LAS VEGAS -- When John McClain's 4-year-old son Declan was younger he referred to his toy garbage truck as "Gabuduck."
The word stuck with McClain, an accomplished Las Vegas sound producer with both a Grammy and an Emmy under his belt.
He and business partner Angela Abshier, who parlayed a law degree into a career in business development, are co-founders of Gabuduck, a Las Vegas tech startup that is creating apps for children by combining childhood development components with music appreciation.
McClain said the idea for the company came to them when they observed Declan and other children ignoring a pile of toys, opting instead to play games on iPads.
"The sound was feeble and the visuals were feeble," McClain said. "Angela and I looked at each other and said, ‘we could do better.' The skill set we bring to the table with sound and visuals is head and shoulders over the rest of what is out there."
Just this week, the company won approval to sell its first commercially available app, "KBC Kids," through Apple's App Store. The animated app features KBC Kids, a children's hip hop group from New York City that is dubbed the first ever "App Band."
Kids who use the app, available for both iPads and iPhones, gain access to some of the band's songs by interacting on the screen with characters depicting KBC members Kobie, Brian and Clair. Depending on what children press, they can activate different musical instruments and create a variety of sounds.
They are then rewarded with the ability to advance through the app as they make correct decisions about the sounds they are creating based on the group's pre-recorded music. Along the way children learn about musical tones and what proper notes sound like. They learn about timing in music.
"We treat each product as its own mini cinematic experience," Abshier said.
McClain, who also runs the Dog and Pony Show post-audio studio, and Abshier first teamed up years ago by making short independent films. He earned his Grammy in 2001 for work he did with the legendary late comedian George Carlin, and added an Emmy in 2008 for a boxing special on HBO.
Abshier was a creative director for gaming company Aristocrat Technologies in Las Vegas and participated in the development of video slot machines. So she understands the ins and outs of video games.
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As for the growth potential for a company specializing in children's apps, Abshier said: "This space is widely recognized as the Wild, Wild West. It's this massive race to market to be in this space so the challenge is how to be different. The opportunities to branch out into education, autism and learning disabilities are endless."
Their plan to grow the company hinges largely on partnerships with musicians who perform children's music. One popular singer who is already doing voice work for Gabuduck is Lisa Loeb, who scored a number one hit in 1994 with the song "Stay." The idea is to allow the musicians to sell their songs through the apps designed by Gabuduck, creating in essence an MTV-like music video experience for young children.
"Our intention is to build a brand that parents can trust," Abshier said.
As for the ease with which Gabuduck is able to court skilled musicians, she said: "They are standing in line."