Geek Speak: Shelley Voyer, president of Zuzee Interactive

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      Shelley Voyer says that, for tween girls, it’s all about self-expression. She’s the 41-year-old founder and president of Zuzee Interactive, a North Vancouver-based startup that launched on October 19 a website billed as a “creative online community for tween girls”.

      Zuzee allows girls to design books, pages, and cards using their own photos and then share those with their friends. Parents get their own accounts, so they can monitor and manage their daughters’ activities on the site, which operates on the freemium model. According to Voyer, Zuzee has around 400 users and is aimed at girls aged eight to 12 in North America. Eight people are working on the site, all contractors aside from Voyer.

      Born in Edmonton, Voyer grew up in Kelowna and now lives in North Vancouver with her husband, son, and daughter. She founded Zuzee Interactive in 2009.

      The Georgia Straight reached Voyer by phone at her home office.

      What is Zuzee?

      Zuzee is a creative online community for tween girls to create and tell their stories and connect with other friends using their photos and pages, books, and cards.

      Why would a tween want to use Zuzee rather than Facebook?

      For one, it’s the safety aspects of Zuzee, definitely. It’s a closed community, so it’s invitation-only by their friends, and it’s also very creative. At that age, for tweens, it’s really about self-expression. So, Zuzee gives them tools to express themselves and be creative.

      Tweens take a lot of photos. So, this is the place that they can do something with those photos.

      What are the benefits for parents?

      Zuzee, in the U.S., complies with COPPA [Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act]. Canada doesn’t have a COPPA here, but we do comply with the Canada privacy guidelines. So, for parents, they know that their daughters are safe on Zuzee. It’s by parent consent. So, for the girls to be able to add and share with friends, we need parent consent to comply with COPPA in the U.S., of course.

      They get to monitor their child’s account without actually logging in as their child. So, they have their own separate parent account, where they can see a snapshot of what their child’s doing, what they’re saying, who their friends are, and what designs we’ve created. Further to that, we add parent controls that they can turn on. So, they can actually approve friends before they’re added and the designs before they’re shared. We kind of give them a dial-up, dial-down safety aspect.

      How will Zuzee make money?

      Through subscription—the site is paid. Right now, we’re offering a free offer for three months to users who join. After that, it’s $4.99 a month or $34.99 a year. We also will be bringing printed merchandise or books on line as well.

      Every Friday, Geek Speak catches up with someone in Vancouver’s technology sector, video-game industry, or social-media scene. Who should we interview next? You can tell Stephen Hui on Facebook and Twitter.