Koyo: The Internet for Children

The internet is not built for children. I'd like to bring the power of the Internet to kids under 13 years.

Published on

Do not index
Do not index
This document contains some of my notes for Koyo - a product I was looking to build back in 2020.
The seed for this idea was planted back in 2016-17 when I worked at TeamIndus - a private lunar landing mission that didn’t launch. It was borne out of a few things that I’d been working
It was in mid-2020 that I decided to explore the idea seriously. I ended up quitting my job at smallcase and spent some time in research. This included extensive conversations with educators, kids, folks in the industry, and a host of others.
I didn’t end up building Koyo. I wrote to myself about it:
Why I didn’t build Koyo
However, I believe it should be built, and hope someone does. Here are some notes that might help:
Framework for building learning products
About Buried Notes
About Buried Notes
I’ve been writing and documenting my thoughts, ideas, and observations (on myriad topics) over the last decade. But I’ve never published them. Buried Notes will be where I share these raw notes, albeit with a little polishing.

What is Koyo?

The internet is not built for children. I'd like to bring the power of the Internet to kids under 13 years.
If Penguin (publisher), Netflix or YouTube Kids, and Zynga had a baby together......
  • Books are great but they're static
  • Netflix & YouTube Kids lack interaction. The content isn't well curated and doesn’t offer learning paths.
  • Games for kids are either purely entertainment or educational with a focus on learning math, language, and code.
The product is best explained with an example. Note that the content below will be adapted based on the child's age.

Meet Lisa

Lisa is 9 years old. She's curious about the world around her and loves learning new things. She asks questions; answers only open up a new set of questions. She devours books for breakfast. School bores her because she's already ahead of her grade. The teachers don't like the fact that she has no use for the classroom. Lisa is an outlier, but the initial target audience of curious children who use Koyo.
After her mother downloaded the app for her, Lisa fires it up and sees a number of stories to choose from. She picks 'A Space Adventure: Solar System' and begins. Since it's her first time on the app, she has to set up her character (like in The Sims) - she can choose her outfit and even get a sidekick (a dog, cat, octopus, cute-looking aliens, etc).
The journey begins with a storyline about a comet passing by Earth; it'll be visible in the night sky. Her father buys a telescope and they decide to catch the comet on its flyby. Before they could spend the night stargazing, the telescope needs to be set up; the first game begins.
Lisa has to figure out how to assemble the telescope. She could choose to skip it and proceed with the story. But, an ever-eager young girl, she completes the assembly, unlocks gems that can be traded for cool virtual merchandise, and proceeds with the story. As she watches the comet through the eye-piece, her mother talks about the composition of a comet. Koyo gives her the option to explore all the different comets that rendezvous with Earth. Alternatively, she can dive deeper into the constituents of a comet. Or perhaps she might want to see some fun facts & trivia about comets. However, if she doesn't want to go deep down into the rabbit hole of limitless learning, she can choose to continue with the adventure and skip all those options. But she's a curious girl and dives straight into the different comets in the solar system. She's fascinated by Hailey's comet but doesn't want to lose track of the story. She bookmarks it for later and continues on with the story.
That night, after an enjoyable evening looking up at the night sky, her avatar is wide awake in conversation with her sidekick. They talk about the wonders of space and how beautiful it would be to look down at Earth from above. Suddenly, they are teleported to a launch pad where they're sitting in a rocket that's in a countdown sequence.
3, 2, 1........ Take off!!
The next phase of the adventure begins. As they orbit Earth, she can choose where to head to in the Solar System. No matter where she goes, there's an adventure that awaits. On Mars, she gets to explore the planet with the Curiosity rover or visit the tallest planetary mountain in the Solar System - Olympus Mons. But perils await on Mars; her rocket runs dry and she has to figure out how to make rocket fuel - a new game begins!
Koyo is an adventure. Each story has a journey from beginning to end that takes kids on a planned path - the storyline. However, unlike many a product for kids, there is the concept of branches that allow the child to head off in the direction of their curiosity. The linear path is a journey that is simple enough for most children; the curious can explore to their heart's content. The concept of branching allows children to choose what they learn.
When you look at a single story, it's an audio-visual extravaganza with plenty of interaction that blends entertainment with learning. But when you zoom out and see hundreds of stories that are interconnected through branches, that's the internet, but for kids.
Here's how a discovery pattern could look like Mars → Mars' atmosphere → Atmosphere on various planets → most common element in the atmosphere → Back to 'Mars' → Jupiter → Great Red Spot → Storms → Lightning → Charged Particles → Structure of an Atom → Back to 'Lightning' → Thunder → Speed of Sound............ and so on.
The internet we know is not built for children. Kids need vibrancy, colors, characters, and stories to keep them hooked. Koyo will bring content to life and provide a world of infinite discovery.
Each story will keep a child entertained for at least 2 hours on the main storyline or at least 7 hours if they exhaust all branches. However, there will be games that can be played repeatedly, thus ensuring a longer engagement with the story.

What has changed & why Koyo needs to exist

  • The world is moving faster; only the curious will thrive
  • Screen time begins at a very young age but the gates of the internet are closed to kids below 13 years
  • Television is losing its relevance; books can't engage screen-addicted kids

Pain: For kids & parents

  • The current education system does not focus on satisfying a child's curiosity; parents realize this
  • Every child is forced to learn at the same pace: the gifted are held back, and the slow learners fall behind
  • Screen time for kids is on the rise; a lot of it isn't very healthy or useful
  • High-quality content for children is limited
  • After-school activities are spread over multiple platforms

Business Model

I'm thinking aloud here.
To begin with, we plan to release a story every 2 weeks. 4-5 months in, we'd like to release a story every week. We can then progress from there and build a vast library.
We will adopt a freemium model. Some initial thoughts:
  • Only 1 story is accessible a month. Pay to unlock everything else
  • Or enable access to every story but with a limited experience in each story
  • Or combine the above two models
A monthly subscription fee is priced between $7.99 to $14.99. 10-25% discounts on annual subscriptions.
Option to also buy individual stories priced between $5 to $10. Possibility of buying credits (discounts would be available)
As a digital good, the cost of a sale or consumption of the digital good is marginal.
The business model is similar to Netflix. However, we will produce the content in the initial stages but may open it to 3rd party creators while maintaining strict guidelines for user experience, design & content. These content creators will be paid similarly to how artists are paid on Spotify - based on consumption of content. Or perhaps a hybrid model wherein a small upfront fee is paid along with the variable fee.
As of now, I'd prefer to create content internally so as to establish quality benchmarks.
The business model will evolve with the product. As we move from just an after-school edutainment product toward a replacement for traditional schooling, we will add new pricing tiers that capture a sizeable portion of the money saved on the tuition fee; we will be significantly cheaper though.


Could we look at building features that would allow kids to play quizzes in real time? Quizzup for kids. Or maybe an HQ Trivia for kids.
Perhaps we will begin creating other live entertainment similar to shows on television, but much more tightly curated thanks to large amounts of data on consumer behavior. And interactive.
We might explore social features that allow children to connect. This is assuming we've solved for privacy, security & safety.
We could allow children to build their own stories that could be shared with their friends.
This would make it a replica of the internet for children: access to high-quality content, the ability to communicate with peers, and enable creation & distribution of content by the users of the internet.
But the grand vision is that Koyo will move from an after-school edutainment product, toward a complete replacement for traditional school. The data from the usage of the product will help us build a curriculum & learning experience that is adapted to each child's current knowledge, grasping power, level of curiosity, etc. We may integrate learning materials from 3rd party providers (that create high-quality academic content) with our proprietary format, or create our own.
Each child will be taught by an AI that goes beyond the limitations of current algorithms that are plagued by multiple issues (think social newsfeed thought bubbles) and lack personalization that takes into account personality, temperament, social nuances, etc. The child may still go to a 'school' but there will be no teachers. The schools will be community centers with guides that provide a great environment for children to interact with each other.
We will adapt to technology. Mixed reality, sure. Brain-computer interfaces, we'd love that. GPT-3, perhaps it has written this note. Microchips inserted into brains, maybe that's pushing it too far 🙂.


Note: Some of the numbers may be a bit off. They're back-of-the-envelope calculations. Still working on it.
To begin with, I'm looking at the US market with some attention on the UK, Canada, Australia, Singapore, the Middle East, and other high-income countries with an English-speaking majority.
I'll be building only for iPads. At a later point in time, we'll expand to Android tablets and eventually to all mobile devices.
There are 10-20 million households in the US that have an iPad and children. Globally, I'd peg this figure at 30-50 million. Capturing 10% of this market as paying customers ($50 ARPU) equates to $50-100 million in annual revenue USA alone.
Once we make the product multilingual and expand the range of accessible devices, the potential audience is over 300 million. 5% of this market as paying customers ($50 ARPU) equates to $750 million in annual revenue.
If we begin replacing schools, the revenue potential is massive. This is too far out in the future to currently take into consideration.
Other market size benchmarks:
  • The educational content on television, OTT & other video platforms is a _____________ market

Competition & Alternatives

Epic (acquired by Byjus)
Started out with digitizing books and has begun to bring life to these books through interaction. Their focus is on storybooks. Eventually, they'll publish their own stories and build a digital publishing house for books. Then they'll move from story books to creating educational books.
  • Funding: Raised $30 million
  • Traction: _______ million MAU
  • Revenue estimation: ________
Here's a list of products in the space that I'm tracking (quite outdated, will update soon). They may not be direct competitors but they do compete for a child's attention & a parent's budget.
Tracking Edutainment Companies
Alternatives to a child's time & parent's budget
  • Television
  • Printed books & E-books
  • Console gaming, Mobile gaming
  • Other educational products that teach coding, math, language etc