Part of what makes the entrepreneurial scene so interesting is the diversity among startups. That is, one day you could be talking with a person who runs big data analytics to fulfill government contracts while the next day you get to interact with a new app designed for managing personal files.
The point I’m trying to make here is that throughout almost every startup, we see the founders creating a niche they fit into, big or small, and sticking with it. Spencer Whitman and Jim Newsome have found their niche with AppCertain, a tool for parents to manage their family’s mobile devices.
“We noticed that there was a major lack of parental control apps for iOS, mostly a result of the way Apple restricts what apps can and can't do,” says Whitman. “We created some great ways that follow Apple's rules, and are able to expose better remote controls to parents.”
Therein lays the small, almost invisible niche that AppCertain seeks to exploit: the lack of parental controls iOS offers. True, there are pre-installed restrictions on iOS devices, and Whitman notices that as a major competing factor, but the features they offer parents are limited compared to AppCertain.
The tool currently monitors which apps get installed on an iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch, and sends notifications to parents about what those apps do. That way parents can get a comprehensive understanding of what is happening on their kids’ mobile devices and manage the use of said devices.
“Kids are getting their own iPod Touch, playing with the family iPad, and many will be receiving an iPhone for the holidays,” says Whitman. “These digital natives are very quickly outpacing their parents, and parents need as much help as they can get.”
To go beyond simply offering parents a glorified notification system, Whitman and Newsome have built in a ‘Curfew Mode’ button that acts as an on/off switch for non-essential iOS apps. That way if a parent deems their child has spent too long on their device, or if they download a naughty app, the parents can pull the plug remotely.
In essence, AppCertain is simply re-packaging extra functionality that was originally created for enterprise usage. The entrepreneurial twist they have provided is turning that around and marketing it to families and a larger audience beyond just enterprises.
“We weren’t sure if Apple would let us use these features in an app clearly intended for consumers instead of employees,” says Whitman.
But they were ultimately approved for the iTunes store, and word of mouth marketing paired with organic discovery is working well for them. And Whitman feels that the general goodwill that the people of Pittsburgh provide, as well as the hometown advantage, will carry them the rest of the way.
AppCertain was featured at Tech Cocktail's Pittsburgh Mixer & Startup Showcase on October 11th.