Tuesday, March 3, 2015
How Momstamp Is Creating A Referral Network For Moms
Story by Benjamin F. Kuo
If you are a mother, and you need some help with something--say, finding a tutor, or a referral to a service provider--the age-old way to do that is to ask your friends for referrals. However, that process really hasn't taken advantage of today's mobile, always-connected, socially networked world. Los Angeles-based startup Momstamp (www.momstamp.com) is hoping to change that with its service, which connects mothers with friends, friends-of-friends, and beyond, to personal referrals and recommendations. Staci Miller, one of the three co-founders of Momstamp, sat down with us to talk about the idea behind the startup, how it managed to get some high profile funding from investors such as Brian Lee of The Honest Company/ Bam Ventures, Adam Miller, CEO of Cornerstone OnDemand, and artists Shepard and Amanda Fairey; and how it hopes to help mothers everywhere take advantage of technology to improve how they manage their lives and the lives of their children.
What's the idea behind Momstamp?
Staci Miller: The idea we like to compare it to, is Angie's List and Yelp meets Facebook. It's a way for moms and parents to leverage their friends, and friends of friends, and their extended friends network, to get help they need, doing the things they need for their children, and their family in their daily lives. It's a way to find service provider recommendations in a quick and easy way, from people they trust, rather than just strangers. It also provides a very simple project management utility, for moms and parents planning events, or figuring out summer camp, or doing a home remodel. It's meant to help moms get stuff done quickly, by leveraging their network.
Why did you start the company?
Staci Miller: I have two other cofounders, Paulette Light and Julie Hermelin, and we have ten kids between us, between the ages of five and sixteen. We've known each other for years. Paulette and I came from a more traditional business background, and Julie from a creative background. As our kids started to get older, we noticed that we were managing their lives in a pretty inefficient way. When they were babies and toddlers, there were all of these Mom's groups and things you participated in, because those needs are pretty universal--finding a pediatrician, a music class, or whatever that might be. But, as your kids get older, those needs become really much more specific to your child. For example, you might have a child with celiac disease or severe food allergies. I don't have anyone else who has faced that in my friend circle, nor did I know where to look. Each of us had a epiphany moments like that. We were finding that we were all using these very old fashioned mechanisms to share information about managing ourselves and our kids and our families, and that we weren't taking advantage of the huge explosion in things like social networks and the utility behind those networks, which were not touching how we were parenting. We decided there was a big problem here to solve, and we think we bring a very particular voice to this market, because we are the target market ourselves, and we decided to tackle that problem.
What's your background, and that of your founders, and how did you put the technology and business aspects of this business together?
Staci Miller: Paulette and I both have traditional business backgrounds. I ran operations, strategy, sales, and technology for the online division of Warner Bros. I also had a background from McKinsey and Company in consulting. Paulette has a similar background in consulting and has started a number of entrepreneurial ventures, including starting a nanny agency a few years abck. I've had a lot of good experience in managing things, including in the technology area, and the two of us had the entrepreneurial side coming into the venture. I think, what we were in the process of creating really resonated with a lot of people. We were able to get Brian Lee, who is an early investor from The Honest Company, and were able to raise some seed financing based on the feedback of lots of people who were also parents. They got the concept. We would have loved to bring on a developer form day one, but since we didn't have that expertise we initially brought in a shop to build out our initial platform. However, although I hadn't worked specifically on the technology end, at Warner Bros. I had overseen and managed that function. That's how it all came together.
Speaking of investors, talk about how you managed to get those high profile investors on board?
Staci Miller: As I mentioned, Brian Lee came in through his venture fund, and he has been in this space with The Honest Company. One of the most interesting things to Brian about what we were doing, was the market around school age children and parenting is very fragmented, for lots of the reasons I said earlier. There are things on Facbeook, and email and parenting listservs, and obviously some discrete websites focused around specific verticals like babysitting or caregiving. Trying to figure out how to have a conversation with moms as their kids get older was really compelling fro Brian, given his background at The Honest Company. The value proposition for parents who have babies and small children is a very different proposition when you have two, three, or four kids. Becoming part of that conversation was really interesting from him. The Faireys have two young, school age girls, and after an introduction to them, they really just got it as parents. They're helping us quite a bit on o ur outreach, helping us on the creative side and on the aesthetics. Adam Miller, for full disclosure, is my husband, which has been very helpful, particularly on the technology side. He's been helping us make sure we are allocating our technology resources in a way that makes sense for the product.
It's interesting to hear about you and Adam--has it been difficult for the family having two parents who are entrepreneurs?
Staci Miller: All three of us, as cofounders, had taken a step off of the traditional career path, for a variety of reasons, before we started out here. For me, after I left Warner Bros., I wound up working for three days a week for small and medium companies, doing corporate and business development. When this came together, we said--we don't want to just pay lip service to doing things differently. We all had already taken a step off the traditional path, and we had figured out we still really want to be involved in our kids' lives, on a day-to-day basis. So, we created this very interesting, working model. As much as possible, we are still mothers, and try to get as much done before 3pm, pick up our kids from school, and in that three to six o'clock window, do homework with them and so on, but go back to work again when the kids go to sleep. Having two entrepreneurs in my family has really been fine, because we're trying to create this different model, of a women-run business, to make it receptive to the whole reason we started this to begin with, and to be true to our step off the traditional path that we began with.
So tell us, where is Momstamp now?
Staci Miller: We are starting off in the LA market. We just put a beta version forth in the past month or so, and we just went out more widely in the LA market last week. The platform actually works anywhere in the country, but LA is just the market we're focusing on as our initial proof point. Once we do that, we plan to slowly start putting this into other cities, as well. From the technology standpoint, right now, mobile is a critical piece of our efforts. Although the site works well on mobile devices, we're looking to optimize the workflow on mobile devices. One super exciting thing, which goes up against conventional wisdom, is we're finding that moms are very excited to make recommendations to help out other moms. We thought that might not be the case, that if someone asks for something, and if they weren't a friend or friend-of-a-friend, they might make a recommendation--but we find they still make recommendations really quickly. Everyone told us, only a very small percentage of people would be interested in making recommendations, but we're not finding that is the case. Our users are really interested and excited, and can't wait to make recommendations to other moms. We've been very encouraged by how well that has started off. We're so passionate about this, because we felt this has been missing in our own lives. Myself, since we have gone live, I have already found two service providers on Momstamp, which I have hired and used. I keep hearing those stories from other people as well, which as been very encouraging.
Thanks, and good luck!