Two New Jersey Startups, Kidz Learn Mobile Apps and PicketFencer, Pitch at Morris Tech Meetup


The Morris Tech Meetup on January 20 featured pitches from two startups: one that creates learning applications for children and one that helps house hunters find the local communities that best suit their lifestyles.

First up to present was Middlesex County resident Gomathy Shankaran, who received her master’s degree in information systems from Stevens Institute of Technology, in Hoboken. A former consultant, Shankaran spoke about Kidz Learn Applications, which her company has been developing for several years.

Photo: Gomathy Shankaran presented children's learning apps at Morris Tech Meetup. Photo Credit: Esther Surden

Gomathy Shankaran presented children's learning apps at Morris Tech Meetup. | Esther Surden

These are fun, educational applications for kids that are available for download from the Apple’s App Store, Android’s Google Play and other venues. The apps are designed to foster learning in children, especially in science and math. The audio for the apps is available in several world languages, including Spanish and French.

 “These are content-based applications. All the content has been categorized and is presented in the form of alphabet, numbers, songs and stories,” said Shankaran, who added that it’s important for kids to see these applications as fun. She also noted that the content renders differently on the different devices.

Two of the apps Shankaran discussed were “Kidz Fun” and “Kidz Fun-Select.” The Kidz Fun app is designed for preschool and kindergarten children, while Kidz Fun-Select goes into more depth and is designed for older children. With the Kidz Fun-Select application, a child can choose a particular category and learn more about it. For instance, when a youngster selects a category such as “Alphabet”  or “Numbers,” a menu of options appears that offers more educational material in detail.

Photo: Some of the Kidz Learn applications Photo Credit: Esther Surden

Some of the Kidz Learn applications | Esther Surden

In the Kidz Fun app, children can find songs and stories that illustrate letters, numbers, shapes and sizes in a way that they can absorb, she said. In the Kidz Fun-Select version, children can learn about “how the seasons are different in the different parts of the hemisphere and why the leaves change color in the fall.”

Shankaran said that she would like to partner with other content providers to add more stories and songs.

Next up to pitch was David Leibowitz, founder of PicketFencer  (Maplewood), a social-media-fueled house-hunting guide to towns, neighborhoods and suburbs. PicketFencer is powered by the insights from people who live in those towns and it’s customized for each user, so you can get a feel for each locale.

The trend in this country has been towards data-driven house hunting, Leibowitz noted. However, “you need to combine the quantitative elements with something that is more qualitative and more personal,” he said.

“There are a lot of real estate sites out there that do a really good job of helping you find a specific house or a specific apartment … but when you think about the decision process you have to go through before you buy or rent a piece of property, there is something fundamental that has to be addressed: where do I want to live.” That might be an easy decision for some buyers, but not for others.

Photo: David Leibowitz presented PicketFencer Photo Credit: Esther Surden

David Leibowitz presented PicketFencer | Esther Surden

The idea for PicketFencer came to Leibowitz when he began thinking about moving from Brooklyn to the suburbs. He discovered that even if you look only in areas within a comfortable commuting distance of New York City, there are just too many towns in New Jersey, Connecticut and on Long Island to choose from.

 “There’s really not a lot of information on how to differentiate one town from another, unless you happen to know somebody who lives there.” And Leibowitz found it a bit daunting to sort through all the places where he might live.

He said that there are some sites that host social discussions of what it’s like to live in a certain community. One of the most popular is City-data.com, but Leibowitz described it as an antiquated site with few features. It’s very low tech, with 1990s-type message boards, he said, yet it’s the 25th most trafficked site in the U.S. “There’s a huge appetite for this kind of content that is not being served particularly well.”

Leibowitz told the audience that 12 percent of the U.S. population moves every year. “That’s 36.5 million people!” And others are thinking about moving. “People who move are probably about to spend more money than any other time of their life, short of having a child,” and they’ll need things like furniture, and services like electricians and contractors, making PicketFencer an appropriate site for local advertising, he added.

Right now, PicketFencer is a browser-based application, but Leibowitz said he would like to extend it to mobile. The company is starting with the New York City metropolitan area, and hopes to replicate its model in other cities around the country.

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