More Studying = More Screentime. 1Question's App Hopes to Give Parents More Control

Keerthi Vedantam

Keerthi Vedantam is a bioscience reporter at dot.LA. She cut her teeth covering everything from cloud computing to 5G in San Francisco and Seattle. Before she covered tech, Keerthi reported on tribal lands and congressional policy in Washington, D.C. Connect with her on Twitter, Clubhouse (@keerthivedantam) or Signal at 408-470-0776.

​1Question requires children to learn before they access social media or streaming sites
Image courtesy of 1Question

After the pandemic shuttered schools and social activities, screen time among children nearly doubled as digital devices became their sole source of education, recreation and social activities.

The obsession with screens was noted in the Elnekave household, where husband-and-wife duo Issac and Ann watched their children grow increasingly attached to their phones. The pair would try to limit excessive Internet use through parental screen controls and “no phone” times. They even attempted a type of blitzkrieg schooling: Ann would jump out from behind door frames and ambush their daughter Alyssa with multiplication questions.

In an attempt to find a better solution, the Sydney, Australia-based pair began developing an app in 2020 that would lock social media sites, streaming services and gaming apps until their kids could solve educational questions. After initially rolling it out in their home country, the Elnekaves launched their app, 1Question, in the U.S. this week. 1Question, which keeps its U.S. headquarters in Santa Monica, has raised approximately $1.5 million through crowdfunding to date.

Issac and Ann Elnekave1Question co-founders (and co-parents) Ann and Issac Elnekave.Image courtesy of 1Question

“It's not like Alyssa needed to stop everything and go to the times tables; it’s not like I had the fortitude and she had the stamina to sit together and ask 27 times a day,” Issac told dot.LA. “It was just micro-learning moments that were happening through her daily engagement with her phone.”

After partnering with AI Australia, one of the largest artificial intelligence software firms in the country, 1Question evolved into a sophisticated smartphone app with an AI-driven backend that tailors questions to how well a user performs. After collecting information on what question was answered, how long it took to answer and what they got right and wrong, the AI creates a specific curriculum for each child to help them answer quizzes faster.

Parents can download the app onto their children’s devices, select their school grade, and choose the subjects they should learn and how much time they need to spend on the 1Question before gaining access to other apps. Subjects now range from math and science to English and health.

The “screen debate” has been a hot topic in parenting forums and Facebook groups for years, giving rise to several parental lock platforms like United Kingdom-based Kidslox and Atlanta-based Bark. At the behest of investors and lawmakers, Apple and Google have also implemented screen control tools. During the pandemic, some affluent parents have even hired $200-per-hour screen consultants and parent coaches to help occupy their kids’ time without technology.

1QuestionImage courtesy of 1Question.

1Question’s approach is different: Instead of locking screens, the app quasi-negotiates with its users by giving them screen time as long as they complete certain assignments.

Behind 1Question’s curriculum are a slew of accredited teachers, tutors and scientists—dubbed “educational creators” by Issac—who make short, TikTok-style videos followed by questions that students have to answer to earn screen time. 1Question currently pays its creators $500 to create four minute-long videos and five follow-up questions per video, and eventually plans to deploy an Uber-esque revenue-sharing model to allow its teachers to make extra money.

“Over the last two years, teachers have really gotten used to being in front of the camera,” Issac said. “So all of the content and videos that they’re putting together is phenomenal.”

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Genies Wants To Help Creators Build ‘Avatar Ecosystems’

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Genies Wants To Help Creators Build ‘Avatar Ecosystems’

When avatar startup Genies raised $150 million in April, the company released an unusual message to the public: “Farewell.”

The Marina del Rey-based unicorn, which makes cartoon-like avatars for celebrities and aims to “build an avatar for every single person on Earth,” didn’t go under. Rather, Genies announced it would stay quiet for a while to focus on building avatar-creation products.

Genies representatives told dot.LA that the firm is now seeking more creators to try its creation tools for 3D avatars, digital fashion items and virtual experiences. On Thursday, the startup launched a three-week program called DIY Collective, which will mentor and financially support up-and-coming creatives.

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Here's What To Expect At LA Tech Week

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Here's What To Expect At LA Tech Week

LA Tech Week—a weeklong showcase of the region’s growing startup ecosystem—is coming this August.

The seven-day series of events, from Aug. 15 through Aug. 21, is a chance for the Los Angeles startup community to network, share insights and pitch themselves to investors. It comes a year after hundreds of people gathered for a similar event that allowed the L.A. tech community—often in the shadow of Silicon Valley—to flex its muscles.

From fireside chats with prominent founders to a panel on aerospace, here are some highlights from the roughly 30 events happening during LA Tech Week, including one hosted by dot.LA.

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PCH Driven: Director Jason Wise Talks Wine, Documentaries, and His New Indie Streaming Service SOMMTV

Jamie Williams
­Jamie Williams is the host of the “PCH Driven” podcast, a show about Southern California entrepreneurs, innovators and its driven leaders on their road to success. The series celebrates and reveals the wonders of the human spirit and explores the motivations behind what drives us.
Jason Wise holding wine glass
Image courtesy of Jason Wise

Jason Wise may still consider himself a little kid, but the 33-year-old filmmaker is building an IMDB page that rivals colleagues twice his age.

As the director behind SOMM, SOMM2, SOMM3, and the upcoming SOMM4, Wise has made a career producing award-winning documentary films that peer deep into the wine industry in Southern California and around the world.

On this episode of the PCH Driven podcast, he talks about life growing up in Cleveland as a horrible student, filmmaking, Los Angeles and his latest entrepreneurial endeavor: A streaming service called SOMMTV that features–what else?–documentaries about wine.

The conversation covers some serious ground, but the themes of wine and film work to anchor the discussion, and Wise dispenses bits of sage filmmaking advice.

“With a documentary you can just start filming right now,” he says. “That’s how SOMM came about. I got tossed into that world during the frustration of trying to make a different film, and I just started filming it, because no one could stop me because I was paying for it myself. That’s the thing with docs,” or “The good thing about SOMM is that you can explain it in one sentence: ‘The hardest test in the world is about wine, and you’ve never heard about it.’”

…Or at least maybe you hadn’t before he made his first film. Now with three SOMM documentaries under his belt, Wise is nearing completion of “SOMM4: Cup of Salvation,” which examines the history of wine’s relationship with religion. Wise says it’s “a wild film,” that spans multiple countries, the Vatican and even an active warzone. As he puts it, the idea is to show that “wine is about every subject,” rather than “every subject is about wine.”

For Wise, the transition to launching his own streaming service came out of his frustration with existing platforms holding too much power over the value of the content he produces.

“Do we want Netflix to tell us what our projects are worth or do we want the audience to do that?” he asks.

But unlike giants in the space, SOMMTV has adopted a gradual approach of just adding small bits of content as they develop. Without the need to license 500 or 1,000 hours of programming, Wise has been able to basically bootstrap SOMMTV and provide short form content and other more experimental offerings that typically get passed over by the Hulus and Disneys of the world.

So far, he says, the experiment is working, and now Wise is looking to raise some serious capital to keep up with the voracious appetites of his subscribers.

“Send those VCs my way,” Wise jokes.

Subscribe to PCH Driven on Apple, Stitcher, Spotify, iHeart, Google or wherever you get your podcasts.

dot.LA reporter David Shultz contributed to this report.