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Innovation & Startups

Do you know what your 7-year old is downloading? Be AppCertain

Kids today. Give them a digital device and they will have it mastered by the age of two.
Pittsburgh startup AppCertain wants to help by providing parents with a platform that gives them the tools to stay abreast of their children’s digital prowess. Anytime a child downloads an app to their iOS device, AppCertain sends them an email with detailed information on the potential security risk and educational value of the download.
The company is the first to be selected by Birchmere Labs as a studio project, a new investment model for the region. Developed by Birchmere Ventures and partner Sean Ammirati, Birchmere Labs offers seed investments to early stage startups; the most promising among them are then selected as studio projects.
Unlike an accelerator or incubator, of which there are many in the region, Birchmere Labs is about taking the seed of an idea and spinning it out as a company. The designation comes with an undisclosed amount of funding and further mentoring from Birchmere’s experienced entrepreneurs, says Ammirati.
“Birchmere really helped me run with my idea,” says Spencer Whitman, co-founder and CEO of AppCertain. “We’re at the point now of slowly leaving the Birchmere nest, learning how to operate and stand on our own two feet.”
Whitman began developing AppCertain during his years at CMU where he was both an undergrad and grad student working at CyLab. When it comes to reviewing apps, restrictions, ratings and reviews aren’t working for parents, he says.
Parents need an easy way to monitor their children’s activity and teach them to be responsible digital citizens without having to take their device away or engage in constant confrontation.
The platform, which targets children between the ages of seven and 17, provides information on an app’s security risk and content value. Is an app, for example, capable of accessing sensitive information, like data or photos? How educational or violent is the content?
The idea is to give kids the freedom to make their own decisions while giving parents the ability to make sure their decisions are sound, he says.
AppCertain, currently in beta, is a free download, but hopes to be an app someday. It currently works only with iOS products--iPhone, iPod, iTouch and iPads--with plans to expand into the Android market.
The company has three full-time and four part-time employees and works out of Birchmere Ventures in the South Side.
Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Sean Ammirati, Spencer Whitman, Birchmere Ventures
From left to right: Jim Newsome, Spencer Whitman, and Megan Gilligan.  Not pictured: Sean Ammirati, Lara Schenck, Karmyn Guthrie, and Cyrus Collier, courtesy of Birchmere Ventures
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