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When G-Jay Yong’s daughter, Ru Faye, turned two back in 2017, she grew fascinated with his Canon DSLR camera. She wanted to take photos with the heavy device, just like her father did.

But letting a kid handle a DSLR weighing 2kg is a surefire way to injury (and an expensive one at that), so G-Jay went to hunt for alternatives for his daughter.

He wanted to give Ru Faye her own personal digital camera with similar functionality as the DSLR, but G-Jay was left dismayed. He couldn’t find anything that would suit children in the market.

“There were either ‘grown-up’ cameras, or toys with blinking lights that can’t take decent pictures,” he lamented.

The lack of kid-friendly tech (KidsTech) in the market doesn’t just stop at cameras — there are many other tech gadgets that are not suited for kids, despite the fact that children can greatly benefit from them.

We all live in a digital world and all the tech around us is designed for grown-ups. But what about younger ones? Our kids?

– G-Jay Yong, co-founder of myFirst

Seeing a massive gap in the market, G-Jay decided to launch myFirst to provide children access to a safe and accessible digital world.

Creating a KidsTech ecosystem

myFirst is G-Jay’s third business venture. He started up his first company while he was still studying at the National University of Singapore, which had brought in a revenue of US$80 million.

His second venture was a business-to-government (B2G) startup which has since exited. Through that venture, he got acquainted with Brian Tan, who was an investor in his startup and the current co-founder of myFirst.

Bootstrapping their way forward, the 41-year-old duo launched their first product in 2018: a kid-friendly digital camera.

myFirst Fone S3
myFirst Fone S3 / Image Credit: myFirst

By 2019, the duo had launched a full suite of devices, including watchphones (a smartphone and smartwatch hybrid), audio devices and 3D pens, effectively creating a “KidsTech ecosystem”.

Some of these devices come with connected services, such as messaging, voice and video calls, GPS and health monitoring, as well as unlimited data connectivity.

Parents can keep an eye on their kids’ location and geo-fence with advanced GPS, WiFi and GSM for accurate positioning, and connect with them anytime with messages, voice or video calls.

In case of emergency, an SOS button will alert parents — they will know that their kids are safe and are contactable anytime, anywhere.

– G-Jay Yong, co-founder of myFirst

myFirst’s product ideas are inspired by the co-founders’ kids

Brian Tan, co-founder of myFirst and his daughter (pictured left), and myFirst’s smartwatch / Image Credit: myFirst

When developing myFirst’s products, G-Jay proudly admits that the duo’s kids were “the product managers” of the company.

In fact, most of the company’s product ideas are inspired by their kids.

It’s quite amazing when we involve our kids in the design process — they actually enjoy the progress. My daughter is involved quite a bit in the brain storming process, design, colour selection, and features of our products.

– G-Jay Yong, co-founder of myFirst
myFirst my Circle
My Circle / Image Credit: myFirst

This year, myFirst officially launched myFirst Circle, the world’s first safe call, messaging, location and social sharing platform specially designed for kids, their friends and family to stay connected.

The app allows kids to safely share social posts on the platform for their friends and family to see and has group chat functions, among other features.

The idea behind myFirst Circle initially came to G-Jay and Brian back in 2020 during the pandemic.

“When COVID-19 hit in 2020, [we spent a year] working from home and lots of time with our kids. This gave us the opportunity to understand deeply the needs kids have in staying connected with not just the family, but with their classmates,” he explained.

Hence, G-Jay and Brian cooked up the platform as a way “for kids to stay connected socially, without the usual ills of social media”.

Increasing the awareness on safe tech devices for kids

As a first-mover in the KidsTech industry, G-Jay admits that it had not been easy to market something that is completely new. Convincing retailers to carry their products was challenging, as they did not recognise that there was a need for KidsTech in the market.

“There’s EdTech, STEM, wearable tech, and even smart toys, but the market never specifically had a tech category catered for kids,” said G-Jay.

But after finally persuading large retailers in various countries, the demand for myFirst’s products gradually picked up.

Wherever we go, people are pleasantly surprised as they’ve never seen a company focused on KidsTech, but they immediately understand the gap in the market of fun devices, safe services and socially connected families.

– G-Jay, co-founder of myFirst
Image Credit: myFirst via Instagram

However, as the awareness surrounding safe, tech devices for kids grew, the demand for myFirst devices also grew — at a much faster pace than G-Jay and Brian could handle. To keep up with the rapid growth, the duo had to seek external funding, eventually raising US$2.2 million in mid-2022.

Currently, the company has sold more than a million KidsTech devices, and has a presence in 27 countries, including Singapore, Japan, South Korea, the United States of America, United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom.

Although the company initially targeted expansion in developed countries with similar economic capabilities as Singapore, such as Japan and South Korea, myFirst pivoted their business strategy after receiving inquiries from less developed countries.

Parents all around the world are willing to spend on their kids as they recognise the difference between real tech and toys.

– G-Jay Yong, co-founder of myFirst

Hence, the company is shifting its focus to countries with a higher population of children, such as Vietnam, Indonesia and Thailand. To bolster its expansion efforts, my First is also currently looking to raise its next round of funding.

Building a safe and suitable digital world for the next generation

myFirst’s wireless headphones (pictured left) and myFirst’s watchphone (pictured right) / Image Credit: myFirst

Although there are qualms on the impacts of tech on children, G-Jay firmly views that children can reap significant benefits from tech at an earlier age, given how tech is intertwined in almost every aspect of our daily lives.

From using it for educational purposes in school, to wanting to mirror their parents who utilise tech everyday, exposure to tech is unavoidable for children in today’s day and age.

If kids are not allowed any exposure to tech, but yet all they see around them are grown-ups and their peers using tech, it would most likely feel tempt them and could spell trouble once they are allowed access. It could be really easy for them to over-immerse themselves and get addicted to their devices.

– G-Jay Yong, co-founder of myFirst

This is why he finds that allowing kids to use tech with guidance and advise is a good way to help them utilise tech in a healthy way. By doing this, parents essentially build trust and respect with kids, teaching them to use their devices with self control and discipline.

With myFirst’s devices, G-Jay hopes to build a safe and suitable digital world for children all over the globe.

Featured Image Credit: myFirst

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Vulcan Post aims to be the knowledge hub of Singapore and Malaysia.

© 2021 GRVTY Media Pte. Ltd.
(UEN 201431998C.)