Tech entrepreneurs are on the front lines of innovation and job creation. What better way to find out what’s happening in tech in Texas than to hear it straight from our state’s top entrepreneurs? TEP Executive Director, Chelsea McCullough talks with Matt McDonnell, COO of Famigo, Inc. Famigo provides a platform for families to safely discover, manage, and enjoy educational and entertaining apps, videos, and games on all smartphones and tablets.
McDonnell: There are really two sources of inspiration. The first is that our founder and CEO, Q Beck was a production executive for family oriented feature films and noticed how quickly consumer’s attention was turning from the big screen to mobile screens. Second, smartphones and tablets are incredible tools for young children to learn with – for the first time ever, we can put real computing power in the hands of very young children. We saw an opportunity to serve a brand new market – consumers of technology under the age of 10.
TEP: What has been the biggest surprise in building the company?
McDonnell: Famigo has consumer product DNA. We started with a consumer focus and we sell our product on Google Play and the ITunes Store. But somewhere along the way, teachers began to use our product in their classrooms. We started to get requests for school licenses and this forced us to take a long, hard look at existing offers in the educational technology industry. Ultimately, this led us down a path towards a transformation into an educational technology company.
TEP: Tell me about a pivotal moment.
McDonnell: It sounds obvious, but making the decision to charge for our product really sticks out in my mind. We’ve now gone through several pricing structures, but early in our history, we were focused on growing our audience and app store monetization was a very new discipline. What was really surprising was that our biggest fear – losing steam once we started charging – was completely unfounded. It really helped us demonstrate our value to customers and partners and accelerated our growth despite having an app that cost $4.99 in the largely free Goggle Play store of 2012.
TEP: What specific advances in technology enable your product?
McDonnell: There are several obvious ones – a robust wireless network is very important as is the mobile hardware and an ecosystem that supports mobile content.
TEP: What does the customer need, technology-wise, to use your product?
McDonnell: Any android or iOS device (excluding the kindle and some obscure android devices).
TEP: Where will this be in ten years and what will it take to get there?
McDonnell: Famigo will be the global family and educational mobile brand. We’re just starting to see strong brands emerge on mobile and families are very loyal to brands that they trust. In order to establish ourselves as a family and educational mobile brand we need to continue earning the trust of families. We will do so by being transparent about our privacy practices, consistently delivering a great experience and providing exceptional customer service.
TEP: If you were sitting across from an elected official, what would you like to say?
McDonnell: We need to provide universal access to a highspeed network if we want our citizens to be competitive in a global market. Today schools have networks that resemble a home network in terms of speed and bandwidth, yet they are required to support hundreds of users. This makes it difficult for businesses to justify investment in developing products for use in the classroom when the infrastructure isn’t there to support it. Henry Ford wouldn’t have invested so heavily in cars if there weren’t roads to drive them on.
Matt McDonnell: A native of Scranton, PA, Matt holds a BA in Philosophy from Colgate University, an MBA from the College of Charleston, and is taking a leave of absence from the University of Texas School of Law in order to focus all his attention on Famigo. Previously, Matt worked as an Outward Bound sailing instructor and elementary school teacher before co-founding two dropout prevention programs in Charleston, South Carolina. Matt does a little bit of everything at Famigo.