Disney acquires Indian-origin businessman’s site for kids

Disney acquires Indian-origin businessman’s site for kids

Boston: Togetherville, a Facebook-like social networking site for 6-10 year olds developed by Indian-origin entrepreneur Mandeep Singh Dhillon, has been acquired by Walt Disney Company for an undisclosed sum.

Under the merger agreement, California-based Togetherville will be a wholly-owned subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company reporting into Disney Interactive Media Group.

Disney did not disclose the financial terms of the deal, which was completed last week.

Togetherville CEO and founder Dhillon launched the family-oriented version of Facebook last year as a “safe" social online community where children could learn, play and mingle with friends under the watchful eyes of their parents.

“Excited" by the acquisition, Dhillon said Disney is “one of the most amazing family brands on Earth."

Dhillon’s profile on professional network site LinkedIn says he is vice president, Togetherville at The Walt Disney Company.

The Togetherville deal is the latest digital acquisition by Disney, which is looking at investing more in social and mobile companies and less in creating console-based video games.

In July, Disney acquired social gaming company Playdom for $563 million. Last year it also bought mobile music game company Tapulous.

Disney’s Interactive Media Group recently outlined plans to invest more on emerging technological platforms and less on developing games for mature markets like the video game console business.

Himself a father of three young children, Dhillon said the free site allows children to connect with their real-world friends in a virtual neighbourhood.

The service requires adults to log in with an existing Facebook account, and lets them build their kid’s network from their own networks.

Profile pages of the children are closed to outsiders, unless they are approved by the parents.

Since Togetherville neighbourhoods are built from a parent’s own social network, there is no way anyone anonymous or unknown can ever interact with the child, the company said.

“Togetherville is very focused on trying to really reflect what the adult community has been doing on the Web and build a real online experience that adults enjoy, for kids but in a safe way" and under the safeguards of the Child Online Protection Act, said Dhillon, a former manager at McKinsey & Company.

“There are no strangers, no avatars and no anonymous usernames in a Togetherville neighbourhood," it added.

Through the site, children can play games, watch prescreened videos, create artwork, send pre-selected messages and send and receive gifts.

Parents control whom the kids interact with and Togetherville ensures that kids cannot leave the confines of the network to go to another site.