Welcoming Kinside to Initialized’s portfolio of companies supporting parents
Our children are our legacy. Yet when it comes to tech, there’s only legacy infrastructure to support our family life. What’s become clear in the last year is that Family Tech (“FamTech”) — the technology that helps parents navigate the new and ongoing challenges that come with having children and raising a family — is a massive investment opportunity.
Unfortunately, America is still not an easy place for working parents. Gender inequality persists in the workplace and at home with domestic responsibilities still largely falling on mothers. Paid parental leave is available to only 17 percent of U.S. workers (but we’re working on fixing that!), and child care can cost as much as college tuition. FamTech will not only create world-changing businesses, it will help strengthen the core of our society. Initialized is excited to be at the forefront of this, starting with investments in Kinside, The Mom Project, and Nara Baby, three companies with mom CEOs who were inspired by the births of their own children.
Kinside: Leveling the playing field with quality child care
From the mid-20th century until around the year 2000, women doubled their labor force participation in the United States. However, in the first two decades of the 21st century, that rate has plateaued or even declined. One big reason may be that even as workplaces have increasingly allowed flexible or even remote arrangements, working parents still need quality, affordable child care.
Some parents in expensive, competitive markets like San Francisco put their children on waiting lists for daycares and preschools as soon as they are conceived. I spent many precious hours researching, visiting, and applying for spots at preschools when I would rather have been reading to my little ones instead. Moreover, knowing that my kids are well taken care of enables me to have the peace of mind to devote myself to Initialized and our portfolio companies when I’m working. One-to-two-thirds of families struggle to find child care that meets their standards. It’s a real challenge to find a place that you can trust to leave your child all day and know that they will be attended to and safe.
The other barrier is cost. Parents spend up to 20 percent of their annual income on child care. It’s like paying for a college education, except families don’t have years of lead time to plan for it. Nobel Prize winning economist James Heckman argues that the United States may have educational policy backwards, with programs and spending back-loaded into adulthood during college instead of front-loaded into early childhood education, where the dollar-for-dollar impact on lifetime earnings may matter more.
While it may take years for U.S. policy to catch up with the level of support seen in other industrialized countries, employers are starting to realize that they must offer top-notch employee benefits if they want to attract and retain talent. That includes benefits that help employees secure child care. Filling this need is something that employers can easily draw a direct line to in terms of employee productivity. Employers are and should be offering employees the services of Kinside, launching out of beta in January 2020. Kinside connects working parents to a nationwide network of vetted daycares and preschools that fit family budgets, with technology to manage availability and a support team to help families through the process.
Shadiah Sigala, co-founder, CEO and mother of two, was at HoneyBook when she became pregnant with her first child. As a co-founder and one of the first parents there, she needed to create her company’s family leave policies. She discovered not a single available employer benefit that would help parents better access and afford child care, even though American businesses were losing $12.7 billion every year because of employee child care challenges. Initialized is excited to lead Kinside’s latest $4 million round of seed funding and we’re encouraged by the number of companies that have decided to offer Kinside to its employees since they started talking to companies earlier this year.
The Mom Project: Helping Parents Get Back to Work
As a mother of three with a demanding career, I know firsthand how productive working parents can be. I have not infrequently conducted conference calls with all of my kids in the car. I ply them with snacks, use the mute button generously, and make frantic hand gestures to get them to stop fighting.
I have always subscribed to the philosophy that if you want something done, give it to a busy person. So when I heard about The Mom Project I knew that it was solving several real needs for companies and families: A shortage of talented labor, a demand for flexible and project-based work arrangements, the increasing recognition of the need for programs that expand diverse and inclusive workplaces, and mothers and fathers wanting a spectrum of choices between the binary of staying at home or returning to the workforce full-time. A shocking 43% of women in America choose to leave the workforce for some extended time after becoming mothers. This represents a projected loss of $4.3 trillion in GDP. And women are more likely to adjust their careers for family.
I have been lucky enough to find a career that allows me to set my own hours and work remotely if I need to, and I believe that the American family would be stronger if others were afforded the same opportunity. It’s pretty clear that many moms want to work. Mothers are the primary breadwinners in four-in-ten U.S. families. My social circle is full of well-educated, brilliant women and men who have taken some time off to raise their kids and might prefer an arrangement that offers them the ability to have a career and spend quality time with their children. The Mom Project helps parents who might want more flexible work arrangements after having kids.
Allison Robinson, co-founder, CEO and mother of two, decided to start The Mom Project while on maternity leave from Procter & Gamble. Her mission is to create a future where women don’t have to choose between parenthood and their careers. With 200,000 talented professionals in its marketplace offering services to thousands of companies from Fortune 500 corporations to early-stage startups, she’s just getting started. The company even created ‘maternity-ships,’ or temporary placements for employees on maternity leave, so businesses can keep running and employees know they’ll have a job when they return.
Nara: Supporting Families From The Very Earliest Days
I’m not the only one at Initialized who has found great entrepreneurs in family tech. When Initialized managing partner Alexis Ohanian’s daughter was born and he was getting through the very first foggy, sleepless weeks and months, he thought — there must be a better way. He had just downloaded a half-dozen baby tracker apps at the hospital.
They were objectively terrible.
Back home, and as he was just finding his footing with feedings, diapers, and sleep — things doctors said were important to track for his baby in the early months, he lamented that the world-class software he was used to for sharing selfies and vacation photos didn’t exist for baby vitals. He wondered, “Why not create software to support new parents adjusting to one of their life’s biggest, and sometimes very challenging, milestones?” Providing a comforting and predictable routine is not just important for babies, but also for parents who are re-organizing their lives in a way they never have before.
That’s why Initialized backed Nara Baby. Esther Park is the founder and CEO of Nara Baby, which is named after her daughter. She was inspired to design Nara’s app because she hated the baby tracker she used when her baby was born, yet she was dependent on it. Nara’s tracker makes it easy to monitor everything from diaper changes to feedings to sleep, and seamlessly share this information with all of a baby’s caregivers, including moms, dads, extended families and other kinds of help. It supports parents adjusting to a new way of life together, and allows them to focus on other important things, like sleep.
We’re lucky to have three compelling companies in the space and are guided by the belief that FamTech is fundamentally about making families stronger and the future for our children safer.
Perhaps one day the United States will move toward universal child care. But in the meantime, we’re supporting companies that make up the difference, allowing parents to spend less time worrying and more time dedicated to their work and families.