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When a self harm or suicide alert comes through, we follow up with the parent saying, Hey, we saw this alert came through. We just want to follow up and see is so and so. Okay. Do you need anything from us? You know we’re just, we’re here for you, and 34 times a parent has written back to that follow up message saying, yes, their okay, and thank you because of your alert, our child’s life, they said. We’re able to get them help therapy step in before it’s too late, etc.
Jay Clouse: 00:00:26
The startup investment landscape is changing and world class companies are being built outside of silicon valley. We find Them talk with them and discuss the upside of investing in them. Welcome to upside.
Eric Hornung: 00:00:54
Hello? Hello. Hello. Welcome to the upside podcast, the first podcast finding upside outside of silicon valley. I’m Eric Hornung and I’m accompanied by my cohost, Mr. “Man, it’s getting chilly out there” himself, Jay Clouse. Jay. How’s it going, man?
Jay Clouse: 00:01:11
You’re talking about Columbus or you talking about Cincinnati?
Eric Hornung: 00:01:12
I’m talking about the world, man. It is cold outside
Jay Clouse: 00:01:15
Talking about the north east, the north?
Eric Hornung: 00:01:18
the north, the north, east, west. It doesn’t matter where, I guess besides California right now, everywhere is cold.
Jay Clouse: 00:01:24
Did your family have a rule about when they turned on the heat?
Eric Hornung: 00:01:27
Never. My dad refused to turn on the heat.
Jay Clouse: 00:01:30
Some people I’ve heard it was like heat before november. No, christmas. There was a rhyme though. There was a rhyme scheme.
Eric Hornung: 00:01:36
Yeah, it did and that didn’t run.
Jay Clouse: 00:01:38
It was like heat before. Man. I don’t know, but it, it rhymed with like sand does not visiting you.
Eric Hornung: 00:01:45
Wow. Wow. Wow. You nailed that one man. Well we don’t have heat on at our place in cincinnati either except for this weekend when collins out of town, so I have the heat on and I’m just all like toasty right now.
Jay Clouse: 00:01:56
I turned on last night specifically because I knew I’d wake up and do this podcast and I didn’t want to be cold and sad.
Eric Hornung: 00:02:03
It’s so hard waking up when it’s cold out.
Jay Clouse: 00:02:05
It is. I have a tough time. Yeah. Eric, do you have any dogs growing up?
Eric Hornung: 00:02:09
I did. We still have a dog. His name is toby.
Jay Clouse: 00:02:14
Was he a well trained dog?
Eric Hornung: 00:02:15
He was a incredibly well trained dog. He’s blonde lab. He’s probably like seven, eight, nine years old now. He’s getting up there, but he has his own back room of the house so he doesn’t like leave that room unless you really, really forced them to come out. I think he thinks there’s a ghost somewhere. That’s how well trained he is. So yeah, he’s an awesome dog. Actually. Funny story about the dog, I wanted a dog since like I was born. I’ve wanted one for forever and my parents refused to get a dog. The year I went to college they got a dog.
Jay Clouse: 00:02:48
so the dog did not protect you growing up as a child?
Eric Hornung: 00:02:52
No, I was unprotected by the dog. I was fending for myself.
Jay Clouse: 00:02:56
Well, I think you know why I’m asking.
Eric Hornung: 00:02:58
I think so.
Jay Clouse: 00:02:58
Today’s guest is Titania Jordan. Titania is the cmo and chief parent officer of bark. Bark is an internet safety solution that helps parents in schools keep children safe or across social media. Text messaging and email. Bark works with over 25 social media platforms on ios and android and email accounts. So basically bark is a tool for parents to monitor all of the outgoing incoming messages for their kids across a ton of different channels for things like suicidal thoughts or bullying or sexting, kind of a way for parents to keep some level of surveillance, I guess control without feeling like they’re being super invasive and allowing kids to feel like they still have some freedom.
Eric Hornung: 00:03:45
And I did a little bit of research on the market. So I think this fits generally into cybersecurity. When we think about cybersecurity though, it’s more of a corporate idea and that’s. That’s $170,000,000,000 market that’s too big for this specific niche. You say niche or niche?
Jay Clouse: 00:04:03
I’d say niche.
Eric Hornung: 00:04:04
I’m a niche guy too. A lot of people say niche.
Jay Clouse: 00:04:07
The riches are in the niches, but the rich people on the coasts usually say niche. They also say finance.
Eric Hornung: 00:04:14
That’s true. So I broke it down a little bit and I found a market size report by zion market research and they projected that the parental controls market is about one point $4,000,000,000 today. it’s going to grow at 11 point five percent continuous annual growth rate until 2025 when it’s expected to reach 3.3 billion.
Jay Clouse: 00:04:39
so it’s a fast moving market. I would have thought that it was a little bit bigger than that. It’s also interesting to me because this was not really a problem or something. That was a potential problem when I was growing up. I remember when text messaging started becoming a thing. I had a hard cap of 200 text messages. I had msn, instant messenger and aim, so I guess theoretically it could have been starting. There were parental controls on things like the tv, but in this day and age I can imagine that being a parent with all of the different channels that are available for your son or daughter to be communicating out of it would be a little bit overwhelming and something that I imagine I think about a lot.
Eric Hornung: 00:05:21
It’s crazy because they are so that people throw around the term digitally native and you and I both aren’t parents, but seeing some of my friends who are parents, it’s so much easier for them to just give their kid an ipad and it’s like a great mechanism to get them to quiet down, sit in the corner so they become so attached to these things. I saw a couple of reports that children are spending at a minimum, like two hours a day on a screen and in as you get into the teenage years, that can be like 14 to 16 hours a day for students in their in class a lot of times, which is just crazy.
Jay Clouse: 00:06:00
How old were you when you got your first cell phone?
Eric Hornung: 00:06:06
So in fifth grade we got a home phone that my siblings split, so we went. When we went to the movies or we went to crocker park, which was just a local outdoor mall. Whoever was out would take the phone and if our parents needed us they would call. It was around the time that payphones stopped really existing. There’s kind of that switch off, so I didn’t get my first phone until I was a freshman in high school. My first dedicated phone.
Jay Clouse: 00:06:43
Same, same time, little flip phone, game changer. I think people are getting it much younger now. I’d actually be interested to hear from Titania what age kids are seeming to get phones now. A little bit more background on on bark company was founded in 2015. It’s based in Atlanta, Georgia and went through the tech stars Atlanta program referred to us by chris at flip seat to this point. They’ve raised 10 point $9,000,000 in funding. They actually just closed a series a at $9,000,000, but the website says some pretty crazy statistics. Two and a half million children protected. 15 school shootings prevented in 10,000 severe self harm situations detected. That’s a big impact. I’m interested to hear how they measure things like that, but that’s pretty impressive.
Eric Hornung: 00:07:15
Yeah, I agree and this is going to be a little different than some of our other conversations because they have closed a series a. They’ve shown that investors believe in this product and believe in the product market, fit enough to put a lot of money into this company, so it’s all about scaling now, so I think our questions might be a little bit different in this episode.
Jay Clouse: 00:07:36
All right. You ready to jump in? Let’s do it.
Eric Hornung: 00:07:39
What’s up guys? It’s Eric. Jay and I have a really cool announcement that we wanted to make about something we’ve been working on behind the scenes. We’re calling it the update and it’s a quarterly newsletter in which Jay and I get to write editorial pieces, podcasts, guests and friends of the podcast gets a write editorial pieces and we’ll share some news about our portfolio companies. These editorial pieces are going to be about trends outside of silicon valley. Things we find interesting and new industries and spaces that are popping up. Something I’m thinking about right now is East sports for example. if you’re interested, it’s super easy to get linkedin. Just go to upside.fm/update and enter your email address. We’ll definitely be in touch.
Jay Clouse: 00:08:30
Titania, welcome to the show.
Titania Jordan : 00:08:30
Thank you. Thank you so much for having me.
Eric Hornung: 00:08:32
It’s great to have you here. We like to start our show and we like to start upside with the founders. So can you tell us about the history of Titania?
Titania Jordan: 00:08:43
Sure. Well, it all started when a woman named Barbara and a man named Hubert met. I won’t go back that far, but I have a pretty unique name. It’s from Shakespeare. Midsummer night’s dream. I, uh, it means the queen of the fairies, so that’s pretty cool, I guess. And I hated that name when I was a kid. Not hate, hates a strong word, but um, it was definitely not, you know, Katie or Allison or Sarah.
Jay Clouse: 00:09:14
Midsummer is my mother’s favorite Shakespearean comedy. She was an english teacher and taught Shakespeare for a long time.
Titania Jordan: 00:09:17
See, this whole thing that we’re doing right now was meant to be. But, so my name’s served me well though because social media and social media handles and I was able to reserve @TitaniaJordan for so many things. So in hindsight I’m thankful. So yeah, born in the eighties, grew up without social media and technology and then quickly dove into it. started my career in radio. So traditional media and learning everything I could about it because it was fascinating at the same time where, you know, radio was doing what it did. Well, social Media was taking off and so I helped to pioneer the first sort of groupon for radio program. So we would use our website and the traffic, going to a website to sell half price deals for companies around Atlanta and the economy decided to take for whatever reason and you know, oh seven, oh eight. And because I was selling air time at about $600 a minute, nobody wanted to buy it and I decided was a good time to start a family. So I had my son Jackson as well as postpartum depression because those go together and was like, oh my gosh, I can’t go back to this world of radio. I can’t leave this little baby that needs me all the time to stay alive. What am I going to do? And I started to do freelance work and social media because at that time there were so many companies that wanted to be on social media but didn’t know how to do it without being obnoxious and so quickly found a sweet spot, launched a full service marketing agency. Fast forward two years, probably more and more of my clients were becoming companies that wanted to watch the Atlanta market and reach women and they were tech companies and it was fascinating how the tech scene was booming here. One of them in particular decided they really wanted me to be their cmo, so I shut down my, my firm offloaded my clients to some great account executives and dove headfirst into the world of tech in Atlanta as a cmo and then as a founder and now as one of the co founders and as cmo and chief paired officer at Bark. So that’s kind of my career. And a really quick nutshell concurrently, I guess that’s the right word for this. I also have a career in media, which is insane and amazing. And the media and tech path are very interwoven. And so I’ve had the honor of being the host Atlanta tech edge, which was the NBC affiliate show in Atlanta, covering tech or weekly basis. I now have a Youtube show covering tech and now whenever we have press opportunities for bark, my company, I’m the one that goes. And does it
Eric Hornung: 00:12:08
take me back to radio? What was it about radio and it seems like you have a affinity for media in general that really kind of captured you.
Titania Jordan: 00:12:19
Oh my gosh. Well to be perfectly transparent, I kind of went a little wayward in college and didn’t really know what I wanted to do with my life. I didn’t even know what I was really good at. And a friend said you should be an intern at the station. They need someone like you. I don’t like like me, what? Do you know what you mean? But okay. And as soon as I got there I was like, oh yeah, this is where I need to be. I mean Usher had just walked through the lobby. Janet Jackson was coming tomorrow, J. Lo is going to be there on friday. And I was like, this is cool. And then I realized that the account executives were making like $300,000 a year and taking two hour lunches and I was like, that’s pretty cool too.
Jay Clouse: 00:13:06
Like, yeah, not a bad gig.
Titania Jordan: 00:13:07
No, not at all.
Eric Hornung: 00:13:08
Yeah, they always get you with usher and J Lo.
Titania Jordan: 00:13:11
Jay Clouse: 00:13:13
Can you imagine that as a hiring practice? Just paying Usher to walk through the lobby at this time.
Eric Hornung: 00:13:20
Ushers full days just walking through Lobbies.
Jay Clouse: 00:13:23
So the texting was starting to boom in Atlanta when you were in radio and helping companies reach people. What year was that?
Titania Jordan: 00:13:32
So I started working at star 94, wstrfm Atlanta in 2004. And I would say the social media apex slash tech apex was really like 2007 at that time. A local company called scoutmob was doing really well. Like I said, groupon had had yet to come on and really be big in Atlanta. They were hubs and Atlanta, like you know, obviously Georgia tech are wonderful university here in town, but they had the atdc, the Atlanta tech village was just a glimmer in the eye of, of David Cummings and another co founder. So. So yeah, that, that was kind of what was brewing at the time
Eric Hornung: 00:14:12
and in that 2007 period, that’s when you said you started a family? Correct.
Titania Jordan: 00:14:16
So 2007 started to entertain the idea. It’s a lot on, on me, you know, if you do it biologically or not. So 2008 was when it finally happened. And then january of 2009, my son Jackson was born.
Eric Hornung: 00:14:36
Can you walk me through auto was like starting a full service marketing agency focused on social media while also starting a family. That seems incredibly stressful.
Titania Jordan: 00:14:46
Yeah, it was. The thing is is that baby’s nap and there was a good six hours during the day where my child was asleep and I could either do housework and laundry and go grocery shopping or it could work on my career. And I chose my career and thankfully my husband had no problem with that and helped to carry the burden of, of the housework, et cetera. But yeah, it was incredibly stressful. There was a lot of, you know, there was no more watching tv at night. It was work. The second Jackson went to bed. I worked from 8:00 PM to midnight and you know, he didn’t really sleep a lot so he’d wake up at 2:00 AM for a feeding and I’d be nursing him in one hand and like checking twitter on the other because thank god there were iphones. I wouldn’t have been able to do that before the smartphone. Really. The smart phone turned me into the female version of James Bond or was able to multitask like crazy.
Jay Clouse: 00:15:45
That’s amazing. Well, I was kind of intrigued. You kinda jumped right into the story of being courted as a cmo of this tech company that came in. I assume that is Bark. And so can you give me a little bit more context of your history with that company? They came in and started to talking to you and I’m assuming your agency, can you just spell that out a little bit more?
Titania Jordan: 00:16:05
Sure. Yeah, so actually the company was not Bark. The company was kidslink so kidslink was kind of like a dropbox, but for families they had reached out to me to handle their social media and through multiple meetings and conversations and probably like a six month long process, I realized that there were a bunch of men in the room trying to make decisions about what women wanted, what moms wanted and what they needed and there were, there were millions of dollars on the line and in investment funding and they all had ideas and yeah, they had data but they didn’t have a, a woman to help with this, you know, and so they realized it and I realized it. That was how that sort of came about. I know this isn’t a religious podcast, but like I personally am a firm believer in everything happens for a reason and I totally think it’s a god thing. Like, there’s no other reason why that happened other than the fact that god wanted me to meet those people and get into this field. And so I think it was, you know, kind of divine. So that happened. But of course with startups, right, they don’t always do well. And so kids like ran out of money and I was like, oh my gosh, what am I going to do now, you know, I’m not on my agency anymore. but uh, some of the founders of kidslink and I decided to start a new Company and because I had insight into the startup world and grind, I knew better and realized I’m going to be a co founder, not just an employee. And so we launched kind of like a version of yik yak called privet except it was for moms and families because whenever, just whenever life starts to get real and you don’t necessarily want to turn to facebook or instagram and air your dirty laundry, um, you need a place to talk about these things. And yik yak was becoming more and more juvenile. Like, you know, I, I, as a 30 year old mom couldn’t go on yik yak and talk about my worries about the autism and vaccinations, right. College kids will be like, boom, get off this old person. So privit did really well. It was amazing. However I given that it was my first go round as a true cofounder and I’m also a woman in tech would still some men that weren’t as forward thinking as probably the two of you and a lot of other people now. I got burned. I got burned bad and ultimately had to either stay and suck it up. Things that were very disrespectful or, or leap. And so I left and at that same time, Brian Basin, the ceo of Bark reached out and was like, I’d been watching you in a non creepy way. I’ve been watching your career. I’ve been watching what you’re doing and I need you to be a part of Bark. I want you to be a part of Bark. And again, another divine thing in my opinion, like I was at the lowest low, like the lowest possible low and to have something like that happen at the same time. I was just like, oh my gosh, thank you. So that’s how that came to be.
Eric Hornung: 00:19:12
What does getting burned looked like in the startup world in Atlanta? I mean, you kind of emphasize burned there, so what? You don’t have to say names or anything, but can you give us like a feel for what that story was like?
Titania Jordan: 00:19:25
The name rhymes with? No, I’m just kidding. Yeah. So for me, I went to school, enter degree in marketing. I’m an artist, I’m a creative. I am not a finance and equity expert. I’m getting there. Right? but when you have an idea for a groundbreaking app and somebody comes to you and says, hey, this is great, I’m going to fund this, how I’m going to let you have 10 percent of the company you should run. I didn’t run. I took it as a oh great. That means I get a salary for the next year. Just total. Like I didn’t believe in myself enough. I didn’t have enough confidence, I didn’t believe in the idea. I didn’t trust god to help me find funding and instead I took the easiest path and what seemed like a sheep turned out to be a wolf. So yeah, you have to learn as much as you can. Not only about ux and ui and design and marketing and growth hacking, but also equity and fundraising and all of those elements because you can get screwed.
Jay Clouse: 00:20:31
And so what do you think you took away from that experience now in this next stage of your career? How have you taken those lessons to bark?
Titania Jordan: 00:20:40
Oh gosh. Well team is everything. I mean there are certain people from my past startups that are basically family to me. So no matter what happens with our projects, I call startups projects now because there’s so many highs and lows like they’re my family and we know that we’re there through thick and thin and there are also people from the past that I know I will never work with again and I would never recommend anybody working with again because it’s all about trust and reputation and that will precede you and everything you do. So takeaway is culture and culture fit and the people you work with are everything. You know, somebody might seem like they have the best connections in the world are they might be able to write you the biggest check in the world, but sometimes it’s not worth it and you really have to that people very carefully and trust your gut. You have an internal radar for a reason. Listen to it.
Eric Hornung: 00:21:33
How do you vet people?
Titania Jordan: 00:21:34
Oh my gosh. Well, you can’t just take people for their word. You have to ask multiple people even for just five minutes of their time, like, hey, I see you worked with this person in this case. Do you mind giving me any insights into what that was like and as you start to work with somebody, if they continue to talk about rocky situations in their life and yet they were never at fault, that’s, that’s kind of a red flag, you know.
Jay Clouse: 00:21:58
so you mentioned that Brian, I believe.
Titania Jordan: 00:22:01
Jay Clouse: 00:22:01
Approached you and said, I’ve been watching your career and I want you to be a part of this. What was bark like at that time and what was attractive about it to you?
Titania Jordan: 00:22:11
So with our, with my previous startup privet, which was an anonymous platform, we were really, really stringent about protecting the community. I’m not having any trolls or, or hate speech, like we really wanted to protect it. Well there’s an element to that of having a, an algorithm to flag for issues and to quickly remove them. And so Brian and I were talking initially about integrating the bark algorithm into privet to help train their models and help our community ultimately the way that our platform was built, because it wasn’t cross platform wouldn’t work at the time. But so at that time, Bark was working on building the models and training the algorithms and just getting as much information in to help identify for the issues that we now identify for. It was a small team, a team of seven, comprised of the cto, the ceo data side test, some marketing help and some, some community outreach partners. And so I came in initially to help with pr and marketing. And once I saw what the technology can do, I was blown away. I mean my son at the time was too young for me to realize what was dangerous about technology for him other than possibly stumbling upon something on youtube. Um, he wasn’t texting me was on social media, but once I really saw a glimpse of the rates of cyberbullying, the skyrocketing rates of suicide amongst eight to 15 year olds and the encounters of sexual content and how creepy, creepy jerks are grooming children through video games. And you know, apps like kik, I was blown away. And the fact that this algorithm is actually saving lives and could save lives and help to prevent things like school shootings. Like there’s, there’s nothing else for me that I know of. There’s nothing cooler in technology than keeping families and children safer online. So
Eric Hornung: 00:24:11
what was it like? We generally talk to founders on upside, so you have a refreshing perspective here and that you joined the company and took a leadership position. What was it like joining a company and joining a culture?
Titania Jordan: 00:24:26
Well, we have, can I say a bad word on this? It’s not terrible, but. So we have a no asshole policy that that’s it. Like if you’re an asshole, you’re fired. and so thankfully we had Brian had stuck to that and so everybody that was on the team was truly amazing. Immediately felt like family, you know, we’re united on a mission that is greater than any one of our egos, right? We are here to help parents and protect children. There’s nothing more important and so long hours this design versus another design, this feature versus another feature. We have a higher bar to hold to, which is what will be the best for the people we’re serving. So it was very easy to join the culture. There was not one single element of hierarchy or jealousy or uncomfortable dynamic because they saw the value that I brought and I was just eternally grateful to be here. Right. And so I didn’t come in with like, this is what we’re going to do is like, what can I do, how can I help? And also in a startup, like everybody wears multiple hats, so there really isn’t even time for like, there’s no time for ego and bs. It’s like everybody takes something and knock it out and let’s move as fast as we can. You know, we’re going to break stuff, but we gotta keep going and we got to keep iterating and testing. So it’s, it’s like a family.
Jay Clouse: 00:25:51
This seems like an appropriate time to ask. Can you define or explain what bark is today in your own words?
Titania Jordan: 00:25:59
Sure. Yeah. So bark is technology that keeps children safer online and because of that in real life. And so what does that mean? Well, children are spending upwards of nine hours a day online, whether it’s on an ipad or iphones or even on internet connected televisions. Like My son can just use a remote and say, show me youtube, show me netflix. He’s nine. It’s crazy. What our technology specifically does is we’re using artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms to connect with texting over 24 social media platforms and email accounts and it’s going to run in the background and scan for issues and they’re the most concerning issues like cyber bullying, sexting, that’s of suicide and depression, potential drug use, online predators and acts of violence. When our algorithm finds that sort of problematic issue, it will then alert parents and schools so they can take best recommended next steps. And we’re not just looking for key words. It’s so much more than that. Um, it’s emojis, it’s audio, it’s video, it’s pictures, it’s, it’s text overlay that you can write with your finger. and so it, it’s amazing what our data scientists have been able to put together. And so that’s what we do. We have two products, so we have the Bark for parents, which is a paid product, how we make money. It’s $9 per family per month. And then we have Bark for schools and bark for schools is absolutely free and we launched bark for schools February of this year after parkland because we realized we had this technology already built, this algorithm and children are using tech at schools just like they are at home, whether it’s chromebooks or ipads and you know, you think they’re working on google docs, but they’re really just using that as a live chat feature and there are issues happening there. And so we rolled it out to schools for free and it went viral. It absolutely went viral. It was mind blowing because schools are dealing with so many issues. You know, bullying that happens now on snapchat at home makes its way into the school environment the next day. It’s affecting learning outcomes. It’s affecting attendance. When a child takes their own life and affects everybody in that school community. We all know the state of school shootings and we also know that children are posting dark thoughts and threats in private dms and private twitter accounts, et Cetera. And so the fact that we can now shine a light on that and get those children the help they need before it turns into a tragedy is very meaningful.
Jay Clouse: 00:28:37
Can you help me understand if this rolls out to a school, we’ll start there. How They roll that out.
Titania Jordan: 00:28:44
Totally. So whether a school uses the g suite of applications or Microsoft office 365. That’s about in the us at least it’s about a 60 /40 split of schools using either or for their tech stack. It’s bark serves as a like a third party application that integrates with what they’ve already set up. and so an administrator or the it director or principal or superintendent, whoever has the login creds for the school logs in deploys the third party plugin or application checks a few boxes and then it goes.
Jay Clouse: 00:29:22
So it’s for schools. The program is on the school owned assets. It’s not the children’s phone when they’re at school,
Titania Jordan: 00:29:30
correct? Yeah. It’s the only school issued devices and accounts.
Jay Clouse: 00:29:34
And then for parents I would guess it’s the phone itself. They probably, when they give the phone to their child, they download the bark app and that runs in the background
Titania Jordan: 00:29:45
so there’s a few different bet, as you all know, there’s so many different ways that that devices and accounts can be connected. So we connect that both the device and the account level. So two examples. One is if Your kid has an instagram account, you would connect bark with their username and password. That way if they lose their phone for a month, but they go to their friend’s house and log in, you’re still able to analyze that. Now also we connect with android devices, kindles, ipads, iphones. We even have a chrome browser plugin. So the various ways that children can access the internet. We have built tech that will sync with that. And so there’s a lot of different nuances between iphone and android. So for i-phones you actually don’t have to have an app on the phone. The backup happens through the icloud. But for android devices you have to have an app on the child’s device and if the child disconnects it, you’ll get an alert as a parent saying, hey, might need to talk to them.
Eric Hornung: 00:30:56
How do you choose which apps? You mentioned there’s 24 currently, how do you choose which apps and are there limitations on any app that you want to be in but you can’t be on yet?
Titania Jordan: 00:30:57
Yes. Yeah, so we, a lot of the players in this space will brag about the fact that they can monitor facebook and it’s like, well that’s great. Eleven year olds are on facebook. They’re on snapchat and instagram and kik and tick tock, which was musically and so we integrate with any platform that our data shows children are flocking to. The best way to do that is if they have an open api. One of the biggest challenges we have is, for example, with gaming consoles like roadblocks or fortnight, you know they don’t have an open api into their live chat and so we cannot. We can’t Integrate right now and we’re talking with those big players though and hopefully they realize how much online grooming is happening and what can be a very helpful asset to them to avoid not only unsightly pr for them, but just keeping their community of children safer. One of the probably most frustrating things right now is if your child has an iphone and they have snapchat of the way that apple does not allow access to certain things is really hard for us to monitor snapchat dms, android, however, we can monitor snapchat dns, so those little nuances like that that are frustrating, but we’re overcoming with caltech, caltech workarounds and snapchat’s aware like they’re, we’re, we’re on their product roadmap but just, you know, I guess far behind other cool features that they have,
Jay Clouse: 00:32:26
dog filters and things like that,
Titania Jordan: 00:32:28
but the important things in life.
Jay Clouse: 00:32:30
So as a parent, do I have like a live feed of everything that’s being sent or am I just trusting bark to flag things that bark c’s are problematic.
Titania Jordan: 00:32:40
You are trusting bark to flag things that bark seats is problematic. So one of one of our ethos, our ethos as a company as we are not spyware, we’re not advocating for giving parents full unfettered access to children’s digital lives because that does not help to raise a responsible digital native and that is very friction heavy for parent and child. So we will only alert when there’s an issue. Here’s an example. So if I trip and fall in front of like, the boy I think is cute and I texted my friend kms, I’m so embarrassed, which stands for kill myself. My mom’s not going to get an alert, but if I’m really struggling and um, you know, I don’t want to live another day and I texted my friend that I’m thinking about kms, my mom will get an alert. And so that’s the difference. Also beyond a privacy standpoint, a time saving standpoint. Like I’m a mom, I have multiple email accounts in dms and text, like I can’t keep up with all of my stuff, right? I can’t, I then take on all the stuff happening in my child’s devices and accounts. There’s no Way I can come through all of that. I have to outsource it. I had to trust bark to flag the things that are problematic. And you know, full disclosure, nothing is 100 percent Bark will not catch every single problem. No tech will, so you have to, as a parent, continue to have open and honest conversations with your children, about what’s going on in their lives. What are they watching on Netflix? Are they watching 13 reasons. Let’s talk about that. How much is that, uh, you know, resembling of your real life. Do all of Your friends have a snapchat account and you don’t. Well, let me tell you why not just because I don’t want you to have it, but because you know, there’s a whole comparison trap thing and there’s people that can pull up your snap map and find you and hurt you. Like be real with your children. Talk about what’s going on in their lives. I’m not good at minecraft. I think it’s really cool, but like I’m so frustrated because I can’t put the blocks Where I want them. That doesn’t mean I’m not going to sit alongside my son and, and listened as he explains his cool world that he built for me. Like you have to be part of the conversation even if it’s overwhelming even if you don’t get it or like it.
Jay Clouse: 00:34:45
That was something that struck me about your website, reading the testimonials and the one quote that said, what I appreciate the most is the ability to monitor without snooping. This allows my children to maintain a sense of independence and privacy while allowing me the opportunity to involve myself only when necessary to provide guidance. So I thought I thought that was the answer you’re going to give and I was curious just how aware of the children are that this is running and that they like how much awareness of the children have of bark.
Titania Jordan: 00:35:13
Yeah, so it’s different for every family. If you are a parent that has every single username and password at everything your child doesn’t has, you could technically sign up for bark without your Child knowing with an iphone, with an android, the child was going to see the bark for kids app on the device. The majority of parents don’t know all of those things and so they have to talk to their kids about, here’s why we’re using bark. Here’s what it’s gonna look like, and good news is that it’s not. It’s not gonna Be as bad as you think you know, I’m not going to let you ride in the car without a seatbelt, so I’m not going to give you this device that can access the world without some sort of alarm for me. If something really bad happens,
Eric Hornung: 00:35:58
what’s stopping kids from just creating new accounts? If their parents are using bark,
Titania Jordan: 00:36:03
Nothing. They create new accounts and when they have to verify those new accounts, would they text or email? Then a bark alert will go to the parents saying, hey, it looks like johnny has a new instagram account. You should talk to him about connecting it to bark.
Eric Hornung: 00:36:17
I’m asking a lot of work around questions because I was a very mischievous child and my initial thought about this is, all right, how do I get out of this?
Titania Jordan: 00:36:29
You’re not alone.
Eric Hornung: 00:36:32
Do you use bark for jackson? Who’s nine years old now?
Titania Jordan: 00:36:36
I almost 10. Yeah. It will monitor his texting. If he’s texting through his ipad that’s connected to his icloud, I will get alerts when he’s viewed certain problematic things on youtube. He’s not on social media really, so if and when that time comes, that will be that conversation, but it’s really just youtube and texting, browsing history on chrome. He’s pretty savvy. I’m sure he could use incognito mode or or work around that, but that’s where the parenting comes in. Right. Like knowing the difference between seeing something you should or shouldn’t online and how that can affect you later on. I’m really worried about pornography and if and when he sees that, what that’s going to do to him and so anyway, that’s just a really uncomfortable conversation to have with them.
Jay Clouse: 00:37:26
Can you give me some perspective on parenting in the modern day? It strikes me that it’s taken, they’re new, there are new hard conversations you have to have and as I’m getting older and I’m seeing my friends become parents or I’m just more aware of how the parents around me are acting, it doesn’t align with my memory of parenting when I was growing up. It seems different. So I would love to just hear you talk about the evolution of parenting in a digitally native age.
Titania Jordan: 00:37:57
Alright. Feel free to stop me whenever you need me to stop, but I have got some thoughts for you. So first of all, we are parenting from behind a screen now. We are not always having eye contact with our children when it’s the most imperative when they’re babies, when they’re toddlers. We’re looking at instagram and saying, stop that. Go help your brother go get dressed. Eye contact is so important. And children learn by example. They learn by watching you much more so than by listening to what you say. So if you’re always on this thing or if you’re driving and you’re liking things, they’re going to see that. If you are commenting to your significant other like, oh my gosh, I just got 40 likes on that and they see that, that makes you happy. They’re thinking, oh, that’s what I should be placing value on. So it is all kinds of messed up. So as parents, we’ve got to check ourselves and see how we’re using this and what messages those are are being conveyed to our kids. There’s also, once your kids get older, uh, just the screen time does show their brain, so like, you know, if I’ve got a toddler and I need a shower and he’s not going to stay in the baby gate, I hand them the ipad because I know he’ll be glued to that thing and he will not get an, he’ll not hurt himself and I can take a shower that said if four hours later he’s still on that thing and I’m just like sitting back chilling, you know, not good for his brain. So there’s a whole another level of like how screens and blue lights affect your children biologically and chemically with serotonin and dopamine affecting them just like sugar and affecting their sleep patterns. So that’s, that’s something to think about then as your children get older and they can read, you got to talk to them about, you know, when your friends texts you and like, oh no, you can’t play with my phone because my friend who lives in Vegas is sending me some stuff. Um, so it’s, it’s all about learning that just like when we were kids, like don’t talk to strangers now it’s, don’t talk to strangers online and people might seem like they’re your peers. Like, hey, that’s somebody my age that wants to meet up for a play date. No, no, it’s not. Do not tell people where you live, where you go to school, your age, your name, your address, what you liked. Nothing. Give nothing to no one because there are tricky people online that aren’t always who they say they are. Then as a parent you get into the whole, like when we were kids and we weren’t invited to a party where maybe heard about it, but like we didn’t get to watch it happen in real time in front of her eyes through instagram live. So there’s the fomo, there’s the being left out, there’s the cyber bullying, there’s the, you know, when I go on Instagram and I see my friends perfect homes and vacations and perfect marriages. Like I know the real story. LIke it’s easy to get sucked in and think, oh their lives great and mine sucks. But like I know the real story, these kids are only seeing the best and brightest of people’s lives, you know, the thin filters and the tan filters and the white teeth filters. And that’s got to be incredibly disconcerting, especially during your awkward years. Like middle school sucked. I don’t need the extra pressure, social media, and then, you know, we’re seeing increased rates of anxiety and depression and it’s no wonder. And then also it’s really, really stressful for me right now as a mom of an almost 10 year old as it sexting is the new first base. So an eighth grade for me it was like, ooh, am I going to go kiss Cameron, you know, and the playground like, I don’t know, now it’s sent me a picture of your boobs and that’s actually possession of child pornography and that will stay with you for life. And so parents have to learn a whole nother level of parenting which is becoming as tech savvy as you can and not only how that affects you literally, but how that affects your future and how it affects you emotionally. And then biochemically,
Jay Clouse: 00:41:59
I’m sure we could spend a ton of time on this subject from a couple of angles. My parents were high school teachers and I have a lot of friends who are teachers. A lot of my family are teachers and they’ve talked about just the differences in teaching for them because they feel like they’re being watched as if they’re a screen now in the way that kids interact in the classroom.
Titania Jordan: 00:42:17
Jay Clouse: 00:42:18
Yeah. Just a difference in responsiveness. I mean, I’m curious, have you seen the movie eighth grade?
Titania Jordan: 00:42:23
Jay Clouse: 00:42:23
Love that movie. Bo burnham is like a personal hero of mine, but that was pretty eye opening for me to see that level of performance that kids feel all the time. Yeah. I don’t know. It just would be really hard for me. You know, we, we’re in this age cohort where we grew up in a time where most of the technology wasn’t there, but then we phased into it. So we’re like this one demographic age that had the chance to see both sides. And that’s not the case for obviously the generation after us. It seems like that would be very challenging.
Titania Jordan: 00:42:58
Yeah. We have the only unique vantage point in history of being able to straddle both viewpoints and I think that gives us a great responsibility to help both the generation above ours and then the ones below.
Eric Hornung: 00:43:11
Oh man, where do I want to go from here
Jay Clouse: 00:43:15
on the website, You have a few pretty major statistics right at the top of the page about the number of incidents of self harm detected and school shootings prevented. How do you measure those things? Because saying we’ve stopped 15 school shootings from happening is uh, is an amazing claim.
Titania Jordan: 00:43:32
Yeah. It’s actually 16 now. This week we had another incident and what happens is, is that we have different levels of severity or different alerts. So let’s take a school shooting alert for example. That’s something that obviously if the algorithm catches, it’s not just going to send it and be on its merry way. It gets escalated. We have a direct line of contact to the fbi and local law enforcement. so when that comes through, we send that to them and then they get back to us and tell us whether it’s a credible threat or not. And so now 16 times when that has happened, they’re like, yeah, this was. This was really a situation. This child had stockpiled weapons, his childhood or whatever, but it’s really chilling. With regards to the lives saved, Thirty four lives saved. Now we know that because when a self harm or suicide alert comes through, we follow up with the parent saying, hey, we saw this alert came through. We just want to follow up and see is so and so. OkaY, do you need anything us, we’re here for you. And 34 times a parent has written back to that followup message saying, yes, they’re okay and thank you because of your alert, our child’s life is safe. We’re able to get them help, therapy step in before it’s too late, etc. That’s how we know that stat with regards to the self harm alerts it. It’s crazy the rate at which children are like cutting. We see a spike around age 12 and especially amongst 12 year old girls, 12 year old girls are seven times more likely to express and act on thoughts of self harm than boys. And so we don’t know why and we can, we can assume, but um, we’re actually working with johns hopkins now to provide our data to help them formulate and then take action on how to help this generation with those harmful thoughts.
Eric Hornung: 00:45:19
Take me back out to the business level. And you mentioned earlier the other players in the space weren’t doing some of the things you were doing. What, what are the other players in the space doing? Are they what you called Spyware? Are they Do they have a different competitive advantage or unique advantage? You talk a little bit about them. You can name them or not.
Titania Jordan: 00:45:40
Yeah, totally. So I Won’t name them just because I don’t want to send them any traffic, no offense, but there’s a lot of different types of parental controls. So we’ll start with screen time, which we don’t do. So any, anybody who’s in this screentime space, we’re actually partners with because we were referring vice versa, so I can name them, you know, circle boomerang, our pact and then ios 12 just released their own internal based instead of features on screentime. So there’s that bucket of protecting your children. THen there’s the spyware type things where parents are jailbreaking phones, which violates the terms of service and warranties they’re using, you know, key stroke modeling and enacting vpns to really get a copy of everything. Their kid is doing a copy of every single text message and we just are. We are opposed to that sort of level of monitoring for most children. So they might, I guess say that that’s their unique advantage for the parents that want to see everything and live in that sort of way. Then that’s fine. Those parents can go use that technology, but I guarantee you that will not contribute to a healthy relationship between parent and child. And to your point, the child Will find a way around it. We’ll find a way around it. They’ll get a burner phone, et cetera. And so those other players aren’t using ai. we’re using artificial intelligence machinery, machine learning algorithms to really perfect the way that we’re doing things they aren’t. And also from a community standpoint, we are building a community. We have a private facebook group called parenting the tech world of 13,000 parents and it’s growing every day and they’re coming here asking, hey, did you hear about the, you know, the tick tock is now musically, oh my gosh, look at, look at what this creepy person trying to dm my child. And the bark alert caught it. My child is, you know, suicidal, what should I do? Like it’s, we Have community. And um, that’s everything when you’re building a movement, which is what we feel like we’re doing. And so that’s what, what sets us apart and what the other players don’t have. And they’re actually a part of like they have joined our group and we welcome their insights because we’re, we’re all in this together. you know, there’s, there’s bottom lines and revenue goals we have to meet that maybe sets us apart. But at the end of the day, we all set out to do this for a reason and so we want to work together to keep this generation safe.
Eric Hornung: 00:48:07
So you said that group has 13,000 individuals in it.
Titania Jordan: 00:48:12
Eric Hornung: 00:48:12
how many people are using bark today?
Titania Jordan : 00:48:15
So we protect over 2 million children across the nation. It’s actually close to like two point $5 million. And so if just one parent Has a bark account, you know, you can do the math if both parents have a bark account, et cetera. That also factors in schools. We are now in over 700 districts across the nation. And so, um, we don’t give a specific user account, but that’s, that’s a snapshot for you.
Eric Hornung: 00:48:40
One thing I’ve been curious about and have been watching in specifically the last five years is this idea of the fang stocks, the bigger the facebook, apple, netflix, google, effectively outsourcing product innovation and allowing vcs and the venture community in general to build great products and then just absorbing them. So you can tHink snapchat, instagram has just stole every, everything from them. I think facebook just launched like a tick tock product today or yesterday. You mentioned earlier that one of the players in the space now, which isn’t a direct competitor, is apple’s facetime app on ios 12. If they expanded their services, would apple be a competitor or a potential competitor to bark?
Titania Jordan: 00:49:29
So we are not super concerned about that given apple’s historical actions surrounding user privacy. I mean the fact that they wouldn’t even give the fbi access to unlock a phone to access terrorists. We don’t think they’re going to dive into this space in terms of content analysis. They have checked the box in terms of like we care about families, you know, in terms of screen time and you know, setting appropriate filter levels, but the amount of analysis that goes into this and the unique data set, do you have accurate data? They’d have to get started if they haven’t already and I just don’t think they’re going to do this. I could be wrong, but
Eric Hornung: 00:50:14
you mentioned one other kind of term that whenever I hear it, I just want to hear more about how it specifically applies because it’s such a hot button term right now in the venture space and that’s machine learning and ai. I feel like those terms get thrown around a lot. So specifically as it relates to bark, How are the concept of ai and machine learning used?
Titania Jordan: 00:50:37
So I don’t want to butcher this. So full disclosure, I am not a data scientist. I use those terms probably more than I should, but I’ll tell you what I know. I know that we have analyzed over a billion messages of children ages eight to 17 across texting, social media and email, and we use all of that data to feed into our algorithms and help to train the models and get better. There’s also an element of human review and so a certain percentage of that data, you know, will run by humans where we can actually say, actually that’s not a thing. Oh, you know what? That is a thing. Oh, let’s go to urban dictionary and see what that is. You know what I mean? so we have to, you know, we’ve gotta we’ve gotta work on that. The data is anonymized though, like we’re not seeing, you know, the names and stuff. It’s, it’s just the data. Let’s see, what else contextual analysis, again, going back to that kms analogy I used earlier and because children are very sarcastic and not everything is an actual threat and sometimes there’s a fine line between cyber bullying and just good old fashioned ribbing and so it really does take a lot of time to perfect the models. And um, it took us 18 months before we even launched to train our models.
Eric Hornung: 00:51:56
Jay, did you hear that? Good old fashioned ribbing. Okay. So I’m allowed to keep on going with you. Good old fashioned ribbing. Yeah. There’s gonna be no upside alert to say eric is being to predatory and rude to Jay. Titania, obviously this plays such a huge and important service to parents. You guys just raised a series a, how big is this opportunity in front of bark from a market size or financial Upside perspective,
Titania Jordan: 00:52:24
yeah, I mean, so we protect close to two point 5 million children right now across the nation, but there are 74 million children in the country and when 90 percent of them can access a digital device, there’s a lot of work we have to do just here in the us. And also right now we are a for English speaking families only. Um, there’s a huge market for spanish speaking. The Japanese market is very tech savvy and forward thinking as well as german. And so we are now working on different languages and moving into the international realm. One of the things that has been challenging for us is just gdpr and access to data and privacy laws. But again, thankfully that funding will help us hire the best legal experts that can help us navigate that.
Eric Hornung: 00:53:11
When you go to a different country, is that a, we’re going to acquire a team in a different country that’s already thinking about this and bring them into our culture or is that a, we’re going to go over there and find data scientists which generally hard and explain to them what we’re doing. And then bring their cultural understanding in because you mentioned the nuances and the contextual issues earlier and having traveled a lot internationally, context is so important. So what is the strategy for going international?
Titania Jordan: 00:53:46
That is not my, that’s not my personal focus, so I cannot speak directly to what our ceo is thinking, but what I can say is that we will absolutely reach out to our investors at rbc firms to help us and guide us along that path since they’ve done this before, as well as find local child health and wellness experts in those countries that can identify who the key players are in the space so that we can either work with them, acquire them and /or you know, talk to tech talent and recruiting firms to help us identify the best data scientists. And then we’re going to have to hire consultants, just language consultants that understand that nuance because we can’t go into this blind.
Eric Hornung: 00:54:30
Can you talk to me a little bit more about the other members of your team and the strengths that they bring to the table?
Titania Jordan: 00:54:36
Definitely. Yeah. So now our ceo brian basin bark is actually his fourth startup. He’s had three successful exits. His last one was to twitter because that’s cool. And actually while he was at twitter, he couldn’t find the best way to keep his own two boys safer online. And that’s why he started Bark. Um, our cto, Brandon Hillkurt is like, he’s amazing. Anytime he builds something or fix something or hack something, we call it [inaudible] because it’s just basically a tech wizard and he’s, he’s the coolest and has a great blog focused on ruby on rails specifically. So you all should check him out. Our creative director, [inaudible] is the most creative, funniest, irreverent copywriter on the planet. Creative is everything when it comes to digital content and marketing and cutting through the clutter. And so, um, if it’s not beautiful, it’s not going up. And if it did go up, she didn’t, she didn’t approve it. so she’s great. she also writes for ad week. She’s, she’s amazing. And our chief customer officer, ross patterson, I love that guy. He did a lot of work previously before joining bark in terms of customer success. And uh, with some, some big, big players in the space as well as helping apple with their education initiatives in europe. And so he brings That global experience and that apple experience, which is like the black box.
Eric Hornung: 00:56:04
Are you missing anybody in terms of leadership that you would like to hire now that you have this new round of funding?
Titania Jordan : 00:56:12
You know, we, we have really worked hard since june of this year to build a quality team because we were pretty confident that funding was coming in. And so right now, no, we think we’re, we’re solid. That said very soon we’re going to need to find those key players to help us with the international efforts in terms of biz dev and data scientists. So that’s coming.
Eric Hornung: 00:56:39
And you’ve mentioned the raise a couple of times now. I’m curious to hear about that process because when I asked about the international expansion, the first thing you mentioned was we’re going to go to our vcs and get their take on it. so it sounds like the vcs were strategic. Can you talk to uS about the raise? Was it oversubscribed? How quickly did it go? And how it’s different from maybe a seed raise, which is generally what jay and I have experienced with.
Titania Jordan : 00:57:07
Yeah. Yeah. So I was part of both and the seed raise was a lot more comfortable, you know, you’re going to friends and family and investors that you know and have a relationship with and they’re there supporting the vision obviously with a strong financial model, but they’re, they’re investing in the team and the vision with the series a, it’s database, it’s opportunity based, the total addressable market. And so, um, we had a lot of interest. It went very fast and we ultimately are so thankful to have had signal peak ventures out of Utah lead this round. Anybody can google them and see the great success they’ve had. And so that was a very strategic alliance as well as two sigma ventures. They are very strong in areas that we are aiming to be. And so between those two Firms and the existing investors that participated in this round from previous ones were really, really excited about about what they all bring to the table.
Eric Hornung: 00:58:17
When you say really fast, like how fast,
Titania Jordan : 00:58:20
gosh, I’d say that our ceo kind of put it out there and within four weeks we were signing docs.
Jay Clouse: 00:58:31
Do you think that, I think I know what you’re going to say to this, but do you think that’s the bark opportunity or brian’s background having three successful exits of his first three companies?
Titania Jordan : 00:58:43
I think it’s both the market need is there, the problems there, the unique way we’re solving it is there, but obvIously people aren’t going to write checks on a hope and a dream and so his experience and just his. His demeanor, he is one of most amazing people I’ve ever worked with. He is so trustworthy. He is so determined. He is so sharp and he’s authentic. He’s not like steve jobs. Who I heard was kind of an a hole. He just really real, really good guy. somebody you want, you want to invest in him and so I think it was a combo of both.
Jay Clouse: 00:59:17
How did you guys come to the $9 per month? Family price. It seems really low to me.
Titania Jordan : 00:59:23
Well, you know, through a lot of research, you know, two or $3 a month, obviously just wasn’t gonna cut it, nor does it really shed light on the value we provide, but once you get into the 12 /15 /20, $40 a month becomes very cost prohibitive for people and in lower income brackets and we don’t want to just serve the one percent like whoa, this is the problems were alerting to affect all families. So we wanted to make It as affordable as possible while still being able to to run a great business
Jay Clouse: 00:59:55
on a move into talking a little bit about Atlanta is a place where you’ve, you’ve built this company. what has being in atlanta done for bark?
Titania Jordan : 01:00:06
Wow. You know, traditionally you think you’ve got to be in silicon valley or New York city or maybe boston to really scale a consumer startup and the atlanta community is craving a consumer startup when and so the support we’re receiving is unprecedented. So we have an amazing support system. The way that we can just afford both talent and space. Right? Look, I’m coming to you live from the atlanta tech village is amazing. If we were paying rent in New York city van, our burn rate would be a lot higher. We also have an amazing ad tech pool here, whether it’s Georgia tech or uga or kennesaw state or Georgia state. We have so many smart people in this city and surrounding areas. Um, so it’s great to be able to employ locally and pour back into the community. And I don’t know if you have read steve case’s book the third wave, but you should, if you haven’t, it’s amazing. Any talks about how big ideas are coming out of cities that are more off the grid. Not that atlanta is off the grid, it’s kind of a big deal, but you know, you couldn’t have done this 10, 15 years ago in atlanta.
Eric Hornung: 01:01:21
Want to dive back into the business to get a couple of things that we missed while we were there earlier. The cost structure of your business. You guys are centralized. So I’m guessing office is a part of that headcount’s a part of that, what other costs that go into making this work,
Titania Jordan : 01:01:35
aws, amazon web services and legal, what we do touches a lot on data and privacy and security and so, so legal costs really that’s, that’s it. Thankfully we are not manufacturing and actual hardware product and so between server costs, legal and then of course acquisition, facebook ads, ad spend, that sort of thing. That’s where a lot of our budget goes
Eric Hornung: 01:02:05
and is that where the budget from the races going as well to those same kinds of buckets. Plus international.
Titania Jordan : 01:02:10
The race was more to expand our team, you know, we were a team of eight in may and we’re now a team of 32 and we weren’t hiring lower level positions. We are hiring, you know, top data scientists and amazing graphic designers and drafters of marketing and heads of school safety. And So yeah, the hiring and then also using it to, to ramp up customer acquisition spend. And as well as examining the, you know, the international plays any.
Eric Hornung: 01:02:43
When we think about bark as a business, if there was a dashboard for the overall health of the business, what are the kpis that bark pays attention to both on the marketing side but also on the finance side?
Titania Jordan : 01:02:57
Yeah. So, um, remember I talked about our cto, brandon and how he is known for hashtag [inaudible] creating. We actually built as a dashboard and so we have some really defined key metrics in marketing. It’s trial signups, bark for schools, it’s districts added and students added and parents added and product We’re looking at our trial conversion percentage and our churn and then in data annotation we are looking at, you know, accuracy to make sure we’re serving the best product to our customers.
Jay Clouse: 01:03:28
Titania, one last question for me. You obviously are a parent. You, you have your own views on parenting. Sounds like bark as a culture has some views on parenting. I know when you send an alert you have a little bit of a tip of how to diffuse the situation or how to bring this to it. Do you guys take a stance on your opportunity to help teach parents parenting? Is that something that’s in barks lane or not?
Titania Jordan: 01:03:59
Yes, we are very careful to not be judgmental in terms of whatever you decide to give your child a smart phone that is totally up to you. Every family dynamic is different. That said, we want to educate you as to the dangers and how those will affect your children. We want to educate you and to be actual landscape of what is happening with kids eight to 17 and then we’ll use a family can determine if you want your child involved in that or not. We have a board and a team of advisors of child health and wellness and safety experts that will give insight into, you know, age appropriate levels and conversations and you know, because we aren’t, we aren’t doctors were technologists and marketers, so we want to utilize the experts to help parents. We want to educate parents based on our data and then just give parents an accurate portrait of the landscape so that they can make the best parenting decisions for their family dynamic.
Jay Clouse: 01:04:50
This has been great. Thanks for joining us. After the show. If people want to hear more about bark or hear more from you, where would you point them to?
Titania Jordan: 01:05:11
Sure, so I would have everybody go to www.bark.us. That’s our website. If you want to connect with me personally, just google Titania Jordan. I’m on every social network possible with my name and I love to connect with you.
Jay Clouse: 01:05:13
Awesome. Thank you Titania.
Titania Jordan: 01:05:14
Thank you all so much for having me. A great saturday.
Jay Clouse: 01:05:21
Okay, eric, so we just spoke with titania Jordan of bark. Let’s get into this one. Let’s dig in and talk about this opportunity.
Eric Hornung: 01:05:29
So normally we do start with the founder, but I want to start with something that I just recognized. Jay, you love the timeline question every year. do I think you asked the timeline question? Wait, so it’s always step back and explain to me the timeline and I love the question, but I realize I’m never the one asking you.
Jay Clouse: 01:05:45
I think it’s important. I mean, I want to contextualize the things that we’re hearing and understand how much time is passing how long ago certain events were happening so that we can contextualize that with the story. I think it’s an important question and you know, we’re asking for a story and it’s a linear path, but I just, I feel like it’s, you need the, you need the timestamps.
Eric Hornung: 01:06:05
I love it. I love that you are forthright about it and you make sure that we always hit hit it. So because we definitely could get lost sometimes. Jumping back into Titania and bark, I’m curious to hear what you think about her as not quite a founder.
Jay Clouse: 01:06:21
Well, she has a lot of marketing background. She had worked for another company that was in the space with kids link and sort of privet and anytime we have a guest on the show who is not one of the founders from the very beginning, it’s the same company as an investor. You’re still looking at the opportunity of the company you Will be investing in. So I think you have to look at the founder in this case holistically, Including titania as as a major part of the leadership team. So what I. What I take away from that, from the founder perspective and the leadership perspective here, brian, the founder obviously is very intentional about who he surrounds himself with and looking at his weaknesses, looking at what would make a well rounded team. Bark is a pretty small team at this point. They said they had seven employees and titania is a major part of their marketing and pr plan. given her background in that. I feel like you must have some thoughts to bring that question up.
Eric Hornung: 01:07:30
Yeah, just always think it’s interesting when we have someone on who’s not a founder because it’s definitely the minority case here on upside and you do get some responses that maybe we wouldn’t get if we had a founder on things. Like I think she said, that’s not my personal focus, so I can’t speak to what the ceo is thinking and I think that when you have a founder on it doesn’t matter if it’s their personal area of focus or not, they know or have a have insight into something about it when you’re in this kind of series a pre series a gap. That being said, I think that Titania thinks of herself more like a founder than an employee because when she left for agency to start the yik yak for moms privet, she mentioned that she realized she wants to be a co founder, not an employee and I think that that’s a realization that’s kind of carrying through her career. So That’s why I said not quite down here.
Jay Clouse: 01:09:43
Yeah, I would agree with that and I think the way she describes the team that they’ve put together their. It sounds like the whole team probably has some level of ownership they feel over The company and the mission that they’re doing because it does seem like a very mission driven team. I agree. When we. When we go down the list a little bit past the founder, we do get into more specialized knowledge what makes, which makes it a little bit more difficult to ask some of our specific questions around numbers and Just some of the pure fundraising type questions, but to that whole point. I did want to touch on Brian a Little bit. I mean titania gave us a lot of great background and a lot of the team members, but bark is brian’s fourth startup. He’s had three successful exits including the last one to twitter and she talked about their cto. Brandon said he’s amazing. Their chief customer officer has time working with apple, which she called a black box. She also mentioned that within four weeks of beginning looking for series a, there were signing documents, which is a incredible timeline. That’s even assuming that within four weeks you knew exactly what type of investors you wanted and could have introductory conversations. I think that speaks very, very highly to the team and brian as a founder that he has the relationships and the existing reputation to put that type of timeframe together.
Eric Hornung: 01:09:48
I completely agree with that. I think brian is definitely a key component in the barks story. Another key component that I think was talked about a bit is this algorithm, and I’m curious to hear your take on the bark algorithm and what we kind of learned about it. We talked about machine learning. Basically. We talked about their cto and how he kind of hacked together a lot of things. We talked about the process that they went through. Just curious to hear your thoughts on that.
Jay Clouse: 01:11:29
The algorithm is important because the data set is important and the amount of time that they’ve had to analyze the very unique data set over one Billion messages from children aged eight to 17. They’ve created this machine learned algorithm that goes not just obvious keyword deep, but things that they’re continuing to add. Other indicators that they’ve realized are important over time. They can analyze things like the image overlay that you can draw sort of an ios. I think there’s a lot to Be said about that because if someone were to come in and try to eat barks lunch, for example, they’re going to have to recognize those signals with higher accuracy and more efficacy because this is. This is a pretty high stakes value proposition, right? So if you’re a parent, you’re going to be looking for the tool that has the best efficacy. The tool that does the best job in the most circumstances catches the signals you’re looking to catch and the amount of time that bar has been added, the dataset that they’ve analyzed, that does put them ahead from a pure mathematics standpoint, if someone were to try to come and have a better machine.
Eric Hornung: 01:11:32
Yeah, I agree. I think the algorithm is key here. I think that their ability to pull from a lot of different sources is key. One thing I was curious about, and I’m not, I don’t know that I have an answer or a real thought here, but she said that they have over and they analyzed over a billion messages. That doesn’t feel like a lot to me. I know a billion is a big number. I get that. But how many messages would you say you send in a day?
Jay Clouse: 01:11:59
Uh, I dunno sub 100
Eric Hornung: 01:12:02
sub 100 between texts. Slack, twitter.
Jay Clouse: 01:12:06
Okay. I was talking text messages or you’re looking all messages? Yeah, it could be a time and it’s probably probably more for children. I don’t actually know children messaging behavior, but I would assume they’re spending a lot of time sending instant messages through some medium.
Eric Hornung: 01:12:24
Right. Like I would say for me, I probably send north of 500 messages a day and I’m not even on kik, snapchat, instagram, facebook, linkedin on my phone. Like none of that’s on my phone. So if I just take me at $500 a day, which maybe that’s too many, I don’t know. But let’s say it’s not, that’s 15,000 messages a month just from me, just from one person. So they say that they have two point 5 million children under that they’re protecting. so two point 5 million times 15,000. Like that’s
Jay Clouse: 01:13:07
a really big number with a lot of zeros.
Eric Hornung: 01:13:09
Yeah. That’s $200 million ish. So is one 200th a significant sample size? I’m not sure and I don’t know how those numbers kind of play together or if I’m just completely wrong here.
Jay Clouse: 01:13:22
Good question. That’s an interesting math because I think maybe the more relevant statistic statistic there, if you’re looking at, is that number something that’s impressive as a moat in building a algorithm? I think the more impressive statistic there is probably the two point five million children because I think that’s harder to replicate. You could have a billion messages, but if I analyze a billion eric hornung messages because I track your 15,000 over a period of some number of months, that’s not going to train that smart of an algorithm. It’s going to train an algorithm that understands Eric Hornung, so they’re looking for all these indicators across communities that have their own colloquialisms and things across the United States. So I would assume that that 1 billion or however many messages is divided up across their entire geographic pool across the country, which would be more difficult to replicate in my mind, two point 5 million. I mean not customers, but users is a big number that’s hard for any consumer app to get to if something was to come into the market and try to compete in that fashion.
Eric Hornung: 01:14:31
Absolutely. And I’m not a data scientist so a billion might be above and beyond what is normal unlike a and how deep they analyze it and all kinds of things. So I was just, I was just curious because a billion messages to me didn’t seem like that many.
Jay Clouse: 01:14:47
You probably sent a bunch of like. Yep. And sure, you know, things a bunch of messages that don’t make the machines smarter whatsoever.
Eric Hornung: 01:14:57
Yeah. I pretty much only send you one word messages.
Jay Clouse: 01:15:01
Very, very current, very current and the upside slack,
Eric Hornung: 01:15:06
it’s long winded messages and novels from jay and meet saying fine. So you mentioned the two point 5 million children number and I wanted to get a better sense of how that translates into some sort of revenue to answer one of our four questions. So here’s how I went about it and if you disagree with the process or procedure would love to hear. So I took 700 school districts, which is how many titania said bark was in and I took the average size of a school district. All I could find was high school. So that’s an average high school. There’s 500 students in the United States public school now that means there’s about 125 students per grade, an average school around the United States. So if you take the nine grades before high school plus high school, you get to about 1700 students in a school district, assuming 100 percent usage when you enter a school district. So we take that 1700 number, we multiply it times 700, that gets us one point 2 million students who are under their school district program. So we subtract out the two to two point 5 million that you talked about. And we get somewhere between 800,000 in one point 3 million students that are on the bark platform paying $9 a month. So about 1 million kids are in the system. Let’s get to families. So a million. And there’s one point nine children per family in America. So that’s 530,000 families roughly. So we multiply that by nine, which is the dollars per month. We multiply that by 12 and that gets us to $57,000,000 of annual revenue. Does that seem high to you?
Jay Clouse: 01:17:01
Would you? Seven million annually. I mean the math works, the math works because I was fully tracking on what you were explaining there. So for taken out school districts which are free, we’re saying we have a million kids, two kids per household, 500 plus thousand $9 per month times 12 months. $58,000,000 annually. Makes me wonder if that is true. What we’re fundraising for
Eric Hornung: 01:17:26
with eight employees, I don’t think you need. You don’t need to fundraise if you’re bringing in cash of 58 million a year. So there’s a disconnect here. I think that I don’t understand
Jay Clouse: 01:17:36
does seem like a little bit of a disconnect, but I think what you’ve also worked into here is a market opportunity figure that’s pretty compelling, you know, because they’re at three point four percent market saturation. If there are $74 million children in United States and they’re protecting two point 5 million of them, so if we’re only three point four percent to what the market size is and that’s what the arr would Break into, that’s pretty compelling market size. It does sound high from what you would expect a company that just closed a series a to b, but you know that could very well speak to the opportunity here and the team here
Eric Hornung: 01:18:15
and maybe it’s not 58 million or whatever their actual revenues are because there are some things that are pulled out that we don’t have insight into from this interview, but closing a series a in four weeks even with how impressive brian is. Maybe the numbers are really good.
Jay Clouse: 01:18:33
I have a little bit of a shadow. I want to get your take on and you tell me how severe you think the shadow is in technology like bark that is trying to protect against what is not intentionally malicious behavior by children, but could be intentionally malicious behavior by adults. On the other end of the conversation, you’re in sort of a natural, oh, in call it arms race situation, but you’re definitely always playing defense. You know what I mean? You’re always. You’re always developing the technology around the updates of other technology, the innovations of new technology reaching the market in the first place. You know, as soon as fortnitepopped up, now they’re saying, okay, well now we have to reprioritize our product roadmap to try and get some protection around fortnight because all these kids are creating chat in fortnight and that also means that you’re at the behest or you have to request that these products allow for some sort of integration and open api as titania pointed out to protect them. So does that worry you that they have to be reactive to a pretty quickly changing landscape of technology that kids are interested in?
Eric Hornung: 01:19:40
I think that that’s just kinda the nature of cybersecurity is that things are always changing and evolving. And when I Said in the intro that this feels to me like a cybersecurity play, it was because of that nature of we’re playing defense and we’re constantly trying to stay as close as we can, but there’s always going to be people that are a little bit ahead of us, but I think that’s just the nature of cybersecurity. Like you can’t predict how people are going to act. You said maliciously, I don’t have a better word for it right now. You can only take in the data and say, okay, this is a trend that’s developing. Let’s protect against it for when the bulk of people are going through this.
Jay Clouse: 01:20:21
I think the longterm risk, if you were to be worried about that would be is if you think as a trend, a security trend would be that messaging applications no longer allow an open api or no longer provide an open api. If that as a trend happened, I mean that would just kind of melt barks ability to do these things in its current form pretty much slowly over time or overnight. if people were like, you know what, security is a hot topic, we’re just going to, but then again, I don’t know if the trends go in the opposite direction where it could be a benefit.
Eric Hornung: 01:20:54
Well, right now we’re looking at security, so let’s kind of figure out what would be something that a bates that shadow and I think mark is in a very enviable position in the security space because they’re protecting children. so when you think about like nickelodeon and all those tv shows and they had some legislation come down in the nineties and again in the early thousands about the kinds of commercials they could show and about all these things because they were bad for children. Bad for children is the easiest legislation to pass because people want to protect children on both sides of the aisle and it looks good to all of your constituents, so if they want to get something passed that says messaging apps in the United States must provide open apis to child monitoring services for parents. I think that that is something that is much more likely than a business to business open api mandate because child monitoring is a problem that people understand and to be honest, children don’t have a say in it from a legal standpoint, so if people perceive that there’s a real problem with school shootings and sex shaming and sexting and child pornography and they feel this way and they’re scared about it, I think it’s one of the easier things to pass to make new entrance in the app space, have to open up their apis.
Jay Clouse: 01:22:20
That’s a great point. That’s something we should make sure we bring into other analysis on the show legislation. Very important
Eric Hornung: 01:22:27
We’re big politics guys here. Politics, legal. It’s like our. It’s our thing.
Jay Clouse: 01:22:32
So eric, what are you looking for six to 18 months down the line with bark?
Eric Hornung: 01:22:36
I think the thing that I’m most excited about for bark is their school district’s initiative. I want to see that number just spike because it’s a really easy way to get in front of a lot of potential paying customers on their student’s school devices. It’s both user generation and marketing at the same time, so that algorithm is going to get stronger the more school districts they’re in, especially for g suite and Microsoft 365 side of things, which some of the things in g suite like I had no idea that people were using google docs for chatting and things like that. The algorithm’s going to get a lot stronger for those, but also parents are gonna see, oh we’re using this and it’s not that expensive to add it to their phone as well and we’ve seen some tangible results from it. Remember when there was that credible threat that came through the school and it was bark that sniffed it out. Like that little pond right there
Jay Clouse: 01:23:34
it did. yup. Dog pun.
Eric Hornung: 01:23:36
So I think school districts is the area and the number I would focus on if I’m evaluating this company six, 18 months from now. What about you?
Jay Clouse: 01:23:57
I like that perspective. I do think it would probably be one. I think this is a amazing pr opportunity. This company, which is a huge part as to why Titania was brought on the team I’m sure, and that’s from like a national level for covering school districts. It’s also on a district by district, great pr move to say we implemented this tool. It’s going to protect your children. Great message to parents. It’s not costing the school district anything. I think the marketing has to come from the school probably more than parents noticing the children using it because it’s probably protecting the computers at the school more than anything else. They might not be aware of it if the school doesn’t make it obvious, but given that those things are true, totally agree. Amazing acquisition and marketing strategy. Looking down the road for me now, you got my head really around the opportunity number here. You know, we didn’t get a pure opportunity number from titania in the interview. I guess we can cut it back into the same thing. If there are 74 million children, that’s you know, 37 million households in the country. $9 per month for 34 million households is $306 million dollars per month mrr and three point almost $7,000,000,000 ar market opportunity. That’s huge
Eric Hornung: 01:24:59
and that’s just America
Jay Clouse: 01:25:00
and that’s just America. So looking down six to 18 months. I’m interested to see actually despite that huge market size in America, what they’re doing on a marketing front to spread even internationally because that was something she spoke to in the interview was that with this latest 10 point $9 million dollar series a, or actually I should say $9,000,000 series, a 10 point 9 million in funding to date with this $9,000,000 series a. They closed in september. Where are they going with that money? She mentioned expansion and in other countries and maybe even going to teams that are existing in other countries. Are they making acquisitions? How quickly are they trying to expand their market and does that continue to add to their moat? You know, the spark has already a little bit further along, but on the most of the companies we’ve talked to on the show, given that they’ve raised a series a and a $9,000,000 series a, it seems like they’re. They’ve got some traction already, so I’ll continue to look that way and also, like I said, I would want to have some insight into security trends in the consumer space. Are things looking good from that standpoint? Is there a legislation. Is there just the trend that companies are making an open source or open access to their apis? Are they having success getting into things like fortnite, which is a completely third party less obvious tool to get into? Does their influence increase so that they can convince companies like fortnite to put access to the api onto their product roadmap? That’s I’m looking at and obviously you know, revenue growth, are they continuing to accelerate, you know this, I’m assuming this $9,000,000, it’s a growth round or growth funding. So what metrics do we have that showing that
Eric Hornung: 01:26:36
wow, look at you just thrown In revenue growth at the end is the kpi. You’re interested in really deep analysis.
Jay Clouse: 01:26:44
Well, I mean, you know, it’s important.
Eric Hornung: 01:26:47
I did want to throw in one last piece because I feel like we usually dive a little bit deeper into the guest and their background and as you were talking about how amazing of a pr opportunity this is. I thought to myself, yeah, this is amazing pr opportunity and Titania is the perfect person to carry that out. You can just feel it when she’s talking, how much she cares about this company and how much she cares about the mission. It feels like it’s part of her. It also feels like she’s just a killer. Started a full service marketing agency while starting a family. She was talking about how the smartphone was liberating because she could be working while raising a kid and like I feel like working with her would be an incredible experience for sure.
Jay Clouse: 01:27:30
All right guys, that’s it for this week. Let us know if you have any thoughts on this company on bark. You can tweet at us at upside fm or email us. Hello@upside.fm and we’ll talk to you next week.
Jay Clouse: 01:27:41
That’s all for this week. Thanks for listening. We’d love to hear your thoughts on today’s guest, so shoot us an firstname.lastname@example.org, or find us on twitter at upside. Fm will be back here next week at the same time talking to another founder and our quest to find upside outside of silicon valley. If you or someone you know would make a good guest for our show, please email us or find us on twitter and let us know and if you love our show, please leave us a review on itunes. That goes a long way in helping us spread the word and continue to help bring high quality guests to the show. Eric and I decided there were a couple of things we wanted to share with you at the end of the podcast, and so here we go, eric hornung and Jay Clouse or the founding parties of the upside podcast. At the time of this recording, we do not own equity or other financial interest in the companies which appear on this show. All opinions expressed by podcasts, participants are solely their own opinions and do not reflect the opinions of Duff and Phelps LLC and its affiliates Unreal Collective LLC and its affiliates or any entity which employ us. This podcast is for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as a basis for investment decisions. We have not considered your specific financial situation nor provided any investment advice on this show. Thanks for listening and we’ll talk to you next week.
Titania Jordan is the CMO and Chief Parent Officer of Bark.us. She is also host of CONNECT with Titania Jordan, and former host of NBC Atlanta affiliate WXIA’s weekly television show Atlanta Tech Edge.
Bark is an internet safety solution that helps parents and schools keep children safer across social media, text messaging, and email.
Bark works with over 25 social media platforms, iOS and Android texting, and email accounts. Their technology continuously and securely analyzes your child’s online activity 24/7. They keep parents in-the-know in real time with email and text alerts that not only tell you what your children are doing online, but also how to address it.
Founded in 2015, Bark is based in Atlanta, Georgia, and a Techstars alum.