San Diego’s KidZui Raises $2M, Launches a “Google for Kids”

8/11/11Follow @bvbigelow

If there is a children’s book section in the local public library, shouldn’t part of the Internet also be reserved for kids? San Diego’s KidZui answered this question in 2008, when it launched its kid-friendly Internet browser (as an add-on to Firefox) that allowed kids to browse websites that were pre-screened and approved by a team of parents and teachers.

Today, the San Diego Internet startup says it’s launching Zui.com, a search engine for kids ranging from 3 to 12 years old. As with its browser, all that Web content has been screened and approved—and now consists of more than 5 million websites, YouTube videos, images, games, and other content.

“Up until now, it’s all been about the browser,” KidZui CEO Cliff Boro told me last night in a call from New York. “Zui.com is really a new product platform for the company that is in addition to, and not a replacement for, the browser.”

In a highly competitive market, the new search engine also represents a bid by KidZui to differentiate itself from other kid-friendly Internet rivals, such as Webkinz, Club Penguin, PBSkids, and Nickelodeon. Boro says the company also has made a higher level of parent engagement possible through a Facebook-connect integration that enables parents to see the websites, games, and other content their children are consuming through Zui.com. It makes it possible for parents to expand their kids’ interests, Boro says.

Another key feature is that KidZui designed Zui.com to work with Apple and Android-based mobile devices, “to reach more kids and also do it faster.”

With the launch of what Boro calls “a Google for kids,” KidZui also extended its Series C round to raise an additional $2 million. The latest tranche was led by San Diego-based Mission Ventures (which led the $4 million prequel in March 2010) and was joined by Maveron and Emergence Capital. Boro says the company, which now has 18 employees (up from 15 in 2010), plans to use the cash for general corporate purposes.

As a Google-like platform, Zui.com also enables the company to generate revenue from “leading family-friendly brands” that offer advertising content for the site. Advertisers get the added value of metrics that show precisely what advertising kids are clicking on.

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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