Rod da Silva trusts his three teenaged children. He knows that when they go on the Internet, they aren’t going to unsavory sites—but he worries that they waste time that could be better spent on other activities. That’s why this veteran enterprise applications integration architect created WebCurfew, a tool that allows concerned parents the power to control when their children access the Internet.
“Like every Internet parent on the planet, we all have had the thought that our kids are spending too much time online—an unhealthy amount of time online,” da Silva says.
Leaving behind his hometown of Toronto, Ontario, da Silva launched WebCurfew and moved to Chicago this summer to join the city’s inaugural TechStars class with a plan to give parents control of their kids’ online time. With 25 years of self-employment under his belt as a consultant, da Silva turned to the world of software four years ago. Fascinated by this realm since the age of 13, back in the 1970s, he knew he wanted to use technology to make change. He started in his own home.
“I always had the intention of making it a business,” says da Silva, who has been using a WebCurfew-like system at home for three years. “I was basically the first beta tester.”
The technology works like this: Users log into WebCurfew.com and identify the router they have in their homes. If it’s one of the approximately 100 routers currently supported by the company, the user enables access to the router and then WebCurfew “talks” to it, identifying connected devices and giving parents the ability to turn the Internet connection on and off from the source for each device. Users who choose to do this manually can use the service for free, while those who prefer to automate their controls—say, by disconnecting the Internet from their children’s computers after 9 p.m. every day—can sign up for a premium account that starts at $4.99 a month.
According to da Silva, users can grant or remove Internet access from anywhere using the website on a computer, tablet or smartphone. When a device is Internet-enabled, it is accompanied by a green power icon. Turn it off and the icon turns red. The interface is visual and easy to use, in an effort to make it as simple as turning off a light switch, da Silva says.
Coming up, da Silva plans to introduce a feature that would allow parents to control access to certain types of content as well. This means users could block sites that feature pornography, for example, for every device on connected to their router, all the time. Or, if it’s a matter of keeping kids focused while doing homework, users will be able to block certain sites during selected times. Take da Silva, for example. He shuts off access to social media, YouTube and other such sites between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. After that time, they have an hour of surfing time before turning those sites off for the night.
Currently, da Silva is the only WebCurfew team member in Chicago. He has an employee in Toronto whose entire job is adding new routers to the WebCurfew system. Until TechStars, da Silva was entirely self-funded, as well. Although he’s run a small operation until now, da Silva has eyes on a larger vision.
“WebCurfew is the first of many potential applications,” he says. “My vision is to humanize technology in the home...For me, the key to everything is getting to those devices in your house through the Web.”
He believes that giving individuals the power to control all of their household devices through the Internet, rather than manually, will improve their relationship with and understanding of these items. “With a platform for communicating with routers, I can do some amazing things,” da Silva says.
As a solo founder, da Silva says going through TechStars has enabled him to grow—and quickly. “I’ve got nothing but accolades for the program itself,” he says. “As a network, it’s been instrumental in meeting the types of people I need to meet to move this business forward.”
With one application already live to the world and the support of the TechStars community behind him, there’s no saying how far da Silva will go in his quest to empower individuals to control their devices.