Meet Three Women Business Leaders Who Drive Success in Mobile Apps

Join me on June 15th, 2016, in San Francisco to meet three women business leaders who are are driving success in the kids’ app marketplace. I will be moderating the Women In Tech panel at the Developing Apps for Kids Conference, hosted by Tech With Kids. We will be discussing best practices related to product development, marketing, operations, and key critical success factors for thriving in today’s mobile economy.

Panelists for Women in Tech: Driving Success in Mobile Apps

Panelists include: Connie Bossert, PhD, CEO and Co-Founder of Fairlady Media; Ariella Lehrer, PhD, CEO of Legacy Interactive; and Nancy MacIntyre, Founder and CEO of Fingerprint Play. These CEOs bring their experience of running two to thirty person companies in the kids’ tech industry, and relay what it takes not only to survive, but also to succeed and grow in this business environment.

Topic 1: Product Development

Panelists will be asked to share the decision-making process behind which products they decide to launch next. How much does data analysis play a role in these decisions? Or, is the launch the result of a strategic partnership? Ideally we will isolate the important quantitative reasons that a new app or product feature is greenlighted for development.

Topic 2: Launches and Marketing

What is the most successful proven element that goes into a product launch? Does this include launching with a well-known brand, in app-cross promotions, seasonal timing of the release, graphic design excellence, relationships with app stores, a great app review, a press release, or acknowledgement by an industry award? Whatever the case, please elaborate about keys to success in getting the word out so your product gains traction over time.

Topic 3: Business Operations

What have you learned over the years about sustainable business practices, and what do you think will determine your longevity over the next several years? Some depend on a diverse portfolio of product offerings to provide flexibility in case of market swings, and others have established focus in certain niche areas.

What is the best ongoing strategy to ensure business success? Small and nimble teams? Outsourcing? Tech tools and operational efficiencies like Slack or Trello? Partnerships? Licenses? Networking? Investments? A consistent stream of new apps? We’d love to know how successful CEOs balance day to day operations with long term strategic growth.

Excited to hear more? Me too! Tickets to the Tech With Kids Conference in San Francisco are still available up until the night before the event. I hope to see you there!

Lorraine Akemann | Cofounder and Editor | Moms With Apps

Photo Credit Flickr [WOCinTech Chat]

Did You Say You Make Apps For Kids?

If you make apps for kids, or are involved in children’s interactive media, I’d like to talk about Dust or Magic and the role it plays in this space.

Warren Buckleitner, Editor of Children’s Technology Review, knows how to gather captivating minds to demonstrate, debate and discuss product design for children and how it relates to child development. He organized the first Dust or Magic in 2001 on the tailwind of Bologna Book Fair’s New Media Prize. He followed up by adding App Camp every spring in Monterey, California, starting in 2009.

While there is no shortage of conferences on kids and tech, Dust or Magic stands out in the crowd. This might be because attendees are required to leave their egos at home, or cast them into the ocean until the sessions are finished. Or it might be that Warren chooses down-home locations where attendees can relax and brainstorm freely. But the real reason might be that Warren is one of those people who really gets kids, and he is doing his best to keep the experience authentic — for their sake.

To focus on the interests of children, no sponsorships are allowed at Dust or Magic. This means attendees need to foot the bill. Out of pocket expenses can be high for an independent developer or small company. Warren recognizes this and tries to work with small publishers. In fact, he or someone in the office answers a real land-line phone just to hear those pleas.

Dust or Magic conference agendas brim with storytelling from a range of kids’ tech experts and pioneers. What I admire most about the speakers is their inclination to share failures as much as successes. These mistakes help us learn about Dust to better understand how Magic is made. The archives of past App Camps give you a flavor of who spoke on which topics, along with videos of memorable presentations (like this one from Dan Russell-Pinson about Letting Magic Happen).

I first found out about Dust or Magic back in 2010. Caroline Hu Flexer, founder of Duck Duck Moose, let me know about the conference through Moms With Apps. Living in the Bay Area, it was easy for me to make a trip to Monterey for the pre-conference demo sessions (now called AppFest). I enjoyed taking my girls along to test apps and provide feedback to the app makers. I popped in again for a brief panel in 2012, and later during the 2014 and 2015 AppFests at the the CoLab offices in San Francisco.

Although I usually just mingle on the conference periphery, I don’t hesitate to promote Dust or Magic to newcomers in the app world. The 15th Annual Dust or Magic will be held November 1st — 3rd in Lambertville, New Jersey. The agenda from Warren sounds timely and compelling:

“We have a lot to talk about this year. The iPad Pro has expanded screen size, opening new play patterns, and several Virtual Reality devices are ready to be launched. These will be discussed in a review of the year panel with Chris Byrne of Time to Play magazine; followed by a banquet and special talk by Muppet legends Michael Frith and Kathryn Mullen.”

Warren goes on to highlight new guests from the Parents’ Choice Foundation, New York Times, and MIT’s Education Arcade, along with top-notch industry veterans and app makers. This includes a presentation from Caroline about their new app, WonderBox. Reviewing the agenda while writing this post is making me rethink where I want to spend my November birthday this year. New Jersey sounds nice.

Keeping the child’s well being at the top of any conference agenda is a laudable goal to accomplish. Warren continues to get this priority right, every time.

@LorraineAkemann | Cofounder and Editor | Moms With Apps

How This Cute Little Notebook Represents a Slice of Kids’ App History

Earlier this month I heard from Nat Sims, Founder and CEO of Night & Day Studios, about a new product launch. Nat made the world famous app Peekaboo Barn. If you make apps for kids, or if you’ve used apps with young kids over the past five years, Peekaboo Barn is probably a familiar name. This brilliant little barn opened up doors way beyond animals. It opened up an industry, and set the stage for young audiences to be included in technology’s newest platforms.

I connected with Nat originally back in 2011 when he guest posted about the role parents play in their children’s experiences with apps. His statement about parent and child involvement still holds true:

“So, let your children play, and let them play with apps. But get involved. Have them sit on your lap the first few times they play. Pay attention to what interests them, and what new conversations–funny stories or learning moments–the app affords. Point out interesting details in the images and sounds you experience. If the app is a dead end, just delete it! But if not, talk about the app over breakfast, and if the app has a useful educational activity, recreate it in other parts of the child’s life. Integrate the app into their larger lives, and in turn you will bring the energy of their vibrant young lives to all of their learning experiences.”

What’s lovely about Nat, is that he chose to walk the walk, and not just talk the talk. Under Nat’s leadership, Peekaboo Barn transcended the digital dimension and landed straight into a board book on our laps. By 2014, families could cuddle up on the couch with Peekaboo Barn to physically lift flaps, turn pages, and say the word “moo”. If you are a parent, I’ll bet you can remember the verses of your child’s favorite board book. Sometimes out of nostalgia, I still recite pages from First Book of Sushi, or Sometimes I Want To Curl Up In A Ball (to my tweens’ embarrassment). Board books introduce language. They have a rhythm. They stick in your brain.

Today, our family gets to enjoy even more cool stuff coming through from Night & Day. Now we have a customized “Akemann Family Notebook” to keep track of to-do lists and general household reminders. If you are curious to check these out, get prepared to hear a collective “aaaaaaaaaw…. how cuuuuuuuuuuuuute” upon opening the package.

So thank you Nat, for sending me a complimentary copy of your new product to enjoy. And thank you also, for keeping me in the loop about what’s new at Night & Day Studios. Your brand represents the beginning of a journey for myself and many people I know, and I wish you continued success.


Featured: Writing Wizard by L’Escapadou

This week, one of our KNOW What’s Inside™ members launched a new app for letter tracing called Writing Wizard.

About Pierre of L’Escapadou

L’Escapadou, founded in 2010, is a family design studio dedicated to creating educational and fun apps for iPad and iPhone. All of our educational apps have won the Children’s Technology Review Editor’s Choice Award for Excellence in Design, and we are proud to have sold more than 500K apps (including 50K to schools) so far. Watching our homeschooled kids learn and play is our main source of inspiration for the apps we create.

His NEW App ==> Writing Wizard


From App Store Description: Writing Wizard is designed to help every child learn how to trace through a system carefully designed to maintain motivation. The app is fully customizable to suit every child’s needs, and lets you check their progress through a system of reports and profiles. Kids want to have fun, and Writing Wizard offers a lot of fun to keep them motivated in the learning process.

• They can trace using 26 animated stickers and sound effects
• Once tracing is complete, they can interact with them on 4 games that animate letters
• They can trace any word – like their name – as the app is customizable
• They can collect stars in 5-Stars play mode

YouTube demo :

Don’t Miss App Friday August 9th

For more apps, visit, every Friday!

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More from Moms With Apps

If you are visiting for the first time, welcome to Moms With Apps. We are a community of mobile app developers who create family-friendly apps. We just launched a new program called KNOW What’s Inside™, which is a reminder for parents and developers to think about how apps work before they are downloaded. For questions, email


App Developers Speak Up About Design and Policy

Two key events are taking place this week for children’s app developers. First is the Dust or Magic App Camp on the Monterey Peninsula, where a variety of experts share best practices for making interactive media. Kicking off with a “State of the App” panel on trends and news, the conference continued into case studies about building apps for kids. Many of the highlights were tweeted out in the #dustormagic stream. If you are an aspiring app developer and want to learn from industry leaders, here are the people to watch:

This photo was taken in Merrill Hall at the Asilomar Conference Center, which is where App Camp takes place annually each May.


Meanwhile, another group of app developers headed to Washington DC to discuss immigration, STEM and privacy issues with policy makers. Hosted by the Association for Competitive Technology, 50 app developers and tech entrepreneurs met with state senators and local representatives. They visited the White House Office of Science and Technology whose staff advises the President about the internet, innovation and privacy. They also met with the Federal Trade Commission to discuss children’s online privacy and best practices.

Here are some photos of Ann Adair, the mom-with-app from Thinkamingo, on her trip to the White House and Capitol Hill (with Senator Marco Rubio!).




By speaking up and collaborating with others, app developers can make a difference in their industry. The challenging trifecta of ever-changing technology, crowded app stores, and increased regulation are tough problems to solve. But these issues are not impossible with a community dedicated to sorting it all out. Thanks for the photos Ann!

App Camp 2013

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If you are a kids’ app developer and you are not familiar with Dust or Magic’s App Camp, let’s get you oriented. App Camp is a spring conference championed by Warren Buckleitner, editor of the Children’s Technology Review. It takes place on the Monterey Peninsula at the Asilomar conference grounds in mid-May.

Warren’s genuine and welcoming tone sets the stage for three days of enriching conversation about kids’ app design. It’s not a “conference” in the corporate sense – it’s more of a retreat.

This year, Dan Russell-Pinson will be presenting about his apps and mobile strategies. You may know Dan from Stack the States, Stack the Countries, and Monster Physics. Having his talents showcased at App Camp, along with an opportunity to speak with him live, would be a great reason to figure out a way to get out there.

If cost holds you back, write “moms with apps” on your application, and team up with someone else so you can register with a buddy. Hopefully a discounted rate will be available for you. If not, be persistent.

Here are the links for more information – it’s a fantastic experience – enjoy!

Duck Duck Moose is Hiring!

If you are familiar with kids’ educational apps, then it’s likely you’ve heard of Duck Duck Moose. They entered the app world with “Wheels on the Bus”, and currently have fourteen apps in their catalog and more on the way. Recently funded, Duck Duck Moose is growing their team with engineering, product management, marketing and design positions. Their offices are based in San Mateo, California.

I just love the idea that app companies are hiring. Maybe these family-friendly companies can help turn the economy around after all!

To inquire, click here ==>

A Writer’s Journey: From Inspiration to Book and App

Our guest post this week is written by a Mom-With-App and author who published her story through PicPocketBooks. I especially like these articles because they demonstrate the variety of modern options for publishing creative works. 

From a young age, I dreamt of creating my own picture book

Inspiration first struck with my son Dominic. I wrote and illustrated my first book Under Bright Rays and Sparkling Stars over the course of about a year. I didn’t think to seek out guidance or critiques back then. I just blindly submitted the book dummy to publishing house after publishing house, and got back rejection letter after rejection letter. Disappointed, I let my book go back to being just a dream.

Inspiration struck again some ten years later when my sweet Cassia reached the fun little age we refer to as “the terrible twos.” Sweet became sweet and sassy, and one day when she was acting, well, two, I found myself saying, “Don’t be sassy, Cassie.” And it hit me. I heard my words and just knew, that was the title of my next book.

But a title isn’t a book.

All mommies know you can’t help but be inspired by your children. They see the world as their playground.  My husband and I work in a turn-of-the-century fire house we turned into a photography/art studio, and Cassie sometimes comes to work with us. While we keep a toy box full of dolls and toys, she prefers to play in the makeup/wardrobe room. One day I was busy painting and heard her squeaky little voice. “Look, look, look at me. I’m a princess.” I looked over and Cassia was all made-up with bright pink lipstick, rainbow colored eye shadows and a sparkling crown on her head.

And my story was born.

I knew I had an idea that would appeal. What little girl doesn’t love the color pink and all things princess themed? But I didn’t want my book getting lost in the “pink princess sea of books.” I chose to make my story one children could relate to, rather than pure fantasy. I wanted the main character to feel real. While Sassy Cassie is very sweet, she has a little sass in her too. I also decided to make my story educational, appealing to parents and children alike. As an added bonus, the final pages include an introduction to the color wheel and a fun guide to color mixing, teaching children how to mix every color of the rainbow and more using just five paint colors.

This time I knew a good idea wasn’t enough.

I work visually, so I started to sketch Cassie before writing word one. Once I had had the sketch down, I painted the cover. From there, I alternated writing with sketching and painting throughout the project. This worked well for me. If writers block set in, I’d move forward by working on a sketch or painting.

This time, however, I didn’t send out my book dummy without outside input. Instead, I took that first draft to a writer’s critique circle I found through The critiques and suggestions I received from my fellow writers were invaluable, allowing me to really polish every aspect of my book.

Unfortunately, I learned that even a polished book might not be enough to get published.

At my critique group meetings, I saw so many amazing picture books. I kept wondering, why are they not published? I knew it was challenging especially in this genre so I did some more research and learned that most publishing houses receive thousands of submissions, but typically publish only a couple dozen books per year. It seems it takes more than just talent to get published. It takes talent and luck.

But I found another option.

My sister-in-law was the one to tell me about Moms With Apps. Storybooks apps were relatively new and this was the perfect place for me to learn more about this  industry. With a bit of research in the world of book apps, I decided to submit my book to PicPocket Books. They seemed a perfect fit. And I guess they agreed because I had a ‘yes’ within just a few days. I was thrilled! It was a joy working with PicPocket founder Lynette, as she guided me through the process. A few months later I’m happy to announce the Sassy Cassie Book app recently launched in September 2012!

Never give up on your dream.

I know many of you out there reading this may share my dream of writing or illustrating (or writing and illustrating) your own picture book. The app industry has entered the spotlight and is growing stronger every day. This is a great time to make your picture book dream a reality. Make the time to create, and find a good support group to help you polish your work. Remember, every book starts with just one thing ~~~ an idea. All you need to do is build on that and believe in yourself!

About the Author: Nancy PLA Schneider, better known as PLA, is a mom, artist, writer, and illustrator with a passion for children’s picture books. When she was little, she favored picture books and art supplies over dolls and toys. Her priorities have changed now that she’s all grown up. She favors picture books and art supplies over shoes and jewels. PLA was born and raised in Orange County, CA, where she lives with her husband, her son, and her Sassy Cassie. 

She’s currently working on her next book, Sassy Cassie, A Halloween Princess. Please follow, say “hello” and enter to win some sweet-n-sassy stuff! Learn more about PLA and her artwork at





Three Moms With Apps From Munich

Our guest post this week is written by Kristin of appp media, who ventures out into the world of app networking with two other moms from Munich. I’m already looking forward to more developers in other cities and countries stepping up to connect, as they did. 

On July 5th “Munich-MWA” met for the first time for a  “Coffee and Apps” session in the heart of Munich. All three were very exited as they had only been in contact through facebook and email and had never met before. (From left to right: Kora, Kinderapp – Irina, Katzapps – Kristin, appp media)

Irina from Katzapps and Kristin from appp media met earlier this year on App Friday. The two moms with apps realized that they were both from Germany and started asking each other questions about local issues in emails. Kora from Kinderapp is the third mom with an app that joined the coffee meeting. 

 After getting a coffee to go the three developers sat on a park bench and started chatting away. Three hours passed in a second. There was a lot of trust and openess, in the spirit of mwa! Three moms, three developers, three completely different jobs before being a mom and developer –  a lot of laughter and information in the air. The biggest problem that could not be solved was: How are we going to get our apps known to the users in the US? Preschool-Kitty , Kinderapp  and My First App Vehicles  are well known in Germany and all three are in educational games ranking in the Top 25  since last Christmas.

Kora put into words what we all felt: “Great to meet you! Finally someone understands what I am talking about!”

Is there a “right” amount of interactivity in children’s book apps?

Our guest post is written by  Shoham Drori, a mom-with-app from Tel-Aviv who created “The Magnificent Traveling Place” storybook. Her article addresses the debate on the purpose of interactivity in storybooks. Thanks Shoham!

Following 18 intensive months of producing my book app “The Magnificent Travelling Palace” I have finally reached the hardest part of promoting and marketing the app. As previous stages in the development, it is challenging, expensive, and filled with opportunities for mistakes. But in addition, for me, it is the most unpredictable part of the process.

So far the responses for the app were really great, showing a lot of enthusiasm and support. Nevertheless, one of the comments really stirred up my emotions. It said: We have decided not to review the app; our editor felt it was not interactive enough to fall under our review scope”.  A simple, sentence yet I found it to be a cause of concern.

The Magnificent Travelling Palaceis an experience-based app where you can move and drag the characters, paint, cause objects to fall by tilting the screen, learn new terms, prepare a sweet traditional Indian desert and many more interactive opportunities . Implying the interactions are not enough made me wonder how we interpret interactivity (and specifically, the way we interpret book app interactivity) in this era.

Why create an interactive book app? 

The last few years introduced us to amazing interactive devices creating a new reading experience for children. A storybook app can bring life to a written story by enhancing the sensory stimulating experience. In my case, my goal was to create an experience based story which will introduce children to exciting worlds of different cultures. When the iPad was first introduced, I understood this was the perfect platform for sharing the experience I was hoping the “magnificent travelling palace” would be.

Why stay nostalgic for regular books if we can create something new?! This is the essence of the term progress. We can enjoy both old and new worlds of book reading. Moreover, interactive books may be valued for their ability to prompt less motivated young readers toward books reading, communicating in their own new language of images and interactions. But what is the best way to incorporate these advantages? This is a complex controversial question.

Incorporate interactivity into a storybook app 

Generally, interactivity is a term representing the ability of a system to communicate with its operator. iPad is an interactive device, not only because the hardware interface includes sensitive touch screen, but because it enables almost a multi-sensory experience (excluding of course smell and taste which in some apps can be almost felt and imagined). The desire to incorporate the iPad’s abilities into book apps is executed via the narrow definition of the term interactivity. The more the child needs to touch the screen, the book app is considered more interactive and in direct correlation is considered to be of higher quality. But when touching the screen becomes the essence of the book’s experience, this is where developers, reviewers, and parents should take a standpoint.

What is wrong with nonstop screen touching in book apps? 

We live in a world filled with non-stop rapidly changing stimulation. Our children are flooded with non-relevant information. When it comes to apps, there are no exceptions. People tend to use apps in a hectic way,” jumping” between apps looking for interactions. When developing book apps there is a tendency to supply this demand for a non stop screen touching, while trying to tell a story. The story itself becomes a fair decoration for a game or continuous screen touching without any contribution to the storyline and its progression. This way, we are endowing our children with the same values of frantic behavior, lack of patience, tolerance, and ability to experience a storyline from its beginning to its end.

Researchers at the Joan Ganz Cooney Center wondered how enhanced e-books (e.g. iPad’s book apps) might relate to parent-child storytelling, otherwise known as co-reading. In there research they found that an enhanced e-book was less effective than the printed and basic e-book version in supporting the benefits of co-reading, because it prompted more non-content related interactions. Moreover, enhanced e-books distract adults and children alike from the story, affecting the nature of conversation and the amount of details children recall. Children who read enhanced e-books recalled significantly fewer narrative details than children who read the printed version of the same story.

Is there a right thing to do?

I can’t make a general conclusion representing every aspect of this issue, but I can share with you my beliefs. I strongly believe in preserving the balance between books in their classic form and integrating the amazing advantages introduced by the iPad. “Classic” form  means to stay loyal to the benefits of books reading like social and /or emotional values and benefits, sense of adventure, imagination and the integration of positive literacy experience, storytelling, and imaginative thinking. Doing this means that if an active “interaction” does not create another dimension through which the child can deepen his/hers experience, then it is unnecessary.

There is no need in trying to add more and more of these unnecessary interactions.  When children focus only on touching the screen looking for the next interaction, the story and values it represents lose their meaning, turning a possibly good children’s book into another interactive non-stop touching activity. When creating a new app we should examine our choices inside the context we live in, not just reflect an existing hectic realty, but rather create a better one. Let us try to do our best creating an interactive reading experience which combines not only story related screen touching but also high quality illustrations, appropriate music, sounds and narration, stimulating the imagination while creating emotional empathy during the story reading process.