No time off for busy parent entrepreneurs
Solve a problem that you have. That’s usually good advice to first-time entrepreneurs. And that’s exactly what Angela Conley and Chaz Giles did – they founded MomTrusted because THEY NEEDED CHILDCARE!
With two young children, the couple was shocked by the lack of information about childcare and preschool. Chaz tells me, “I realized that I could find out more about a phone I’m buying or a movie on Netflix than I could about the person I was giving my child to.” And other parents felt the same way, when Chaz and Angela approached their friends. That was just the beginning of the idea…
The problem. The whole early childhood education thing beckoned. The dearth of information was astounding. Chaz knew that they could use technology to solve the problem for parents and childcare facilities, for which every vacant seat meant losing money: “Today’s parent is very socially connected. So why was a decision this important being made in isolation? There was an opportunity to fill the hole in the market by connecting parents and early education and care providers in a better way. Angela started building a platform that uses social tools and behavioral algorithms to do exactly that.”
Background. MomTrusted started life in Cincinnati in 2010 but moved to Menlo Park a year later. The move wasn’t fully motivated by the business, but by a job where Chaz had the opportunity to be a VC for CitiVentures (CitiBank Strategic Ventures group) while they iterated on the mom trusted model. Chaz appreciated the experience but he knew he belonged on the other side of the table; “Like most entrepreneurs, I am a builder at heart.” Chaz had previous experience with big companies from his experience with Procter & Gamble, where he scaled a $B brand. But even there he gravitated to FutureWorks, a group that created new businesses. It was a great training ground, but Chaz knew that big companies weren’t for him and he recognized that his future lay with MomTrusted.
To get things going they put some of their own cash in the startup: “We were passionate about this as parents,” Angela explains. “And we just couldn’t figure out why someone hadn’t solved it. So we put our money where our mouth was!”
For parents like Angela and Chaz, the cost of childcare annually is close to $10K. But making the decision of where to send their kid, whom to trust in their home is a different story? Word of mouth is the best tool for parents and providers. MomTrusted offers parents detailed provider information and a social recommendation engine that helps them find providers they trust.
For providers from nannies to early child development centers, MomTrusted gives them technology to scale their word of mouth and acquire customers. It’s a win-win.
Growth. Chaz thinks that originating in the mid-West was a good thing: “We were able to stay under the radar and test our beta product easily. Through interacting with customers and lots of early iterations, we got to really understand how the market worked and how it flowed.”
Funding in the Midwest can be hard. Being in Silicon Valley makes it much easier to get funding, mentors, and adopters. They were also able to expand the team to include Max Hwang as VP of Engineering and Marc Reisen as UX Director. Recruiting was fun, Chaz tells me, because “Our model is tackling a problem that people can put their finger on. People want to work on meaningful innovation. Especially when they ask themselves what they really want to focus on and where can they make a real impact.” While Marc and Max don’t have kids, they see an opportunity to shape a child’s reality at the earliest years.
MomTrusted today. The company has several hundred thousand active users and has helped providers generate $30M in revenues across six major markets.
MomTrusted has raised a seed round of funding from a couple of seed stage funds and angels. Chaz is glad they were able to delay raising VC money. “VC money is great but it’s rocket fuel. You don’t put that in your spaceship until everything is bolted down.”
The team is using their cash to hire, improve the product, and deliver proof of concept of their full business model..They added to the team to get to the six core members and now they are adding to the product. Having rolled out in their markets the couple is focused on scaling and delivering.
While titles don’t mean much in a start up, Angela and Chaz have divided responsibilities. Angela is a behavioral scientist and self-taught geek, so she focuses heavily on product. Angela was really the driving force in moving from an idea to an in market product. Depending on the day, Chaz is focused on fund raising, business model development, or marketing. “Adding to the team has been great “ Angela says, “because now we have deep expertise across the critical areas.
Challenges. Chaz tells me that the first challenge was stepping over the cliff: “It’s great to have the great idea but the challenge is in the execution. You have to get very clear on what it is you want to drive towards. For me that entailed what I was willing to risk and what not. It’s scary.”
As a founding couple, there are some unique challenges. For Angela and Chaz “it was about identifying the risks and, just like investing, it’s knowing where you draw the line. For us we won’t compromise our children having a healthy future; because of that we’re more focused on filling a need and building something people want. Then we are truly building our children’s future,” Angela tells me.
MomTrusted faced and faces the usual technical, product and market adoption challenges. Plus putting together the right team and keeping them together and happy. And of course, entrepreneurship is a step onto the roller coaster; “You are super high one day and in despair the next. Maybe something isn’t working or you see changes in the market. You have to ride those out and manage that stress.”
The couple knows about work-life balance. After all, they are trying to make a better life for their family and lots of others too!