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Desert Companion

Culture: Smart learning for digital kids (no bunnies, please)

John McClain’s eureka! moment arrived during a children’s birthday party a couple of years ago. The collected toddlers shunned a stack of more traditional presents in favor of a game-changing piece of technology freshly unleashed on the world: the iPad.

“I was amazed at the way the kids gathered around it,” says John McClain, a local producer and sound designer.

Later, McClain and friend Angela Abshier, a former intellectual property lawyer with an entertainment industry background, just sort of looked at each other and said, “There it is.”

The it: The pair had been searching for a creative project to work on together, and now they had it: designing apps for kids. They researched the market — competition was plentiful but mostly feeble, they say — pulled together a team of like-minded creative folks in Las Vegas, and launched Gabuduck, named for the adorable way McClain’s young son said “garbage truck.”

Abshier is the now year-old company’s CEO; McClain’s business card reads, “Head of Fun and Games.”

Their first two music-centered apps — “KBC Kids” (positive hip hop for kids of all ages!) and “The Silly Fun Adventures of Miko & Cola” (interactive story and songbook!) — garnered plenty of praise from app critics. The company website itself hints at the apps’ quality with its polished look and clever interface.

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“Anytime anyone has the opportunity to say anything bad, they do — and they haven’t,” Abshier says. “Our mission is to produce better kids’ content and build a brand parents can trust.”

The local firm is getting ready to launch several new apps, including two that feature the musical talents of famously bespectacled ’90s songstress Lisa Loeb. In one, she takes the form of a cat who happens to play guitar. Including talented artists such as Loeb makes a better product while helping the struggling music industry, Abshier and McClain say.

Gabuduck’s apps will generally range in price from $2.99 to $5.99. Abshier says they are “premium priced” for a reason: “We believe you get what you pay for.”

The long-term goal is to turn Gabuduck into a subscription service through which parents can get trustworthy, constantly updated content for their children. Abshier believes it will take another year or so to get to the point where parents “trust us and know us” enough to start subscribing.

Meanwhile, Gabuduck plans to continue creating smart, interesting content for kids.

“These aren’t songs about fluffy bunnies,” McClain says. “Those aren’t interesting to children. All kids like to be challenged, but not all kids are being challenged by their parents.”

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