Circle with Disney parental control device. (Circle Photo) , maker of the Circle with Disney parental control device, has raised $20 million in new investment. The Portland-based startup makes products that allow parents to set screen time limits and block certain content. Its technology pairs to a home router and lets parents manage online access for every device on a network. Circle also sells a subscription service for devices on 4G LTE or other WiFi networks. Its flagship product, , currently sells for $40 on Amazon. Circle CEO Lance Charlish. (Circle Photo) The company will use the fresh cash for research and development, marketing and strategic partnerships, Circle CEO and co-founder told GeekWire. Circle is also developing new consumer products as well as services delivered through the cloud and routers made by its partners. “The news is full of reports of parents struggling to support their children in a connected world,” Charlish said in an email. “We recognize that parents are looking for help in their crucial role guiding their children as they progress through developmental milestones of digital literacy.” Investors in the Series B round included Circle partners NETGEAR and T-Mobile US, who were joined by Third Kind Venture Capital, Relay Ventures and others. Circle developed a service called FamilyMode for T-Mobile and sells its parental control services through NETGEAR’s routers. The funding round brings Circle’s total money raised to $30 million. The startup employs more than 60 people in its offices in Portland, Ore. and Cypress, Calif. Charlish said the company was excited about its expansion plans for 2019 but declined to share specifics. There are countless apps and smart routers that come with built-in parental controls. Circle aims to distinguish itself by providing a holistic solution that manages time and content across devices both in and out of the house — a goal that it has mainly pursued through partnerships. Researchers are . A recent found that screen time for children under 2 years old has more than doubled since 1997. In addition to Charlish, the company’s leadership also includes Chief Creative Officer Jelani Memory, who co-founded the startup, and Chief Technology Officer Tiebing Zhang. Circle was founded in 2014.
makes a fantastic screen time management tool and today the company announced a round of funding to help fuel its growth. The $20 million series B included participation from Netgear and T-Mobile, along with Third Kind Venture Capital and follow-on investments from Relay Ventures and other Series A participants. With this round of funding, has raised over $30 million to date including . , Circle intends to use the funds to expand its product offering and form new partnerships with hardware makers and mobile carriers. The timing is perfect. Parents are increasingly looking at ways to make sure children and teenagers do not become addicted to screens. Circle works different from other solutions attempting to limit screen time. It’s hardware based and sits plugged into a home’s network. It allows an administrator, like a parent, to easily restrict the amount of time a device, such as an iPhone owned by a child, is able to access the local network. It’s easy and that’s the point. Circle sits in a small, but growing field of services attempting to give parents the ability to limit their child’s screen time. Some of these solutions, like Apple’s, and thought works well, is limited to iOS and Mac OS devices. Others, like those on Netgear’s Orbi products, offer a similar network-wide net, but is much harder to use than Circle. In my household we use tools like Circle. The lure of the screen is just too great and these solutions, when used in combination with traditional parenting, ensure my children stare into the real world — at least for a few minutes a day.