Chicago Tech Startup: BFF Gemz

April 10, 2012 | By | 1 Comment

eMotion’s first product, BFF Gemz, is social networking with a necklace for girls aged 7-11. Users add friends with the Gemz pendant face to face and automatically become friends online on bffgemz.com. Founders Avelo Roy and Edward Suda answered our questions about BFF Gemz.

TINC: Sandbox does a significant amount of market research to ensure the success of their startups. What did your research show that made you feel that this was a good idea to enter?

Over 3 years, 300 girls and their parents in the Chicagoland area helped shape the idea through multiple focus groups separately consisting of parents and girls. After the Sandbox investment we recruited a highly selective group of 8 girls who serve as our tween advisors.  We constantly ran our ideas past them and refined their feedback into an initial product and website offering.

TINC: About how many users are in the BFF Gemz social network so far?

We have around 300 test users on our site.

TINC: How does BFF Gemz guarantee safety and privacy for the children in their social network?

Some of our unique safety/privacy features include:

  • Adding friends whom your daughter knows in person via the Gemz pendant, a patent-pending wireless device that securely allows ONLY real world friends to become friends on bffgemz.com.
  • Parent notification email every week providing you with your daughter’s new, deleted and current friends.
  • There is no friend search feature available on the website.
  • Karma points are rewarded for exhibiting positive character and qualities, and for making healthy choices. It is a virtual currency that can be used expand a user’s experience on bffgemz.com.
  • Not asking for personally identifiable information from your daughter. You can check out our privacy policy for more details.
  • No outside advertisers allowed on our website.

TINC: Can parents monitor what their child does online in the BFF Gemz network?

They could if they know their daughter’s password, but at this age girls aspire for a little private space. Respecting that can be really beneficial for strengthening a relationship of love and trust. On the other side, parents receive a weekly email where they get a social snapshot of their daughter. Any signs of concern (like a deleted friend or friends the parents don’t know) can be followed up by a healthy conversation.

In our experience we have seen that a lot of parents have the password for their child’s Facebook account and think they have full control over what their children are doing online (even though it is not legal to have an account if someone is under 13). Kids are extremely smart and it takes a heartbeat to create multiple accounts that parents have no access to. So rather than creating an illusion of security, we’ve developed a system that respects privacy that these girls demand while providing parents enough insights to keep their girls safe.

BFF Gemz Tween Advisors

TINC: How do the “smart technology” necklaces work? What’s the relationship between BFF Gemz’ social network and these “smart” objects?

The Gemz are used to add friends in the real world and only those friends are automatically added to bffgemz.com when you plug in your device via USB. The Gemz is also used for short-range communication over 650 feet where girls can send secret color-coded messages from necklace to necklace. These messages are created on their bffgemz.com profile, which syncs with the necklace automatically.

TINC: What has the feedback been like so far for BFF Gemz?

The girls are super-excited, especially those in the mental age range of 9 – 11. Most parents who are aware of cyber bullying and online predators immediately get this concept and welcome BFF Gemz as the solution they have been looking for. Parents and girls are talking about us with their friends, resulting in a lot of inquiry and interest in the concept.

TINC: What’s in the works for BFF Gemz? What’s next?

We are working to make the user interface more intuitive and a little more flexible to facilitate greater creative play amongst these girls.

TINC: How are you getting the word out to kids and parents about BFF Gemz?

We are not making deliberate efforts to spread the word at this moment, though as a current promotion, our necklace users have the option to invite 4 of their friends via email. Parents are notified of these invited friends as well.

TINC: Is there a membership fee to join the BFF Gemz social network?

BFFGemz.com is FREE, but there is a one-time cost to get the Gemz.

TINC: What’s your revenue model?

Current revenue generation is purely based on sales of the Gemz. Eventually, necklace accessories, virtual products, co-branding, and product placements are a few of the ways we intend to generate revenue. We also see this becoming a pretty focused platform for market research targeting this market segment of pre-teen girls.

The following information about BFF Gemz comes from the Chicago Startup Database:

Funding Level: Series A (early stage seed funding)
Industry Type: Social Media
Employment Size: 1-10  
Founders:Avelo Roy & Edward Suda
Founding Date: Ideation date: September 2007. Official founding date: July 22, 2009

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Comments (1)

  1. If you’re a product of the 90s, this looks like a digipet more than a social network, but, it could be both.

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