It takes a village to raise a child — an Internet village, that is, according to Zoe Bermant, co-creator of a new Israeli-made app called KiddyUp. “There’s lots of information on the Internet there that moms can’t get to because they are strapped for time. They can’t spend hours doing research. And there are lots of things they would like to do or buy for their kids but can’t because they’re strapped for cash, and need help finding bargains,” said Bermant. “By bringing all the information, offers, and discounts relevant for moms in one place, KiddyUp makes it easier for moms to raise their families.”
If there’s any market that could be considered mature, it’s the one made up of young mothers of infants, toddlers, and early elementary-school age kids. It’s a demographic pounded day and night with media advertisements from diaper companies, toy manufacturers, cereal producers, and the many other industries that supply goods and services for babies and children. There’s plenty of mommy-baby action online as well; there are thousands of forums and chat groups where mothers can exchange tips, buy and sell baby buggies, swap recipes, and commiserate over how difficult it is, or how much they love, raising kids.
The thing is, said Bermant, there is no single marketplace that brings together all these elements. That’s the gap KiddyApp seeks to fill. “We have an app, and a web site, and a widget system for including our information on other sites,” Bermant said. “It’s the first overall information system that brings together diverse sources of information that will make it easier for parents to raise their kids.”
KiddyUp aims to gather offers and coupons from major manufacturers for products moms buy for their kids (diapers, clothing, school supplies, etc.), as well as from local businesses. The app has a Waze-like interface, reading the user’s location and showing the offers available in that area (on non-GPS chip-equipped devices, like computers, users will be able to input their location).
In addition, the app and site includes information on activities in the area, and provides a marketplace for parents to swap, buy and sell needed and unneeded items (like car safety seats a child has outgrown), along with the tip and chat forums where users can share and crowdsource helpful information. For example, said Bermant, if a mom sees that diapers are on sale at a certain store, they can inform other moms in the area with a single message (called a “toot,” said Bermant) that will show up not only in the KiddyUp community, but on the user’s registered social networks like Twitter and Facebook.
KiddyUp is not a “side hobby” for a stay-at-home mom; Bermant, who has two kids, researched the business case for KiddyUp thoroughly before embarking on the project, she said. “I really got the idea for it from a Facebook group that had 11,000 moms in it, where they could exchange information. But often people would try to sell things they no longer needed, like baby carriages — and the moderators would always tell them not to post those things, because ‘this wasn’t the place for it.’” Bermant checked out “mommy blogs,” travel sites, and online classified ad sites — and discovered that while there were plenty of resources available for moms online, there was no single address to access all the resources a mom would want to use. “We are that address,” Bermant declared.
And she wasn’t the only one frustrated with the way sites for moms conducted business. She met her partner, Charlotte Pickering, in a birthing class, “where we both had similar ideas on how to solve things.” That Bermant and Pickering were on the same wavelength was clear from the fact each of their first children were both born on the same day, she said (their second babies were due on the same day, Bermant added, but Pickering was “a couple of days late”).
Because “the tech world is tough for two moms to succeed in,” added Bermant, the company brought in Alex Zak, an ex-IDF intelligence and iOS specialist with experience in indoor mapping technologies — an important advantage for KiddyUp, which is likely to be used in its app form in malls and superstores, where GPS chips won’t work.
KiddyUp has been in the App Store (Android version to follow) for about a month, and already has a loyal following in the UK, where Bermant and Pickering decided to deploy initially. “We have 40,000 locations for shopping and outings in our UK database, and users are constantly adding information,” said Bermant. The next challenge, she said, is to expand outside the UK. “We want to try and expand into as many markets as possible so that people can use it on trips and vacations.”
As a crowdsourced information app, KiddyUp needs a crowd — a big one — to become really useful, and Bermant is working on strategies to accomplish this, she said. “Waze started somewhere, with the first few thousand users, and we’re starting too. We think this is an idea that could build a Waze-sized user base.”