After Zach Marks' family prohibited him from using Facebook, he came up with his own solution -- Gromsocial.com. The platform gives young people an opportunity to access a moderated social media platform.
The company currently has a market capitalization of about $82 million.
Grom Social is a platform designed to manage social media interaction, specifically for young people. They face the same challenges adults do-getting flamed or trolled by individuals who should know better and be better people.
The Boca Raton, Fla., company's name is based on the term "grommet," a word used to describe young surfers. Another term used on the West Coast is "kook."
The site is designed to facilitate reasonable communication and nullify aggressive activities.
The company is looking at an audience from about five to 16 years old.
"Grom Social is monitored Live 24/7 by real people and our staff can answer questions and take action right away. We also use a bad word filter in several languages and we pre-screen all posts from members," 17-year-old founder Zach Marks told The Deal.
Grom is accessible in about 200 nations.
"Sometimes kids share their physical location info and phone numbers and we will flag it. Occasionally, we have someone post a photo or comment that is not within our guidelines so we prevent that from happening. Any kind of bullying is usually reported to a monitor and we are able to reach out to the person being bullied and to the bully directly."
Marks faced a Facebook problem when his family banned him from using it.
"When I was 10 years old I convinced my parents to let me have a Facebook page," Zach told The Deal.
"My mom and dad got concerned because I had so many 'friends,' most of whom were adults that I didn't even know, and I was exposed to things I should not have been seeing."
Young people and adults alike see things they wish they hadn't seen on social media platforms.
Marks decided to adopt countermeasures.
"When they made me delete my account, I secretly made another one using a false name," he said.
"It was only a matter of time before they found out from my Dad's friend that I was on Facebook again, causing my Dad to forbid me from all social media. I decided to make my own social network just for kids, and with the help of my Mom and my brothers and sister; we began to put the idea together.
"In hindsight, I'm not sure anything could have prevented my getting on Facebook but I don't think it's about preventing or denying kids online or social media access. It is about providing them with a safe environment to learn and practice good social media skills. In the end, my 10-year-old mistakes birthed the inspiration for Grom Social, so my story has a happy ending."
His father, Darren Marks, told The Deal how he feels about the project.
"What impressed my wife and I was how Zach addressed the real issues kids have today-teaching kids how to use the Internet, being good digital citizens, making good healthy choices and delivering anti-bullying messaging. All this in a safe, 24/7 monitored environment that has total parental oversight"
"Many of the features on Grom Social are similar to Facebook and other social media apps, just geared for kids," according to Zach Marks.
"You can make friends, post pics, chat, and stream original content and play games. What makes Grom Social different is the whole site is geared for kids. The difference is that all of our content is kid friendly, the messaging and the good digital citizenship prompts and reminders are like road signs along the way to help remind and guide kids to develop good online practices. We really focus on offering positive and inspiring stories and encourage the Groms to share their online experiences," he said.
Marks told The Deal about what it's like to be a young entrepreneur.
"It is a mix of emotions depending on what news I hear each day. Sometimes it's frustrating and things seem like they take forever to get accomplished and sometimes it's scary, but most times it's just another day of hard work just like anyone else. Bigger than all of that is the enormous amount of pride I have knowing it was my idea to start this company and to see how far we have come.
"If I were someone else reading my story it would inspire me for sure."
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