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Child friendly Instagram rival plans aggressive U.S. market push

OSLO (Reuters) - Kuddle, a Norwegian picture sharing app designed for children and billing itself as a rival to Instagram could have one million users by the end of the year and plans an aggressive push into the U.S. market, its chief executive said on Tuesday.

Kuddle, which raised $2 million in funding recently and is in the process of raising another $8 million, is now hiring staff in Silicon Valley and has already rolled out the app in 9 languages with further versions in the works to meet unexpectedly strong demand, it said.

Kuddle, which launched this month, lets parents monitor what their children publish and keeps access to content restricted, preventing strangers from seeing and sharing pictures. There are no hashtags or comments to prevent online bullying and "likes" are anonymous.

Most of the app's users are based in Norway and the U.S. but the firm has also recorded significant growth in countries like India and Saudi Arabia, prompting developers to speed up work on new language versions.

"We are very happy with the growth so far. We have had an average daily growth of 10 to 15 percent and the uptake has been great," founder and chairwoman Kathryn Baker told Reuters.

Kuddle itself is free and the company expects to generate revenue from an upcoming in-app store, selling safe mobile devices from some of the leading global brands, combined with child friendly data packages from mobile phone operators.

"We are in negotiations with two major international device producers right now and we are also in talks with several major European operators for a safe Kuddle mobile phone subscription where parents have more control over their children's data usage," CEO Ole Vidar Hestaas said.

The firm's investors include Norwegian golfer Suzann Pettersen and the firm has also recorded interest from some major U.S. and European venture capital funds.

(Reporting by Joachim Dagenborg; Editing by Balazs Koranyi)

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