CTYPE html>Pie – Aosheng Ran


Helping parents encourage children's responsible use of digital devices.
Sep–Dec 2018, 12 weeks
Entrepreneurship, Lean Startup Strategy, Design Leadership, Exploratory Research, Rapid Prototyping, Animated Filmmaking
Co-founder, CEO for holding business/product vision and pushing progress forward

I collaborated with three designers who are enthusiastic of children's digital literacy to explore how the children's screen usage influences family relationship. We validated and iterated the concept with the customers, ideated and tested multiple solutions, and practiced designing not only the product but also a startup business.

Understanding the Audience

Throughout twelve weeks, we have talked to over 35 parents to understand their relationship with children and the family dynamics around the digital devices. We conducted interviews and test sessions in multiple locations in the Bay Area, including the Oakland Ice Center and Bay Area Science Festival.

We realized that many parents are concerned with children's usage of digital devices. As the children grow up, they start to learn the meaning of time and self-control, but they are more likely to question the rules set by parents through parental control apps.

Exploration 1

We started out imagining an educational solution that facilitates meaningful communication within the family.

Parents of children who are 10-13 years old and use digital devices.


Parents don’t know how to communicate the meaning of responsible screen usage to their children.


Encourage constructive communication between parents and children to help children use digital devices more responsibly.


Building and Iterating MVPs

We kept MVPs sketchy but measurable to validate the hypotheses efficiently.

Through multiple iterations, we developed a family activity that allows parents and children to engage in the continuing discussions on what is the responsible screen usage.

To start, the parent and child separately organize the sliced pieces of screen time on the spectrum of productive and consumptive usage. In the process, they have to decide: what is the value of that portion of screen time?

Next, they will be provided with an interactive comparison chart with question prompts. We think showing the differences in their results will facilitate their discussion effectively.

Recognizing the Constraints

Through concept validation with our target audience, we realized that the activity needs to provide a better context to facilitate meaningful conversation.

Do meaningful conversations help children use digital devices more responsibly? It is difficult to measure and time-consuming to validate. With these concerns in mind, we decided to go back to the whiteboard and explore other approaches.

Exploration 2

When we talked about "bonding," parents told us that quality family time is when they feel connected with their children—and they are having less and less of it.

We later realized that it's because those family activities no longer appeal to children as much as before. In our interviews, the children told us that their interests, especially the ones on screen, are ignored or misunderstood.

Even though parents might know the children's activities on screen, it doesn't mean they understand why children are interested in them.

Parents of children who are 10-13 years old and use digital devices.


Parents don't understand the children's interests on screen and can't find the family activities that the children are interested in.


Help parents find family activities tailored to children's interests on screen.


Creating Mid-fi Prototypes

Our design solution, Pie, automatically retrieves children's app usage information and looks for family activities based on the potential interests that children might have.

Estimating the Market Potential

To understand the potential of our future growth, we conducted primary research on the market size, created the business model with revenue streams and cost structure, and estimated our breakeven. It helped us precisely position ourselves in the market and strategically plan for business growth.

Customer Acquisition

Adopting early customers is crucial to validate the concept and estimate the future growth rate. I created the landing page, and we distributed it as the single source of traffic tracking. See it live here.

Demo & Pitch

With the ask of $300,000 to launch the product and reach revenue positive, we pitched the concept to a group of angel investors and design leaders and successfully received the planned amount of virtual funding as a result.

See the pitch deck below.


Even though we achieved the funding goal, we received skepticism with our pitch on the demo day, because our solution stretched far from its original place and focused on less significant moments of children's growth and learning.

If we had more time, we would've spend more time validating the many assumptions within our concepts. But we are still happy to tackle on this incredibly complicated challenge in the first place — because we firmly believe it is an emerging problem that needs to be addressed, even if it needs more time and collective minds.

I was mostly responsible for managing the project and push the team forward. My biggest takeaway is to appreciate not just the perfection of the work, but also each other's growth, including my own. Read my full reflection post here.