Mothers are one of the most powerful groups around. Consumer products companies have understood this for years, and everything from peanut butter to men’s underwear is advertised to moms, because they control the lion’s share of household spending
But in technology, men still rule the roost. For the most part, technology is made by male entrepreneurs, largely for male users. According to The Financial Times, only 14% of investments made by venture capitalists in 2014 went to companies founded or co-founded by women. And that’s probably no surprise, since the venture capital community is overwhelmingly male. The result is that the technology that parents (usually moms) need to more effectively organize their families is woefully archaic.
But the tide is changing. More and more mothers, in Silicon Valley and elsewhere, are rising up to develop family technology solutions that fill this void.
Parent communication that’s easier to manage: As a mother of two, I felt overwhelmed by all the hodgepodge communication I was getting from my sons’ school. It seemed like nearly every day, I needed to sign a permission slip, make sure a library book was in the bag, or keep track of whether today is Pajama Day. There was a lot coming at me, and the guilt I felt when I forgot something was enormous. That’s why I founded SimplyCircle, to give parents one spot to organize all their kid-related events, tasks, and volunteer signups.
Clean closets & fundraise at the same time: Every mom knows that kids grow like weeds, and it seems like you’re always filling trash bags with too-small clothes, then figuring out where to bring them. Enter Schoola — founded by mom Stacey Boyd. With Schoola, you mail in your kids’ old clothes, then Schoola sells them, and your PTA gets 40% of the proceeds.
Babysitting search that feels safer: When searching for babysitting services, referrals are everything. That’s why UrbanSitter — founded by moms Lynn Perkins, Andrea Barrett and Daisy Downs — shows you babysitters who have been used and recommended by contacts on your social networks.
Making summer planning less painful: When school lets out, it’s a long summer if you don’t have camps planned. And if you’re a working mom, it’s absolutely impossible to keep working unless you line up a series of camps — which are usually only one week long each. That’s why ActivityHero — founded by moms Shilpa Dalmia and Peggy Chang — created a service to help parents easily book activities and summer camps.
Foster positive interactions and activities at home: As any parent can tell you, the days can be long when you’re at home and don’t have a plan on how to keep kids busy. The iPad is constantly beckoning, but what else can you do to keep kids busy in a productive way, preferably doing an activity where the parent can participate as well? Kiwi Crate — founded by mom Sandra Lin — invented monthly activity boxes by subscription, that help parents inspire their kids’ imaginations while keeping them off of Minecraft, at least for a little while.
Medical innovations for Dr. Mom: Eventually, all kids get sick — and inconveniently, they don’t all get sick during your pediatrician’s office hours. I’ve personally experienced the pain of having a sick, screaming child, and not knowing whether to drive to urgent care (and wait an hour or two to be seen) or just tough it out until morning. That’s why Amy Sheng of CellScope invented a smartphone attachment to help moms diagnose ear infections at home.
While more and more moms are developing solid solutions to family tech problems, huge voids still exist. Are you a mom who wants to start a company? Solve these problems, and I’ll be your first customer:
Better options for sick child care. There are few good solutions for what to do when your child is sick, but you still need to work. Solve this problem, and both parents and employers will thank you.
Better afterschool options. Many schools have afterschool programs for working parents, but oftentimes, these programs are too unstructured. If you’re a working mom who wants your child to participate in a variety of high-quality afterschool activities, it’s hard to do unless you hire a nanny to bring them to the events — which drives up your costs enormously. Why can’t someone make an afterschool program that brings a variety of activities right to the kids?
“Uber for kids.” While a few startups have come up to try to help move your kids around when you can’t, it’s still early times in this market, and it doesn’t seem like anyone has a huge lead here.
What ideas do you have for needs that family tech businesses could solve? I’d love to hear your comments.