Wanaka start-up targets grandparents with social media app

Wanaka tech start-up: The team at Digital Emotions hopes Kin2Kin will have global reach (Hamish McGregor is second from left)

It’s difficult for users of platforms like Facebook and Instagram to balance what their friends and family see of their lives on social media.

Children don’t want their grandparents and parents to embarrass them by writing essay-length comments on their posts. Likewise, grandparents and parents don’t want to see their offspring passed out on a Thailand footpath after a heavy night of drinking.

The easiest solution is for the two generations not to be digitally connected, flying in the face of “social media.”

A Wanaka-based tech start-up with some notable investors is seeking to address this market with an app called Kin2Kin, which connects families in a private network.

The developer, Digital Emotions, says Kin2Kin is designed for families with grandparents, busy parents, and kids too young for Facebook.

The free app is a blend between photo sharing site Instagram and private messaging apps like WhatsApp — users post photos, which are then presented in a vertical feed format but in a closed environment.

The idea for the app came to Digital Emotions founder Hamish McGregor when he saw his father struggling to juggle interactions with his grandkids. Sending up-to-date photos and setting aside time for Skype was a struggle for all parties.

He says grandparents want two things in a social media app – privacy and simplicity.

Kin2Kin has been beta tested over the past 12 months by 1500 users across desktop, iOS and Android devices.

Mr McGregor says Kin2Kin is a different proposition to mainstream social media apps. For example, the average Facebook network for a single person is about 300 people while Kin2Kin’s is 18.

The app was publicly launched just last week and Mr McGregor says the international addressable market is large, particularly as elderly populations increase.

He says Kin2Kin has a retention rate of 40% and on average people use the app once every four days, which is “far higher” than benchmarks set for successful apps.

Digital Emotions employs seven people and raised $1.5 million early last year (pre-money valuation of $6.5 million), bringing some high-profile names on board: Movac co-counder and early Trade Me investor Mark Richter, Colenso BBDO and Rodd & Gunn founder Gary Gwynne, Capital IQ co-founder Steve Turner, Paymark/Semble chief executive Mark Rushworth, GoHealthy and Gourmet Burger Kitchen UK co-founder Greg Driscoll and Eftpos founder Peter Marshall.

Mr McGregor, a former investment banker at Deustche Bank and Morgan Stanley, says Kin2Kin won’t be monetised for at least two years as it builds a user base and can prove to be “sticky.” Investors are happy with that, he says.

Digital Emotions has been working with a number of community groups to refine the app and see how it can be used. These include groups assisting the elderly with technology, youth groups, and organisations dealing with family and parenting.

Opportunities for revenue generation include photo albums (grandparents printing out photos) and digital gifts, such as kitty contributions for anniversaries.

Tune into NBR Radio’s Sunday Business with Andrew Patterson on Sunday morning, for analysis and feature-length interviews.


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