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A former Nokia Oyj engineer is building a private social network in China where children share art projects online with parents or grandparents. Japan’s phone and Internet giant Softbank Corp. is betting he’ll succeed.

SmarTots, Jesper Lodahl’s Beijing-based startup, began offering mobile education applications for kids from age 2 to 7 through Apple Inc.’s China iTunes store in June. Designed as a game center for app developers, this month it’s adding functions to allow parents to “like” or comment on projects in a layout similar to Facebook Inc.’s site, Lodahl said.

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