[l-r] Jim Newsome, Spencer Whitman, Kathy Sutton, Lara Schenck, Megan Gilligan
Parents rejoice. Now you can know with "app-solute" certainty what your kids are downloading onto their iPads, iPhones and iPod touches.
Created by a Carnegie Mellon University alumnus, "AppCertain" comes complete with a curfew mode (sorry kids, lights out!) and a cheat sheet to help you navigate your way through the good apps, the bad apps and the potentially dangerous ones.
Spencer Whitman (CS'07, E'12) was mulling over some ideas for creating a business when he stumbled on a problem that needed a solution: technology is far outpacing the ability of parents to parent effectively.
"We asked parents what apps were on their family's mobile phones, iPads, iPod touches, and they couldn't tell us," Whitman said. "Every parent we spoke with firmly believed that their children — some as young as 4 years old — were more adept at what was going on with the device than they were."
Whitman used himself as an example to illustrate the dilemma parents face today.
"It used to be that, at any point, my parents could walk by the family computer and see what I was doing on the monitor," he said.
"Now, I have a mobile device that I can take anywhere with me. And only I can see what's going on. Couple that with the fact that I can have 3,000 apps on a device, plus the fact that I can use it at night when I'm supposed to be sleeping."
What worried parents the most was the trend in cyberbullying, Whitman said.
"The danger used to be Internet websites. That was where you would encounter strangers and inappropriate conduct. That's all shifted to the mobile devices," Whitman said. "Kids don't have to go to websites to get into trouble. Now they just have to download the wrong app that gives anyone access to photos, location and videos."
AppCertain changes everything.
"With AppCertain, parents receive notification every time a new app is installed on their child's device. And we've also incorporated a curfew mode, in which parents can instantly turn off smartphone capabilities with the remote touch of a button."
The company has helped thousands of parents so far, and they are working on new premium features.
Whitman's co-founder is Jim Newsome, also a CMU alumnus. They are assisted by two full-time employees Megan Gilligan (CMU'12) and Kathy Sutton (DC'08), who was formerly CMU staff. Recent graduate Neil Soni (E'13) helps out on a part-time basis.
When Whitman started AppCertain, he had the option to leave Pittsburgh for Silicon Valley, but decided to stay in Pittsburgh because of the city's entrepreneurial spirit and its affordability.
"That's been exciting and rewarding in its own right," Whitman said. "More students from CMU and the School of Computer Science stay in Pittsburgh because the cost of living is so low. You can get capital and you can raise money to start a business here."
He added, "The talent pool and resources available haven't even been fully tapped yet. I really enjoy feeling like a trailblazer. The opportunity to help the entrepreneurial community grow here was more exciting to me than going to Silicon Valley. Pittsburgh has a ton to offer in the growing entrepreneurial lifestyle that is coming up in America. And I think it is really exciting to be in Pittsburgh where you're on the frontier's edge."