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Turn your distraction into a business

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Brian Backus has some smart advice for entrepreneurs: Take your hobby and make it a company. Backus is CEO of Kidlandia, a San Francisco-based startu...

Brian Backus has some smart advice for entrepreneurs: Take your hobby and make it a company.

Backus is CEO of Kidlandia, a San Francisco-based startup that sells customized maps for children. Think of Kidlandia's products as a real social graph of a kid's life. He plans on turning those maps into a community too.

Backus as a kid used to draw creatures, but where most people end their doodling phase he kept going. As a grown up, these drawings became a diversion from work. Backus was CEO of UBUBU, an entertainment software company, and was a producer at Disney Interactive.

After some initial resistance to turning his diversion into a company he launched Kidlandia, which received an initial round of seed funding in December, garnered revenue in April and now is launching the latest iteration of its site, which sits at the busy intersection of e-commerce, personalized gifts, virtual worlds and kids games.

The company has 7 core team members and a network of contractors. Kidlandia received seed funding from investors like in December and generated revenue in April. On June 8, the company launched a full version of its Web site.

Here's a brief look at the startup life:

How did Kidlandia hatch?

Backus said he would create customized maps as a diversion from work. The basic format and method for building the custom maps dates back to 2004. "I was doing it individually in Photoshop and would up with these massive, labor intensive files," explained Backus. "In the last 15 months, we began translating that system into a software platform and engine. I had completed 100 to 120 of these individually commissioned maps and a lot of the people buying them understood enough about technology to tell me that I can do this as a platform."

What's your most valuable technology?

Backus said Adobe's Flash is the most important technology for Kidlandia. Its site is built on Flash and the programming platform is used to translate Backus' hand-painted "critters" and render them to the Web. "We have never done this three or four years ago," said Backus.

Will Kidlandia use cloud computing?

Given Kidlandia's size, Backus figures his servers can handle the load, but "the moment we believe we need the (computing) flexibility we'll consider cloud computing." Amazon will be the most likely provider.

What's your smartest business move?

"Being open to being generous to talented people and not being overly protective. You have to make it attractive to people to get involved with your company at an early stage. Specifically, that's equity," said Backus.

Is now a good time to find talent?

Backus says it's a great time to find talented workers. "The good news about bad news is there's a lot of talent out there right now. I'm not worried about finding people quickly should we need them," said Backus, noting that Kidlandia will need more funding to grow.

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Larry Dignan

Editor-in-Chief

Editor-in-Chief Larry Dignan is editor-in-chief of SmartPlanet and ZDNet. He is also editorial director of TechRepublic. Previously, he was an editor at eWeek, Baseline and CNET News. He has written for WallStreetWeek.com, Inter@ctive Week, New York Times and Financial Planning. He holds degrees from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and the University of Delaware. He is based in New York but resides in Pennsylvania. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure