle that’s sometimes not worth fighting for. But a little gadget named KoalaSafe may take the sting out of telling children it’s time to do homework or to go to bed.
Technology is a double-edged sword that’s king in most Australian homes.
The latest Australian Child Health Poll found almost all teenagers, 66 per cent of primary school-aged children and 33 per cent of preschoolers have their own tablet or smartphone.
Despite this, Vanessa O’Connor remains in charge of her castle.
The mother of three has full control over her children’s internet usage with a helping hand from KoalaSafe, a device that gives her parental controls over what’s accessible, on what device and when.
The parent-controlled router lives on the home internet network but provides a separate wifi source for children.
Using an app, parents are able to control everything from one device.
“The main features of KoalaSafe that I find best are the ability to block the internet instantly, the scheduling of internet access and the automatic filtering,” she said.
For her, it’s an empowering tool that restores balance in a household with five iPads, five computers, three mobiles and two smart televisions.
Although her eldest child, Josephine, despised it.
“It was really annoying because all of a sudden we couldn’t do as much without mum seeing everything and restricting it all so I hate it quite a lot,” she said.
KoalaSafe was the idea of Adam Mills and Steve Pack with help from Kickstarter.
“It all started with Steve’s sister,” Mr Mills said.
“Her kids got two iPads, discovered Minecraft and really disrupted the family dynamic."
“There were some fights at bedtime because they really wanted to be playing this game so Steve’s sister reached out to him and was like, ‘can you help me with this?’”
For a humble Aussie invention, it’s proving a big hit overseas and went global on the first day of its release.
Mr Mills said they started selling from their website, shipping to 21 countries, before moving to Amazon.com in the US.
“We saw a really big jump in sales from Amazon.com and since then we’ve tried a number of online platforms, all of the Amazons around the world and Walmart.com,” he said.
“It really boosted our online sales, and just two weeks ago, we finally cracked retail so will be in 250 Target stores across the US.”
For parents like Ms O’Connor, the peace of mind it gives is invaluable, especially after an internet scare where her child saw age-inappropriate content.
“Not maintaining internet safety for children really is the biggest risk to this generation,” she said.
“You’re leaving your children to be contacted by anyone and really, if you just put a device in, a simple device, you can control that.”
The device costs $130 each and Mr Mills’ goal for the business is to reach 10,000 unit sales in 2017 and break $1,000,000 in revenue.
“KoalaSafe took a rocket-ride from our first initial Kickstarter all the way to thousands of users in year one and now in year two, so we’ve doubled our revenue,” he said.
“The main challenge at the beginning was we chose to do drop shipping in China, and that was a disaster where a lot of the stock didn’t arrive until after three to six weeks later.”
Despite their global success, gaining traction in Australia has proven difficult for the business.
Mr Mills believes big things are in store for the company with the expected arrival of Amazon.com in Australia.
“Our sales really jumped when we went onto Amazon.com so we’re hoping Australians do pick up Amazon as well as the Americans do… fingers crossed.”
He said he and co-founder Steve Pack are still trying to find a distribution model that works best for them, although the overarching business model is clear.
“We’re really looking at a distribution model where we license our technology to hardware vendors and telcos and are really focused on that partnership.
“We had one license deal that we got paid upfront to do a lot of work for and although it never went to market, but it was a good source of revenue.”
Their revenue is almost 100 per cent from unit sales, but the business is looking set to change that.