About 20,000 children are trafficked every year in China, according to the U.S State Department. Trafficked children are most often sold for adoption, or later sold online for unpaid labor and prostitution. While the Chinese government and Chinese internet giants including Alibaba and Tencent are putting efforts toward finding the missing children, smaller startups are also pitching in, including Shanghai-based MoneyLocker.
MoneyLocker (惠锁屏), a startup that shows advertisements on phone unlock screens and rewards users for viewing them, launched a “swipe your screen to find the missing child (惠锁寻子)” campaign on June 1st, Children’s Day. The company claims that since its campaign, three missing children in China have been found through its app.
The advertising startup lets parents of missing children post information about their child on the app, as well as their contact information. Currently, Moneylocker’s ‘public good’ section lists ten missing children, three of which have now been found. The three kids were all from rural areas in China. The app pushes one lost child notice to users a day through its app and also posts on Chinese social media Weibo.
It is difficult to find missing children in China. Earlier this year, a girl was abducted and was later found thanks to an image of the girl shared on Weibo. Obtaining figures of the number of missing-children found is difficult, unfortunately the vast majority are never found.
“I was inspired by Huayi Brothers-released Lost and Lonely (失孤), a film about missing children in China. We have 200 million views on our unlocking screen platform, so I thought, ‘why not start something that even a policeman cannot do’? ” Kang Mingu, CEO 0f Moneylocker, told TechNode.
Since then, 3 million users have participated in the event, according to the company. That means that 3 million people swiped a missing child’s picture to read the full description of the child’s profile on Moneylocker’s app.
Somewhat oddly, the company also added a feature that lets users immediately contact the missing child’s parents and send out the location where they saw the missing child.
“Startups can do corporate social responsibility, but they don’t stand out much. We’re [on the] front door of the phone, so we made [the] best use of it,” Mr. Kang said. “We just did it for the public good. [The Chinese] government does not give any subsidies on our activity.”
By rewarding users with points when they see the advertisement on the unlock screen, Moneylocker is currently advertising for more than 1,000 companies in China, including Alibaba, LeTV, China Telecom, Yihaodian, Ctrip, and Family Mart. Ninety percent of their revenue comes from advertisements. Apart from advertisements, the company also launches campaign and event-related posts. For example, the company previously launched a proposing service for lovers, where men could send proposals and pictures to their girlfriends.
Founded by three Fudan University alumni in 2014, the startup raised an $8 million USD series B round this year from KIP and Langmafeng VC. The company’s revenue is in the vicinity of 100 million yuan ($15 million USD) in 2015, but they have not broken even yet, Mr. Kang said.
In China, other tech companies have also made an effort to find missing children. Alibaba and the Ministry of Public Security launched an online missing children information distribution platform in Beijing this March. In November, Tencent launched the China’s Child Safety Emergency Response (CCSER), built using WeChat network data and GIS technology, to find missing children.
The website Baobeihuijia.com (meaning “baby, come home”) lists 15,000 missing children in China. There are also a number of smart watches designed for children so parents can easily locate where their children are, such as Tencent’s QQ watch and Xiaomi’s Mi Bunny.