Saturday, April 28, 2012

How Kytephone got a Y Combinator badge

Last September, after 6 weeks of intense development we launched Scanly at Ryerson University. Scanly allowed students to get a deal every time they brought something by scanning a QR code at the merchant's location. Ryerson students loved Scanly and our userbase quickly swelled after launch. We thought we had a great thing going, so during the fall, we decided to apply to Y Combinator (YC), the premier startup accelerator in the world.

After a very short but intense interview with the partners at Y Combinator, we were fortunate enough to get accepted. However, as we prepared to go to California and scale up Scanly, we realized that expanding it beyond Ryerson would be very costly and risky and that the business could never become truly big. So despite our initial success we had to make a hard choice and decided to pivot.

Abandoning a product and starting anew is always tough, but thankfully we had the support the Y Combinator partners and the awesome YC Alumni community, who are always ready to help out. When trying to come up with an idea for a startup, everybody advised us not to think of "startup" or "business" ideas, but to think about our own problems and how we can solve them. If you solve your own problems, chances are many other people share the same problem. And if your solution is good, then those people will also likely pay you money, which is how all great companies started.

As we were trying to come up with different solutions to our problems, we realized how tough our families and friends had it when trying to give a phone to their kids. We realized that while kids these days are growing up with smartphones and love the big touchscreens, when it comes time for them to get a phone, they are forced to get a featurephone, because their parents don't want them using such a powerful device.

We started wondering... what if you took a modern touchscreen phone, but simplified it radically and let parents have full control of it over the web? Was it possible? Would anyone buy it? After doing some research, we realized we could write an app that runs on Android phones and completely locks down the phone into a limited, kid-mode, while letting parents control the phone from the web. We had stumbled on a very interesting idea - we would be the ones to make sure every child in the world can get a smartphone! And so, Kytephone was born.

We started working on Kytephone in mid-January and the next two months were like a blur. Y Combinator is an extremely intense time and many say it's the most productive time of your life. We quickly settled into a very productive routine - we would work 6-7 days a week for most of the day, save for eating food and going to the gym. Every Tuesday we would go to the weekly Y Combinator dinner, where we could hear about the experiences of great entrepreneurs such as Jack Dorsey and try and absorb what makes them successful. At the end of March, we were finally ready to launch our product publicly. We posted the link on several websites and to our great pleasure, we got a ton of users and extremely positive feedback from everyone. 

The climax of the 3 month Y Combinator program is Demo Day, when 500 of Silicon Valley's top investors all gather to hear pitches from every Y Combinator company. Each company gets only 2 and a half minutes to explain what they do and get investors interested. Because Kytephone solves a problem many investors, who are also parents, have it was both easy to explain and we received a lot of interest that day. 

Y Combinator truly is a special place - a very short but intense program that teaches you how to build a business and lets you become part of a very helpful and knowledgeable network.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Kyte Goes International

We launched Kyte two weeks ago and were extremely pleased with the positive reception it received. Many parents emailed us to tell us how glad they were someone was finally solving a problem both they and their children were struggling with, while others were simply impressed with the simple and elegant solution and wrote about it in blogs, comments and tweets and other postings.

Something that surprised us pleasantly was the magnitude of users who came outside North America and how keen they were on using Kyte and help us make Kyte work better for them.

Today we're releasing our first update to Kyte and it's packed with improvements to make it a better experience for everyone. Kyte now works with any phone number found in various countries and can even be used without a SIM card. We've also added support for high-resolution devices such as the Galaxy Nexus or LG Nitro so an even bigger number of users can use Kyte. Finally, we also improved our sync to make it faster and more robust, so parents can make changes to the phone in real-time.

We are super excited about the future of Kyte and we look forward to hearing more from users and adding features to make Kyte a joy to use for both kids and parents. We would love to hear from you - drop us a line at

To start using Kyte today and check out our new release, check us out on Google Play.
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