PROVO — Kids' cellphone startup Gabb just snagged $14 million in new funding and counts former BYU and current New Orleans Saints football star Taysom Hill among its new investors.
Announced Wednesday, Gabb's Series A round is led by Orem-based Sandlot Partners along with Hill. Lehi-based Gabb launched in 2018 and says it's on a mission to "provide kids a safe first phone with no internet, social media or games" that protects them against "internet dangers, inappropriate content and screen-time addiction."
Hill has become an NFL standout after going undrafted following an injury-plagued five years at BYU. He started his pro career under a free-agent contract with the Green Bay Packers and was later claimed off waivers in 2017 by the Saints. He played on New Orleans' special teams units that year, moved into a backup quarterback role in 2018 and has since prospered both behind center and as an all-around offensive utility player. He's now competing with Jameis Winston for the Saints' starting quarterback position after future Hall of Famer Drew Brees announced his retirement last month.
Hill said he and his wife, Emily, were impressed by Gabb's commitment to children's safety and said the effort matches well with the personal brand he's working to build.
"As an investor, Gabb checked all the boxes with its impressive growth, founding team and total addressable market," Hill said in a statement. "But so much more than that for me is the emotional side of the investment.
"I love the idea that we can help build something to help save kids in an area that has so much need and demand. My wife Emily and I try to be pretty selective of who we tie our brand to, and when considering the chance to invest and partner with Gabb, it was a no-brainer for us and something that we are extremely excited about."
Gabb offers a $100 modified Android smartphone from Chinese manufacturer ZTE that comes loaded with 14 apps but is isolated from internet connectivity. The $20 a month basic service plan provides unlimited talk and text-only messaging as well as GPS tracking and doesn't require a contract. That plan jumps by $5 per month if parents want to enable photo sharing via text or group text messaging.
The pre-loaded apps include a calculator, calendar, camera, clock, contact book, file manager, FM radio, music player, video player and voice recorder. While the unconnected phone can't engage with streaming services, parents can download music and other content via a PC.
Gabb says the children's cellphone market is worth $30 billion and plans to use the proceeds from the new financing to "accelerate efforts to provide safe phones for kids" and expand its product lines with safe alternatives for parents of kids ages 5 to 15.
Gabb cited data showing the average tween spends four to seven hours per day in front of a screen and that "excessive screen time and social media are directly contributing to the rise in anxiety, depression, suicide and sexual abuse among adolescents."
"We're excited to announce our partnership with Sandlot Partners and Taysom Hill, who share our passion to drive impact and provide solutions to the growing screen addiction among adolescents," Gabb founder and CEO Stephen Dalby said in a statement. "Sandlot has a strong track record of fueling growth and adding value to their portfolio companies.
According to tech sector data aggregator Crunchbase, Gabb has attracted over $21 million in venture funding to date.