St. Paul native Matthew Mogol is shown in an undated photo with his  3-year-old daughter Penelope. Mogol invented Kid Lid laptop-keyboard shields to keep

 

Like many parents, Matthew Mogol wants his 3-year-old daughter Penelope to become familiar with laptop computers; she has limited use of them for watching educational videos and video chatting with grandma.

But after the bubbly kid banged on the keyboard, causing running apps to close, and pried loose some of the keys, creating a choking hazard, Mogol opted not to curtail her notebook  use. He came up with a different solution.

Mogol designed a hard-plastic keyboard cover with a slot that fits around the upright screen, and an elastic strap that wraps around the bottom of the PC to keep the cover in place. The shiny cover became a tray table for Penelope’s snacks as she watched her videos.

Mogol’s “kid lid” invention was designed just for himself. But he said he was continually approached by quizzical people in airports as the traveled with Penelope. It dawned on him that he might have a viable commercial product.

And he was right.

Mogol, a St. Paul native recently transplanted to suburban New York, now has a refined version of the Kid Lid in Staples stores. The PC accessory is due to pop up in about 200 Target stores in the coming weeks, he said.

Mogol has broadened his product line, too. The rigid Kid Lid has a more-flexible sibling that folds up for transport and gives parents easier access to notebook trackpads during kid-computing sessions.

Now the entrepreneur, who used to work in business development at the Minneapolis-based Space150 advertising agency, has targeted the iPhone.

Mogol is preparing to release a variation of the Kid Lid for Apple’s current-model iPhone 6 and the soon-to-be-released iPhone 6s.

This accessory looks like other iPhone cases but has a unique feature: The bottom of the case covers the Home button, which will keep kids away from delicate phone functions. That lower portion of the case can be detached, flipped around and reattached to work like a conventional iPhone case, too.

Mogol expects the phone accessory to be released in November, in time for holiday shipping.

SEEDS OF ENTREPRENEURSHIP

Mogol runs his startup, Mogolo, out of his Sag Harbor, N.Y., home while also operating as a stay-at-home dad. This can make for a crazy existence even though he shares custody with Penelope’s mother.

He works in spurts early in the morning, before Penelope awakens, and late at night, which is the right time to deal with his contract manufacturer in China. Penelope is now in preschool, which affords him a mid-day lull, and he gets assists from other relatives.

Still, “You have to be really efficient with your time,” said Mogol during a recent phone interview as Penelope played loudly in the background.

Mogolo is his only source of income so, he says, “it has to work.”

As a dad, he said the Kid Lid has allowed him to strike a careful balance with Penelope now that his fear of computer damage is no longer a factor.

“It allowed me to put Penny in front of the computer and pay attention to her a little bit, but without standing over her,” he said. “She is almost working, like Mom and Dad. It is empowering for her.”

Mogol grew up in St. Paul’s Highland Park neighborhood and still has work ties with the Twin Cities — Mogolo’s contract marketers are in Minneapolis.

Mogolo got its start as a 2014 Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign that raised $18,006, just over the $17,500 pledge goal, and was selected as a Kickstarter “staff pick.” That occurred after Mogol moved to New York state.

The cash infusion helped Mogol polish the product, which began as a Lucite sign-store remnant that a friend laser-cut for him to produce the signature Kid Lid design. Mogol said he has patented the design.

The original, white Kid Lid is available in variations for 13- and 15-inch laptops at about $30. The newer, folding Kid Lid in the two sizes runs about $40 and is available in black or red.

Mogol didn’t originally mean to create two Kid Lid variations but realized there’s a place for both designs. The rigid Kid Lid is best for home use, while the folding version is ideal for travelers, he said.

Mogol expects the iPhone variation of the Kid Lid to retail for roughly $30 in black, gray or light blue.