Common Sense Networks launches Sensical, a free, hand-curated streaming service for kids

Common Sense Media has made a name for itself among parents as a useful resource for vetting entertainment and technology in terms of its age-appropriateness. Now, the organization’s for-profit affiliate, Common Sense Networks, is taking inspiration from those kid-friendly recommendations with the launch of new streaming service called Sensical. The service offers age-appropriate, entertaining, and educational videos for children ages 2 through 10.

At launch, the free, ad-supported service includes over 15,000 hand-curated videos and over 50 topic-based channels for children to explore. And unlike other platforms, like Netflix or YouTube, Sensical doesn’t use algorithms to make content recommendations. Instead, kids are encouraged to follow their own interests and passions across over 50 topic-based channels. This includes things like Adventures, Animals, Arts & Crafts, Music, Science, Sports, Video Games, and other sorts of kid-friendly topics.

Kids can star these channels, or individual videos or series, in order to keep up with their favorite content in a dedicated Favorites section within the app.

Kids will see a selection of these channels based on their age, but the company is working to expand the channel lineup so there will be even more specific categories in the future. For example, instead of just “sports,” there could be channels like “soccer” or “gymnastics.” Instead of “Arts,” there could be “drawing” or “origami.” Instead of just “science,” it could include channels like “geography” or “robotics,” and so on.

Image Credits: Common Sense Networks

The app also features a Live TV section, which is programmed throughout the day with kid-friendly content so kids don’t have to browse to find something to quickly watch.

While other streaming services on the market offer kid-friendly content — as that’s a huge selling point for subscribers — it’s not always organized in a way that makes sense. Sometimes, all the content gets lumped into a general “Kids” category where videos for little kids are mixed in with content for older children. Sensical, meanwhile, curates the content recommendations into three different experiences, including preschool (2-4), little kids (5-7), and big kids (8-10).

What the child sees is based on how parents configure their profile. Plus, parents can use the service’s ParentZone in-app dashboard to set screen time limits, extend limits as needed, and view daily reports on what the child has watched.

The service’s best feature, however, is that the content is assured to be age-appropriate — even the ads.

This is possible because the curation approach Sensical takes, which is very different from YouTube Kids. YouTube’s app for kids leans on algorithms to filter out adult content from YouTube’s broader library, but the company doesn’t manually review all the videos it includes. It warns parents that some inappropriate content could slip through. (And it has). Common Sense Networks, meanwhile, says dozens of trained child development experts view, vet, and rate “every single frame of video” that goes live on its service using its proprietary IP and patent pending process. This system involves tagging content with specific child developmental benefits, too.

Sensical also vets its advertising, which is how the service is supported, with similar direct oversight. Its experts review the sponsor’s content to ensure it’s appropriate for children — an area that’s often overlooked on other services.

Image Credits: Common Sense Networks

To fill its library, Common Sense Networks partnered with dozens of studios and distribution partners as well as digital-first creators.

Studio and distribution partners include CAKE (Poppy Cat), Cyber Group Studios (Leo The Wildlife Ranger), The Jim Henson Company (The Wubbulous World of Dr. Seuss, Jim Henson’s Animal Show with Stinky and Jake), Mattel (Kipper, Pingu, Max Steel), Raydar Media (Five Apples’ limited series, Apple Tree House), Superights (Bo Bear, Handico), WildBrain (Teletubbies, Rev & Roll), Xilam Animation (Learn and Play with Paprika, Moka’s Fabulous Adventures), ZDF Enterprises (Lexi & Lottie, School of Roars), Zodiak Kids (Mister Maker, Tee and Mo), ABC Commercial, CBC & Radio-Canada Distribution, Jetpack Distribution, Nelvana, 9 Story Distribution International, Sesame Workshop, Serious Lunch, and Studio 100.

Digital creators, meanwhile, include ABCMouse, Aaron’s Animals, Alphabet Rockers, batteryPOP, California Academy of Sciences, GoldieBlox, The Gotham Group’s Gotham Reads, Guggenheim Museum, Howdytoons, Kids’ Black History, MEL Science + Chemistry, N*Gen, Pinkfong, Penguin Random House’s Brightly Storytime, Studio71 (Parry Gripp, Maymo, Hyper Roblox), Tankee, Ubongo Kids, Vooks, Bounce Patrol, Hevesh5, Mother Goose Club, StacyPlays, Super Simple Songs and The Whistle.

The service abides by the U.S. children’s privacy laws (COPPA), and is certified by the kidSAFE Seal Program.

Image Credits: Common Sense Networks

Having briefly toyed around with the mobile app, it appears Sensical works as described. If I had any complaints personally, it would only be that the experience could be dismissed as “baby stuff” by older kids approaching their tween years, due to the cute pictures and youthful iconography used in the app’s design. Kids in older age groups take issue with being treated as if they’re younger — and they take particular notice of anything that does so. The same complaint goes for the Live TV programming, which was clearly aimed at littler kids when we checked it out, despite testing the app as child profile whose age was set to “10.”

I also think it would be nice if there was a better way to track Favorite channels and see when they’re updated with new videos, as kids moving to Sensical from YouTube will want to “feel” like they’re still connected to new and fresh content, not a library. But Sensical isn’t YouTube. There’s a trade-off between hand-curation and timeliness, and Sensical is favoring the former.

Sensical had been first introduced this spring during a closed beta, but is now publicly available to stream across web and mobile on iOSAndroid, RokuAmazon Fire TV and Apple TV. This summer, it will expand to more distribution platforms, including VIZIO.

Mercuryo raises $7.5M for crypto-focused cross-border payments after crossing $50M in ARR

Mercuryo, a startup that has built a cross-border payments network, has raised $7.5 million in a Series A round of funding.

The London-based company describes itself as “a crypto infrastructure company” that aims to make blockchain useful for businesses via its “digital asset payment gateway.” Specifically, it aggregates various payment solutions and provides fiat and crypto payments and payouts for businesses. 

Put more simply, Mercuryo aims to use cryptocurrencies as a tool for putting in motion next-gen cross-border transfers or as it puts it, “to allow any business to become a fintech company without the need to keep up with its complications.”

“The need for fast and efficient international payments, especially for businesses, is as relevant as ever,” said Petr Kozyakov, Mercuryo’s co-founder and CEO. While there is no shortage of companies enabling cross-border payments, the startup’s emphasis on crypto is a differentiator.

“Our team has a clear plan on making crypto universally available by enabling cheap and straightforward transactions,” Kozyakov said. “Cryptocurrency assets can then be used to process global money transfers, mass payouts and facilitate acquiring services, among other things.” 

Mercuryo began onboarding customers at the beginning of 2019, and has seen impressive growth since with annual recurring revenue (ARR) in April surpassing over $50 million. Its customer base is approaching 1 million, and the company has partnerships with a number of large crypto players including Binance, Bitfinex, Trezor, Trust Wallet, Bithumb and Bybit. In 2020, the company said its turnover spiked by 50 times while run-rate turnover crossed $2.5 billion in April 2021.

To build on that momentum, Mercuryo has begun expanding to new markets, including the United States, where it launched its crypto payments offering for B2B customers in all states earlier this year. It also plans to “gradually” expand to Africa, South America and Southeast Asia.

Target Global led Mercuryo’s Series A, which also included participation from a group of angel investors and brings the startup’s total raised since its 2018 inception to over $10 million.

Image Credits: Left to right: Alexander Vasiliev, Greg Waisman, Petr Kozyakov / MercuryO

The company plans to use its new capital to launch a cryptocurrency debit card (spending globally directly from the crypto balance in the wallet) and continuing to expand to new markets, such as Latin America and Asia-Pacific.

Mercuryo’s various products include a multicurrency wallet with a built-in crypto exchange and digital asset purchasing functionality, a widget and high-volume cryptocurrency acquiring and OTC services.

Kozyakov says the company doesn’t charge for currency conversion and has no other “hidden fees.”

“We enable instant and easy cross-border transactions for our partners and their customers,” he said. “Also, the money transfer services lack intermediaries and require no additional steps to finalize transactions. Instead, the process narrows down to only two operations: a fiat-to-crypto exchange when sending a transfer and a crypto-to-fiat conversion when receiving funds.”

Mercuryo also offers crypto SaaS products, giving customers a way to buy crypto via their fiat accounts while delegating digital asset management to the company. 

“Whether it be virtual accounts or third-party customer wallets, the company handles most cryptocurrency-related processes for banks, so they can focus more on their core operations,” Kozyakov said.

Mike Lobanov, Target Global’s co-founder, said that as an experiment, his firm tested numerous solutions to buy Bitcoin.

“Doing our diligence, we measured ‘time to crypto’ – how long it takes from going to the App Store and downloading the app until the digital assets arrive in the wallet,” he said.

Mercuryo came first with 6 minutes, including everything from KYC and funding to getting the cryptocurrency, according to Lobanov.

“The second-best result was 20 minutes, while some apps took forever to process our transaction,” he added. “This company is a game-changer in the field, and we are delighted to have been their supporters since the early days.”

Looking ahead, the startup plans to release a product that will give businesses a way to send instant mass payments to multiple customers and gig workers simultaneously, no matter where the receiver is located.