Francesca Cavallo is the Co-Founder and Creative Director of Timbuktu Magazine. She’s a prizewinner playwright and a committed educator specialized in Creative Learning Strategies. She has founded “Kilodrammi” theater company and “Sferracavalli“, the first International Festival of Sustainable Imagination. She loves Southern Italy, wii ping pong, donuts and cappuccino.

Daniel Kondo is a Brazilian illustrator working in publishing and advertising in Brazil and abroad. He was chosen to represent Brazil at the Bologna International Children’s Book Fair, the most important event of the world for book illustrators. His clients include Sony, Nestlé, Brasil Telecom, MTV and Timbuktu Magazine.

A year and a half ago, we started working on Timbuktu, the iPad magazine for parents and children. We launched two issues (one from Milan and one from San Francisco), worked with an international network of artists and got featured by newspapers around the world and by Apple in the Top 5 US Education category. After making many mistakes and learning from them, we’ve come up with 12 Golden Rules to share with anyone who’s thinking of designing an app for kids.

1) Be courageous. If you simply copy traditional paper activities for kids (like connecting the dots, or coloring shapes) but you don’t add editorial value to your product, your app will fall by the wayside of all other apps that do the same thing.



2) Know your customer. Have kids actually tried out your product? In the age range you’re targeting, can they move the iPad as you want them to do? Do they easily get the navigation? It’s one point that’s really easy to miss, but it’s so important. Always do user testing. When it comes to kids, in our experience it’s better to do it live.


3) Don’t underestimate your audience. This is crucial. Don’t treat kids like dumb grown-ups. If you think you want to teach them something but not learn anything from them, you’re on the wrong track. The most effective learning processes occur when there’s a mutual understanding and when you treat kids as your peers.


4) Don’t be ideological. This is when you’re convinced for whatever reason that your customers should behave in a certain way and they’ll understand sooner or later what’s the best for them (and that’s your product). This doesn’t work. Be open-minded. Listen to your customer and be open to understanding how they actually behave and how you can be a good solution for them now.


5) Respect parents. Would you want your own kids to buy things online every time they grab the iPad? Probably not. Neither do the parents of the kids who might use your product. Find a way to offer them smart and clear plans, costs that meet their needs and are designed accordingly with your product. Rian van deer Merwe is really mad at app developers who don’t pay enough attention to this.


6) Don’t design crap. This has two meanings: a) if your product is cheesy, don’t bother hiding it with a great look. It might work anyway (there are several examples of this approach on the App Store); b) if your product is not cheesy, please don’t let your design be crappy. Kids deserve beautifully designed products. Don’t give them an ugly app.


7) The iPad is not interactive paper. We believe that in this overcrowded market, the winners will be those who design projects that are not merely “books for iPad,” but that are genuinely digital native products. Children still need stories, but we have to understand how reading (or listening to stories) has changed in the tablet era.
Some key questions to ask yourself could be:
– Do I need a cover?;
– Do I need to flip pages?;
– Do I need bookshelves?

The creativity and simplicity of Toca Boca answering to these questions, I believe, it’s the secret sauce that makes their products great.


8 ) Words are important. Take good care of the words that you put in your app. Digital native children are shaping their vocabulary, and their idea of the world through the apps we’re producing. You don’t want to foster a superficial approach to reality, you don’t want to make fun of their imagination. You want to reinvent and rediscover the world together with them, app by app. The words you use are a good starting point for this.


9) Measure what matters. That’s the mantra here at 500 Startups and it’s particularly true also for kids’ apps.
The ones that we found more important for Timbuktu are the following:
– How often do our user use our app?
– For how long?
– How long does it take for them to come back after the first open?
– How much time do they spend on it per session? Does that match with our expectations?
– It’s the app lifecycle what we expected it to be?
– Is the navigation clear or it needs improvements? (That’s important because if it doesn’t work effectively it can make your analytics foggy).

I stretch the importance of “compare with your expectations” because your users might use your product not exactly as you imagine. That’s something you want to discover because it should drive the development of new features, and eventually will help you make your app more awesome.


10) Clearly indicate what’s interactive. We know how much effort it takes to make your stories interactive. You want to be sure that your readers enjoy every bit of your app and don’t get frustrated touching elements that are not actionable. If things are clear without glowing arrows, you’re awesome. If not, don’t hesitate to put arrows where you need them.


11) If advertising is part of your product, you’re responsible for it. If advertising is part of your revenue model, know that it’s going to be part of the users’ experience. Understand what works the best with your product, and be creative. It’ll take some effort, but it’ll make a huge difference.


12) Find the best distribution channel. Try out many channels and measure the one that gives you the best conversion rate. If you use them wisely, Facebook and AdWords campaigns can help you figure out the most effective distribution strategy for your product. Don’t only rely on the App Store. Even if you get featured, it might not generate the results you expected.


Feel free to add your own lessons learned by posting a comment on this blog post!

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The Funding Games

They came from districts afar – Mexico, Brazil, the UK, Slovenia, Italy, Japan, Australia, Canada, India, Philippines, China, Austin, NYC, DC, Chicago.

For the next 3 months, these 27 startups will fight to gain customers, revenue, and investor dollars.

Welcome to the 4th Annual FUNDING GAMES.

The chosen ones, in alphabetical order:

Yelp for kids activities.

AngelList: http://angel.co/activityhero
Chandini Ammineni, Shilpa Dalmia, Peggy Chang
Hacker Dojo
Fun Fact:
We don’t hire interns, we hire momterns
Theme songs:  
Phineas and Ferb – 104 days of Summer & Phineas and Ferb – Squirrels In My Pants
Activana. Her mission is to save the world from child boredom, and guide frazzled moms on their way to achieving activity nirvana. More here: http://blog.activityhero.com/about-me/


Intelligently organising recreational sports, in order to engage the 2.3billion strong amateur sports audience.

AngelList: http://angel.co/bluefieldscom
Andrew Crump, Piers Rollinson
: London
Fun Fact:
In real life you rarely actually see a blue field.
Theme song:
Ed Jaentschke – Bluefields Song ‘Bluefields, Bluefields, thats the place you want to be.’

Bombfell is a monthly subscription for men’s clothing built to enable guys who lack time or don’t know what to buy to dress well.

AngelList: http://angel.co/bombfell
Founders: Jason Kim, Bernie Yoo
SF Bay Area
Fun Fact:
The founders are honorary cowhands at a working cattle ranch in Wyoming. Our stylist is a former pastry chef at 25 Lusk
Theme song:
Hall & Oates – You Make My Dreams Come True
Edna ‘E’ Mode from The Incredibles: we dress superheroes


Create and share beautiful digital cards. Meet smart people, today.

AngelList: http://angellist.co/cardflick
Ketan Anjaria
San Francisco
Fun Fact:
We thought of the idea for CardFlick in the shower
Theme song:
It’s Tricky

Chalkable is an app store for school and a platform to make those apps work.

AngelList: http://angel.co/chalkable
Founders: Michael Levy, Zoli Honig
New York City
Fun Fact:
Michael’s brother set Zoli up with his wife. He’s been “paying Michael back” everyday since.
Theme song:
Bangarang by Skrillex– Seriously, we are eating fun dip RIGHT NOW.
Uhh yea. We are Superman AND Lex Luthor. Strongest being in the universe with the brains to have some fun!

Virtual phone system for entrepreneurs and SMBs in Mexico & Latam. We help them to sound more professional and take their business
’ calls anywhere.

AngelList: http://angel.co/fontacto
Daniel Martinez, Joaquin Martinez, Jose Antonio del Rio, Ricardo Cacique
Fun Fact:
When a customer called our office (Ricardo’s house) his mom shouted “Ricardooooo you have a customer on the lineeeeee”. Weeks later there was an early version of fontacto.
Theme song:
Black Eyed Peas – Time of my life
The pizza/sushi/food guy! / Time


We make your Dropbox… social! Groupiter adds group conversations to the files you share on Dropbox.

AngelList: http://angel.co/groupiter
Founders: Chris Dyball (Vicki Luisi and Christopher Bradford on founding team)
From: San Francisco
Fun Fact: A number of our early users are VFX artists from ILM. George Lucas has called them away from their desks to play roles in the movies they’ve made… so we have a number of Jedis, rebel fighter pilots, and even the Hulk on Groupiter.
Theme song: http://youtu.be/w7JthgTMHDU
Superhero/villain: Hero: Tony Stark / Villain: Stay Puft Marshmallow Man (once you defeat him, you can eat him)

Happy Inspector
Revolutionising Inspections

AngelList: http://angel.co/happy-inspector
Jindou Lee, Andrew Mackenzie-Ross, Philip Mayes
Fun Fact: We used to make video games for a living.
Theme songs:  
waltzing matilda
Three Stooges


Ingresse is Brazil’s first social ticketing company. We allow people to find events they love and event organizers to reach their audience. Anyone can post an event for free and sell out like a pro.

AngelList:  http://angel.co/ingresse   
Gabriel Benarrós, Marcelo Henrique, Megan Lin, Sébastien (“Robi”) Robaszkiewicz
: The Jungle (Amazonas, Brazil)
Fun Fact:
As a team we have worked on 26 different startups
Theme song:
Hakuna Matata (although our server indicates that the most often played song is “I am Sexy and I Know It” by LMFAO)
Superhero/villain: Freakazoid vs. The Ticketmaster


Monogram is the Flipboard for fashion. We help you curate the best fashion items based on your taste; it’s like having a personal shopper on your iPad.

AngelList: http://angel.co/monogram
Leo Chen, Josh Chen (no relation)
Seattle & China
Fun Fact:
Leo and Josh are sharing an apartment in Mountain View. Josh sleeps in a tent in the livingroom.
Theme song:
MIMS – This Is Why I’m Hot
Ari Gold


PocketOffice makes it fun and easy to grow your small business from your smartphone.

AngelList: http://angel.co/pocketoffice  
Alan Wells (product & design, just enough front end coding to be dangerous), Glenn Allen (sales&marketing, ops, anything else)
San Francisco, California
Fun Fact:
Alan & Glenn have been working together for more than 15 years, shortly after Alan finished breast feeding.
Theme song:
Small Businesses get Back in the Black using PocketOffice (And just to be clear, Alan did NOT make this video, he was working on product when glenn did this behind his back)


PublikDemand helps consumers launch viral complaints against big companies and use the power of the collective voice to get their problem solved.

AngelList: http://angel.co/publikdemand
Founders: Courtney Powell, Jim England, A.T. Fouty
From: Austin, Texas
Fun Fact: PublikDemand is the first 500 accelerator company from Texas, and true to form we actually love to two-step, eat Barbeque and say “y’all”.
Theme song: Muse, “Uprising”
Superhero/villain: “V” from V for Vendetta


Social Catalog for Coupon and Deal Lovers

AngelList: http://angel.co/reclip-it
Founders: Cheryl Yeoh, Jhony Fung
From: New York City
Fun Fact: Reclip.It was actually conceived on a team trip in Miami, FL. We unknowingly swam into a sea of jellyfish and lost our Ray-Bans while escaping. Yes, our mascot is now a jellyfish wearing Ray-Bans.
Theme songs: Requiem For A Dream and Palladio
Superhero/villain: Mr. Okeechobee (the jellyfish)


Sqoot powers local deals in the things you use. Think Twilio for deals. Our local deal API helps publishers & developers add revenue & engagement, & advertisers gain targeted distribution.

AngelList: http://angel.co/sqoot
Founders: Mo Yehia & Avand Amiri
From: Chitown
Fun Fact: Hustler, hacker, hipster
Theme song: Good Feeling
Superhero/villain: “By your powers combined, I am Captain Planet!”

Next-gen interactive iPad kids books that bring families together around reading.

AngelList: http://angel.co/storypanda-enterprises
Founders: James Chutter and Pavel Bains
From: Vancouver, Canada
Fun Fact: James’ nephews call Pavel “Panda” and Pavel’s daughters call James “Red” Beard,” so naturally we started a company for kids with a Red Panda as a mascot.
Theme song: Gotta Have It – Jay-Z and Kanye West
Superhero/villain: Batman and Robin – the dynamic duo

Teamly makes you awesome at work by helping you stayed focused, collaborate better, and celebrate your achievements.

AngelList: http://angel.co/teamly
Founders: Scott Allison, Matthew Berman and Edward Robertshaw
From: Teamly was born in the UK and our founders are from Scotland, England and California
Fun Fact: A random meeting in Omaha, NE with led to the idea behind Teamly! Since then our users have created over 250,000 priorities so far.
Theme song: Come Together, The Beatles
Superhero/villain: Iron Man


TeliportMe is the Streetview for every place.

AngelList: http://angel.co/teliportme
From: India, Bangalore
Founders: Vineet Devaiah, Abhinav Asthana
Fun Fact: Once a very big client gave us a surprise visit to our office/apt only to find us in shorts and working on a broken table. Needless to say we didn’t get the deal ..
Theme song: The Sunscreen Song
Superhero/villain: Naruto and Rock Lee – We compete hard and never give up.


TenderTree helps families find a caregiver for the elderly or disabled.

AngelList: http://angel.co/tendertree
Founders: Andy Agrawal, Dana Wu
From: SF Bay Area
Fun Fact: Although TenderTree is a site to find caregivers, people use it as a dating site and refer their friends because they find our caregivers so attractive.
Theme song: What a Wonderful World, Louis Armstrong
Superhero/villain: Wonder Woman


Tie Society
Netflix for ties and more, a try-before-you-buy subscription service for men’s neckwear. When you have to look good, we help you look your best.

AngelList: http://angel.co/tie-society
Founders: Zachary (Zac) Gittens; Otis Mason Collins, II
From: Washington, D.C.
Fun Fact: 1) We haven’t worn the same tie in over 10 months. 2) We are honorary members of the National Dry Cleaners Association.
Theme song: Outkast – SpottieOttieDopaliscious
Superhero/villain: Bruce Wayne


Timbuktu Labs
The iPad magazine for you and your children.

AngelList: http://angel.co/timbuktu-labs
Founders: Elena Favilli, Francesca Cavallo
From: Italy
Fun Fact: The annotation on our visas says “Prospective Investor”.
Theme song: Human – The Killers
Superhero/villain: Corto Maltese

TokyoOtakuMode is a place to share Japanese OTAKU culture like MANGA and ANIME. In just 1 year,
we’ve received over 3.7M Likes on our Facebook fan page.

AngelList: http://angel.co/tokyo-otaku-mode
From: Tokyo in Japan
Fun Fact: 4人ではじめたサービス、今ではボランティアを含め30名以上で運営。
(English translation:) At first, we started Tokyo Otaku Mode “TOM” for 4 members, but we have over 30 members right now which includes volunteers from all over the world. There are a lot of cloud NINJA who love Japanese culture and they are cooperating in terms of translating and posting on Facebook. TOM has a special day to cosplay once a month. We come to the office with Manga or Anime character cosplay and get down to work with that.
Theme song: We Found Love ー Rihanna · Calvin Harris
Superhero/villain: Naruto Uzumaki(NARUTO), Necomimi, Monkey D., Luffy(ONE PIECE), Miku Hatsune, Mark Zuckerberg(Facebook)


Making finance fun. Super easy personal finance manager and bank data aggregator.

AngelList: http://angel.co/toshl
Founders: Matic Bitenc, Miha Hribar
From: Slovenia
Fun Fact: We can even make pancakes sound dirty.
Theme song: Magnifico – Here I Come, Here I Go
Superhero/villain: Banananjam (Banana Man http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qwRMYz1vfcQ) & Gargamel (from Smurfs)


Twitmusic.com lets musicians effectively share & promote their music on Twitter.

AngelList: http://angel.co/twitmusic
Founders: Stefano Fazzini, Christian Fazzini
From: Manila, Philippines
Fun Fact: We got to party with Mike Posner, DJ Jazzy Jeff, Pitbull’s DJ Syphe – all because of Twitmusic!
Theme song: Mike Posner – Cooler Than Me
Superhero/villain: Optimus Prime –  He is depicted as a brave, powerful, wise and compassionate leader who puts his talent to use improving the universe around him.


Umba Box allows people to effortlessly discover handmade products by delivering monthly curated packages of women’s goods to subscribers.

AngelList: http://angel.co/umbabox
Founder: Lauren Thorp
From: Washington, DC
Fun Fact: One of our artists is a former bird flu researcher who makes handbags for us from leather scraps from factories in Indonesia.
Theme song: “You are the Best Thing” by Ray LaMontagne
Superhero/villain: Glitter from Marvel Comics. Besides having a kick-ass superheroine name, she can “engage in physical activity for long periods of time without tiring” (like us), “lift approximately one ton” (kind of like us), run 40 mph (more-or-less like us), and has a “reaction time about twice as fast as the average human” (we have cat-like reflexes).


Uscoop is a social commerce platform for preps. We aggregate small and large all-American brands and sell them on one platform. We are disrupting the retail world by allowing the customer to be the stylist and model.

AngelList: http://angel.co/s/7tCLkT
Founders: Jocelyn Gailliot, Madeline Moore, September Rinnier
From: Washington, D.C.
Fun Fact: We pay our models in beer.
Theme song:  “Tea Partay” by Prep-Unit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i6XsIL0jIBI
Superhero/villain:  She-Ra, for all the fierce female founders keeping up with the he-men.

Honeymoon registries for couples who want experiences, not stuff.

AngelList: http://angel.co/wanderable
Founders: Marcela Miyazawa and Jenny Chen
From: Santiago, Chile and Dallas, TX
Fun Fact: Puffins are delicious…and we met because we were randomly assigned as freshman roommates.
Theme song: We don’t have a theme song, we have a theme poem: http://www.qu-i-x.com/woulda.html
Superhero/villain: Matt (from wherethehellismatt.com) and Dr. Horrible


Fun & educational games for kids ages 6 – 12 on iPhone & iPad.

AngelList: http://angel.co/yogome
Founders: Manolo Diaz and Alberto Colin
From: San Luis Potosi, Mexico, hometown of the famous Mexican beer-mix, Micheladas!
Fun Fact: We have a Squirrel that loves to eat Doritos Nacho Cheese and gets crazy when you don’t give some (we have photos to prove it)
Theme song: Bob Esponja – Soy un Cacahuate (Spanish version of SpongeBob)
Superhero/villain: Kung Fu Panda

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