Running a family is similar to running a business with so many moving parts that need to be coordinated. Between dropping and pickups, drops offs, extracurriculars, appointments, playdates, it never ends. The key to manage the operations of your family is building a support network to help you out when you needed. NYC startup Winston helps you create this trusted community. It’s a technology-driven social network that connects families in neighborhoods with each other. The freemium app responds to the changing needs of millennial parents and is set to launch in 5 urban centers in the coming months. So whether you need a new carpool, an on the spot playdate, or a babysitter for date night, Winston has you and your family covered.
Tell us about Winston.
Winston is a family-to-family social network, or ‘virtual village’, of parents, family members, providers and other caregivers that are involved in the household chores and childcare activities. Winston’s mission is to help parents with young children do more with less effort by expanding their support system and automating how support is arranged. We are working aggressively to develop a ‘Smart Assist’ feature that will apply machine-learning and artificial intelligence to monitor, learn and proactively assist parents in leveraging their support system for daily household and childcare tasks. Currently, Winston is in Beta on iOS and Android and helps busy parents organize playdates without the hassle of calling, texting, emailing and coordinating among parents, nannies and other caregivers.
Currently parents don’t have a comprehensive tool that helps them manage, coordinate with, or expand their support system. Finding good, affordable help is a real challenge. As a parent, our first line of support is typically with family and friends because a) we trust them, and b) it’s the most economical solution. However, they aren’t always available so we get recommendations from friends for babysitters, dog walkers, therapists, etc. This is all done word of mouth. What we are doing is creating a platform where all of these connections and word of mouth recommendations are in one place. A place where parents can manage what’s on their “plates” so to speak. Then we are using AI to be able to pluck things off of their to-do list and find someone in their support system who can help them. There’s nothing like this available to parents right now. We believe parents could have a profoundly better quality of life if they could get consistent support in a simple guilt-free way.
What market are you attacking and how big is it?
We are looking at working millennial parents, with young children under the age of 12, living major urban centers. Over the next decade this group is expected to grow exponentially. There are 23.8 million households in the US with kids under 12 years old. 7.3 million are millennial parents living in urban centers. As most people are aware, millennials are avid consumers of technology spending 90+ hours per month using mobile apps. Over half of the millennial parents say juggling work, family and personal priorities is very challenging. We believe Winston is the next generation of software assistance that is the natural evolution millennials would expect and gravitate towards.
What is the business model?
Winston will be available through a tiered subscription mode.
For free: Parents can connect with their friends & family and be able to coordinate and arrange help with a couple of clicks.
$4.99 month: Parents get access to an expanded network of providers and recommendations from their peers as well as support for more common parenting tasks and activities.
$12.99 month: This is the Jetsons level where Winston is proactively trying to unburden the parents by looking for opportunities to unburden you and leverage your support system on your behalf.
What inspired Winston?
I am parent of a wonderful 9-year old boy. I was running a mobile user experience firm that I founded, Mobients, and was just completely overwhelmed. Something was always suffering either work, family or my personal life. I just thought why is this so hard? There has to be a better way. After talking to other parents, I realized I wasn’t alone. About 2 years ago I decided that this was a modern-day problem and that solving it would have hugely positive impacts on families, part-time workers, and even businesses. At that point, I began planning my exit from Mobients and looking for a co-founder.
What’s your user acquisition strategy?
In the initial phase, we are using highly targeted paid advertising, indirect marketing, and parent associations to reach parents in communities where offline relationships already exist. The idea is to create geographically dense pockets of connected families.
Families who join will be encouraged to grow their support system. The platform is tailored towards discovering new connections, importing connections from other locations, getting introductions, and broadening your support system. We plan on providing a loyalty program and gamifying aspects of growing one’s network.
What are the milestones that you plan to achieve within six months?
As I mentioned, we are currently in Beta. We are currently trying to raise a $500K Angel round of funding to get us through the next 12 months or so. Once we’ve secured funding we will hire a Marketer and a couple of additional engineers.
Over the next 6 months we will launch in 5 major urban centers. Our initial marketing efforts will focus on these markets. In each of these cities we plan to get some solid traction. More important though will be getting active users that are seeing real improvements in their lifestyles. To that end, we will continue to add tools and intelligence to Winston that will make it easier to manage and offload tasks.
We believe the most important thing we need to get right is that parents see a dramatic improvement in their quality of life. Once that’s established it’s off to the races.
What is the one piece of startup advice that you never got?
I’m still looking for that advice J. Seriously though, one thing that I didn’t realize when I first started a company was that success doesn’t happen overnight. In my earlier year’s I was pretty naïve about what it took to build and grow a company.
The other advice I knew of, but didn’t appreciate the importance of it, is to surround yourself with A-players. It’s so basic but so important.
If you could be put in touch with anyone in the New York community who would it be and why?
Wow, this is tough one. I think I would go with Neil Blumenthal and David Gilboa of Warby Parker. Even though they are a brick-n-mortar business, some of the ethos behind the scenes really resonates with me. The idea of good design, and doing social good, as being good for business, makes a lot of sense to me, and something I also want to see happen with Winston. I’d love to hear how they were able to follow that passion and not veer away when dealing with so many external pressures.
Why did you launch in New York?
New York is my home, and my family is here. I love being in a city where there is so much diversity of lifestyle, culture and thought. I want to build a business that understands that and has it in the DNA.
What’s your favorite restaurant in the city?
Mas Farmhouse in Greenwich Village is absolutely amazing! Anytime I want to go out to eat and be pampered I go there and do the 6-course chef’s menu. HIGHLY recommended.