Join Club

Brush With Predator Inspires Child Safety Tech Startup

Startup Monday header

Editor’s Note: Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

uKnow's office at ÜberOffices in RosslynSteven Woda is the founder of buySAFE, a company pioneered online shopping security when it was founded in 2000. He and his brother, co-founder Tim Woda, considered themselves experts in Internet safety. Until 2008.

That year, Tim’s son, a 14-year-old lacrosse player, was pursued through social networks by a child predator who had molested dozens of children before he was eventually arrested.

“We realized the world had changed fast and parents were way behind,” Steven Woda said. “We were Internet security experts, so if it could happen to us, it could happen to anybody.”

That incident was why, after selling buySAFE in 2009, Steven Woda founded uKnow with the stated mission of “powering smart tools to protect and connect digital families.”

uKnow's LaunchpaduKnow provides comprehensive support for parents who are hoping to protect their children — and themselves — against the dangers of the Internet. Its flagship product, uKnowKids, allows parents to monitor their children’s activity on their smartphones and social media to engage with their children at the level parents of previous generations did.

“When I was a kid, kids would have to knock on the door or call the house and ask ‘can Steve come out to play?'” Woda said from his space in ÜberOffices in Rosslyn. “Now, kids get a text, hop down the stairs, say ‘I’m going out,’ and the parents have no idea what is going on.”

Among the ways uKnowKids operates is pulling data from the cloud; even if a child has web aliases, uKnow can “crawl the deep web” and search for similarities to find those profiles. Parents can install the uKnow app on their children’s phones and monitor trends in texting — if their child is texting one person 70 percent of the time one month and stops texting them the next, the parent can know if something is wrong.

Just as important as their technological tools is uKnow’s efforts to educate parents. Woda says uKnow writes articles daily about the technology market, new trends in what kids are doing online and parenting advice.

The uKnow team“Most parents don’t understand what the issues actually are,” Woda said. “Parents really want to know what the difference is between Vine and Snapchat, for example. They want to know how their kids are using it and who they’re talking to. We can tell them who the top 10 people are in their child’s digital world. It’s a way to engage your kids, and what parents want most is to be involved.”

uKnow has a team of 12 working out of two different spaces in ÜberOffices. Whereas buySAFE was founded with lots of venture money — and was sold for $30 million, which is when Woda left — uKnow took a different strategy. The company was close to bootstrapped, raising just enough capital to survive leanly every month.

“We wanted to be disciplined and slim before we had a complete business model,” Woda said. “Now, I know what my model looks like, and that’s something that investors like.”

It took almost three years between when uKnow was founded and when it first went to market in early 2012. In the nearly five years uKnow has existed, Woda has raised about $2.5 million, Woda said. He’s considering consolidating back down to one office since he says the company still has the mentality of “seeing if there’s enough money to make it through the month.”

uKnow's Family LocatorThe company is generating significant revenue, however. The direct-to-consumer products are offered as a 30-day free trial before having the option of a $10-per-month subscription or a stripped-down free version. uKnow also powers the family safety product for Comcast and “white labels” its technology for other companies, meaning the companies use the technology and it’s not under uKnow’s brand.

Woda and his team are currently eyeing a round of Series B fundraising, hoping to raise between $4-6 million. Woda said some of the companies with whom they partner have inquired about buying uKnow, which he said he’s considering. No matter what, Woda sees huge potential with his latest startup.

“We’re trying to build a $100 million a year company,” he said. “The problem is huge and it’s only getting bigger. The market is huge… Right now, 25 percent of 9-year-olds have a phone… Our mission is to make sure no child in America goes through what my nephew did.”

Recent Stories

For Five Coffee Roasters’ Rosslyn location was already bustling with activity just hours after opening its doors for the first time on Friday. “I’m so excited!” customer Laura Durie exclaimed…

Morning Notes

CoStar May Sell New HQ — “Andy Florance, the real estate data giant’s CEO, told analysts Tuesday that CoStar is likely to sell Rosslyn’s Central Place tower, but to remain…

Take a tour of the Courthouse neighborhood and explore two local favorites of Sallie Seiy, your guide in the latest Neighborhood Spotlight.

Good Friday evening, Arlington. Let’s take a look back at today’s stories and a look forward to tomorrow’s event calendar. 🕗 News recap The following articles were published earlier today…

Children’s Weekday Program (CWP) is a non-profit preschool for children 16 months and older. Rooted in a play-based philosophy, we focus on developing a love of learning and exploration, cooperation, empathy, and independence.

Located in North Arlington at 2666 Military Road, CWP offers a flexible parents’ day out and preschool program with options to extend care both before and after school daily. We offer a supportive and inclusive school community for children and parents alike and welcome all families to join our school!

Our caring and experienced educators create opportunities for children to play, learn, and grow in a nurturing environment of child-centered and developmentally appropriate experiences–including enrichment programming such as science and movement.

CWP has been an integral part of the community for over 50 years and last year was recognized by Northern Virginia Magazine for the fourth time as the Best Preschool.

Read More

Submit your own Announcement here.

The Potomac Roasting Company is a local micro-roaster specializing in artisan coffee. We precision roast high-quality specialty beans sourced from small farms in Latin America that are owned and operated by women. Your coffee will be roasted the way you want it and delivered fresh.

As two former Peace Corps volunteers who served in Guatemala, we founded Potomac Roasting to pursue our passion for great coffee and purpose-driven work. In addition to ethically sourcing our beans, we also donate a portion of our profits to Laila’s Legacy Animal Rescue, a DC-based nonprofit that finds homes for homeless dogs and cats.

Our current roasts come from prime coffee-producing regions of Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Peru. We will be adding new roasts soon. If you are local, there’s a good chance we can deliver to your door. Look for us at local farmers’ markets beginning this spring. In the meantime, check us out now for better coffee and good karma in a cup. You can use the code Community and save 10%.

Submit your own Announcement here.

Self-led Decision Making – An IFS Approach

Whenever we feel indecisive, it’s usually because different parts of ourselves see things differently and are motivated by different priorities and concerns. In fact, it’s usually the friction between these different “camps” that makes us feel stuck.

We can mediate

Free Right-Sizing Workshop – How to Get Rid of Your…

Cody Chance and Dick Nathan of Long & Foster are hosting a free workshop on the topic of “down-sizing” at their office on Cherry Hill Rd. (formerly Lee Highway) in Arlington on Thursday, February 29 from 5:30PM-7:00PM.

Every great endeavor


Subscribe to our mailing list