You might think that launching a childcare business would require years of experience with kids.You would be wrong. Entrepreneurial brothers Nick and Anthony von Christierson, whom have banking backgrounds, have achieved success with parenting app Baby Bundle. More impressive still, the Brits took their venture to the US first ahead of launching in the UK. Having achieved success in America, the duo has now partnered with Mumsnet, which coincides with a $1.8m funding round, to launch the app on home soil. Real Business caught up with the Christiersons about the platform, which is set to launch in Germany and the Middle East with select partners following the UK, and the journey so far. What was the concept behind the business? The main concept behind Baby Bundle is making parents’ lives easier. Apps and smartphones are a relatively new phenomena but today’s new parent has at least four baby/parenting apps on their phone or tablet – all doing different things. Baby Bundle consolidates all the essential features into a one-stop platform that is underpinned by the knowledge and trust associated with our partner – in this case, Mumsnet in the UK. Do you have experience in childcare? The catch is that neither of us have children! Before embarking on the venture, we both used our prior banking experience to really map out the fragmented parenting app market. But interviewing over 500 parents in the UK and US in early 2013 was the most revealing to discover frustrations with current apps. Knowing parents’ needs led us to the concept of “bundling” all the essential features, however, neither of us were qualified to write any parenting or health content for the app. That is where Dr Jen (the “face” of the app in the US) was so important. Dr Jen is a very well-know paediatrician in New York and who we approached to fill that hole of knowledge we had at the time. She’s been on board since mid 2013 and has written all the content in the US app. As brothers, were other relatives consulted for insights to make it a true family business? 100 per cent. The target market for the app is expecting parents and new parents with babies of 0-2 years, so we cannot really relate to our childhood unfortunately, however, our sister has just had a baby and our mum came up with the name “Baby Bundle”. You’re a British company, so what made you launch in the US first? It was the fact that at the time, we needed an expert individual to not only provide good content and insights, but also go on and endorse the app. The notion of “celebrity doctors” is better received in the US than the UK, and Dr Jen has been fantastic throughout. Each region we enter, we ensure that the app is localised and tailored for that audience. What were the biggest challenges involved in tackling a foreign market? Time zones – being five-eight hours ahead can be challenging at times. Other than that, being a software product, development and management can be done from anywhere.
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Any standout differences between the way Brits and Americans operate? Parenting styles are so varied in general that it’s hard to opine on any standout differences between the UK and US, other than that the UK has a national healthcare system with most parents following the NHS’ “Red Book” to track their baby’s developments. In terms of resources for parents, the UK has a much higher concentration of established online resources that are go-to destinations for parents in search of answers and support. Mumsnet being the most prominent of them all here in the UK. Which demographics account for the highest usage on the app, in terms of age and so on? Naturally, first-time mothers are the biggest users of the app. We do not track the parents’ age, but learning from our focus groups, this certainly resonates with parents who use their phones and tablets for everyday life. You’re about to launch in the UK – why is now the right time to do that? In terms of a calendar year, the only obvious time to avoid launching a product is in the middle of summer. We’ve been developing Mumsnet Baby Bundle for six months and have always kept in mind that Apple tend to release their new mobile operating systems, iOS 9 in this case, in September – so having a bit of time to optimise and include new technology has worked well for us from a timing point of view. How did the partnership with Mumsnet come about, and what will it involve? A few months after our launch in the US, one of our developers met a Mumsnet team member at a conference and a few weeks later we were all in the same room. We have built the platform and ensured that it looks and feels exactly like a Mumsnet product to their existing users, which has taken a large amount of input from their side. Mumsnet will be promoting Mumsnet Baby Bundle as one of their own inside their ‘family of apps’. How closely are you working with Mumsnet founder Justine, and what have you learned from her? We work closely with Justine and all of her team heads. An app like this requires a lot of input from all sides. She herself is very likeable, approachable and obviously brilliant so we have a great relationship with her and everyone else at Mumsnet. We are in partnership with Mumsnet and collaborate on all consumer matters. You’ve raised $1.8m from a diverse group of investors – what was the thinking behind that geographical variety, and how did you achieve it? Our primary thinking was down to geographic expansion. Who can help us expand into new markets? We have investors located from Los Angeles to Singapore who are all individuals with different backgrounds, so we are really happy with our blend of shareholders. By Zen Terrelonge
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