• Women 2.0 HowTo Conference San Francisco, September 30 - October 1, 2014

How Three Women Transformed Inspiration into Innovation

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A co-founder of MobiGirl Media explains how her team transformed one mother’s frustration into the only mobile ad network targeted exclusively at girls.

By Jennifer Noonan (Co-founder, MobiGirl Media)

A spark of inspiration can emerge from anywhere, at any time, and in any form. Earlier this year, the media was a buzz about Zora Ball, the youngest person ever to create an app. At only seven, this pint-sized powerhouse demonstrates that inspiration can come at any time!

Our digital journey began in late 2008 when Cara Hall, one of my business partners and a passionate new iPhone user couldn’t find any apps appropriate for her young daughter. What about this app business anyway, she thought. How hard can it be, right? That was the ”aha” moment that started Appsnminded, a “girl-centric” app production company.

We didn’t know much about the app world and coding; we had to adjust our learning curve and make appropriate investments along the way for our venture to succeed. Our first app was simple – Baby Faces – and it cost a whopping $400 to make. What began as an “aha” turned into a super fun and successful business.

Creating entertaining apps for girls really seemed to suit us and our girl-users responded by becoming loyal followers, downloading of every new offering. We created apps for a market that we connected to and that we came to know inside and out. Since Appsnminded’s inception five years ago, we have launched over 80 iOS, Android, and Windows 7 apps for girls.

As the iOS App Store grew and matured we looked into additional ways to monetize and promote our growing catalog of apps. The model was changing from a predominately paid market to a freemium/In app purchase model and we wanted to respond to that change. Advertising things that we know girls like on our apps  seemed to be a way to make a little extra money. But as we researched ad networks, it quickly became apparent that there was not a way to effectively and responsibly advertise to our girls (At the time numbering over seven million).

This was equally frustrating and amazing.  Of course, there were plenty of ad networks out there. However, they presented a number of problems for us. Many were blind networks and would not disclose the types of ads that would be running on our apps. We couldn’t risk our girls seeing inappropriate ads for beer, “Find Singles in Your Area,” or worse. We also found that as advertisers, if we wanted to advertise our apps on other apps within an existing ad network, our ads might have appeared on apps that didn’t make sense for our girls. Our users would never see the ads and we would be wasting our money. High dollar blind buy-ins and paying for impressions to the wrong audience just didn’t make sense no matter how much fancy ad network lingo was thrown at us.

We asked ourselves two simple questions: Can we develop an avenue for advertisers to reach young girls, tweens and teens? And can we provide app developers an opportunity to host advertising they could feel good about?  We spent the next two years developing the answers and creating a safe advertising marketplace centered on girls. MobiGirl Media launched out of beta in March 2013.

Our decision to tap into this market was more than just capitalizing on an opportunity; it was bringing inspiration into fruition. To that end, Cara and I teamed up with a long-time business associate, Alison Bradley, to be our chief-technical head. Alison even moved to India to oversee development of our website. Despite our different backgrounds, we are united in our drive and determination to succeed. I spent over a decade in communications, working as a branding professional and senior corporate executive for HBO, the Sega Company, Request TV and United Talent Agency. I even launched a successful maternity fashion house, NOM. Cara’s background is in advertising, while Alison is the founder of WackyPuppy Design, a leading provider of design, branding and marketing services.

As a female mobile technology entrepreneur, it feels good knowing that more girls are actually beginning to develop applications as well as use them. With more awareness, visibility, and women in front of and behind the scenes, we can continue to inspire the next generation of women to create the next historic innovations. A world with more girls like Zora is a world with infinite possibilities.

About the guest blogger: Jennifer Noonan is co-founder of MobiGirl Media and Appsnminded. Prior to Appsnminded, she spent over ten years as a communications and branding professional working for HBO, Sega Channel, Request TV and United Talent Agency. In addition to serving as a senior executive, Jen showed her entrepreneurial capabilities when she launched NOM, a maternity fashion house. Her designs were worn by high-profile clients such as Madonna, Julia Roberts and Gwenyth Paltrow.

Photo credit: _Max-B via Flickr