Kark is refreshing trading cards for the future, and they educate kids too
April 25, 2012 by Terence LEE
They’re so addictive that my school would punish any student caught playing them while in school uniform. Newspapers sensationalized about the evils of these collectible cards, much like they do now with World of Warcraft.
While I think much of this negative hype towards games are overblown, Kark, one of twelve incubatees at Singapore’s JFDI-Innov8 Bootcamp, is taking the message seriously and has embarked on a mission to make games less harmful to kids. They’re achieving this by making educational trading cards that interact with smartphones through companion mobile apps.
“Children love games, but they don’t benefit. Only developers do,” says CEO and serial entrepreneur Sindhu Prabowo Dilaksono, who heads a team of four Indonesian co-founders.
“Doing educational apps is one way of making money without feeling guilty.”
Describing the product in words doesn’t do it justice, but I’ll try (I requested for a video, but it wasn’t ready). The theme of their prototype is the weather, and the cards that come with the app has depictions of the sun, clouds, moon, or wind.
After you open up the app, a 2D landscape pops up. Whenever you wave one of the cards in front of the phone (say, the sun card, which has a QR code on it), the sun emerges in the landscape. Flash the cloud card, and a cloud appears.
What impressed me during the demo was the app’s interactivity. As you flash the card repeatedly, more clouds appear. You can move the clouds around with your fingers, or combine it with other clouds. When it gets too big, it starts to rain. Wave the wind card and these objects will be blown away.
It’s an easy way to teach kids aged five and above concepts like precipitation, or the fact that there’s only one sun (flash the sun card repeatedly does nothing, unlike the cloud card) for us in our solar system.
“We thought they’ll be bored after 15 minutes. The session ended up lasting an hour,” says Sundhu.
Mapping out their product roadmap on the whiteboard, he tells me that Kark has 12 main apps lined up, and two expansions per app. Each edition would focus on a different theme, and would come with their own card pack. They hope to officially launch in August.
The company is unique in that it hopes to conquer both the retail marketplace and mobile app marketplace.
Sindhu says they will be distributing their cards to retail outlets in Indonesia: Convenience stores, bookstores, and especially toy stores. When kids buy those cards, they would be enticed to download the app, which would in turn drive them to purchase even more cards — a positive feedback loop.
Working with mobile carriers presents a huge opportunity for them as well. Instead of throwing used prepaid cards away, every one of them could become a keepsake if they’re made into collectible trading cards. There’s also massive potential in licensing popular cartoon characters, which will make their products even more appealing to kids.
Achieving all this would require a fair bit of funding for manufacturing. They’d also need to secure the right production and distribution partners.
Kark is certainly a startup to watch, as they were the winners of the Telkomsel Startup Bootcamp. And despite still being in the prototype stage (the final design of the cards has not been decided), they’ve already attracted a lot of attention from potential partners.
The team also has the right blend of entrepreneurial, creative, technical, and industry experience. One of the startup’s founders, Bullit, came from the trading card industry, and knows the right manufacturers. They are even collaborating with an education consultant to make sure their games will benefit kids.
Among the startups at the Bootcamp, Kark has perhaps the most moving parts, unlike a run-of-the-mill mobile app company. The team is ambitious as well; they’re aiming to get a million customers one year after launch.
Hearing about what they have to say, and the plans they have in store (a lot of it is still in the discussion stage and not public knowledge), I think the company has a decent shot at carving a massive niche for themselves in the children’s education and gaming market, not just in Indonesia, but around the world.
More coverage of JFDI-Innov8 Bootcamp. The Bootcamp is a technology startup accelerator program in Singapore (part of the Global Accelerator Network) where participants build a prototype within 100 days. Demo Day is on 4th May, 2012.
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About The Author
Terence LEE - Editor
Terence writes mainly about technology trends and startups in Asia. He believes in crafting smart content: Not just a regurgitation of text, but well thought-out pieces that serve the reader using a combination of data, design, narratives, analysis, and visual impact. His articles have been published on Venturebeat, Yahoo!, Straits Times, Today, and The Online Citizen. He also co-founded NewNation.sg, a satirical news site covering Singapore affairs. Engage him on LinkedIn and Twitter.Read other posts by Terence LEE