Introduce us to you/the team/your company, and give us the classic elevator pitch. (Also include a picture of yourself/the team.
With weeSpring, we set out to simplify one of the most overwhelming challenges out there: preparing for parenthood. New and expecting parents spend more than $5,000 on products they've never used before, from brands they've never heard of. weeSpring helps them collect advice from their friends - using Facebook Connect - about what they need for their family. For brands, we're harnessing the power of word-of-mouth recommendations, giving their most passionate customers a megaphone to tell their friends why they love their products.
Before my MBA, I ran political campaigns, and at weeSpring, we're making use the same grassroots, peer-to-peer strategy. I also have an MFA in writing from Columbia, so I'm comfortable driving content on the site.
Where did you get the name?
People ask us all the time how we came up with the name weeSpring. At Columbia, I took a class called Advertising, Branding, and Creativity, and we covered "systematic creativity," which sounded like an oxymoron to me. It's basically the old go-to of brainstorming, but with more structure-and a lot of the ad campaigns you know and love were developed using this method.
You start by coming up with a list of all the things you want people to associate with your brand. For us, it was babies, community, and advice. Then you exhaustively list every word you'd associate with each one; you can start from a thesaurus, but you also want to include the more free-flowing ideas. We had hundreds of words, and they were all over the map.
Then, you start to hone in... Look for interesting or surprising combinations. We loved that wee was a homonym for both little and community. Spring came from offspring, but it also connoted beginnings - and the two together happened to be available as a domain name.
Have you launched yet? If not, what are the launch plans?
We went live with the site in January, 2013 and have doubled in registered users every quarter. Today, we have more than 65,000 product ratings on the site, and on individual products, we have more than Diapers.com and BuyBuyBaby combined. In October, we collected new ratings on top products at 3x the rate of Amazon.
Tell us a little more about who you're serving, and how you're reaching your target consumer.
weeSpring is delivering a true social shopping experience to users, allowing them to collect and organize trusted advice about what they need for their baby. We're taking new and expecting parents' existing low-tech behaviors-making Excel spreadsheets to keep track of the essentials, or dragging their best friend to BuyBuyBaby to help them register-and making them digital. We're disrupting planning for parenthood by making it simple, social, and fun... and we're growing with our user base into the categories they care about, from toys and books to apps and travel.
One important goal with weeSpring is to change the way brands engage with their consumers. We've created a platform that not only engages a highly-valued target demographic - new and expecting parents - but also provides novel opportunities for brands to interact with those consumers and amplify natural word-of-mouth marketing around their products.
Where did you get the idea for this?
When I was pregnant with my son, I walked into a Babies 'R' Us for the first time and promptly burst into tears. I looked at this sea of products I knew nothing about and saw a metaphor for how unprepared I was to be a parent.
So I started sending emails to my friends and asking, "Which car seat do I buy?" and "What's the difference between all these baby bottles?"
What I got back were these really intense Excel spreadsheets-it turned out that all my friends, when they were expecting, had had a pretty similar experience, and they started using Excel spreadsheets and Word documents and these long email files to keep track of everything. After they had their baby, they updated and annotated that list with all their comments and recommendations, and then sent it out to their friends who were expecting.
As a parent, I saw this really complicated process and thought, "There's got to be a better way." But I'd also done an MBA at Columbia, and thinking about it from a business perspective, I saw there was so much potential in this behavior. Because all these brands have a very, very short window of time in which to reach their customer, these social referrals are obviously incredibly powerful, and there's no way to harness it. These conversations are happening over coffee or via text message or in these spreadsheets, but there wasn't really any way to amplify or empower these conversations.
So we set out to solve two problems: the first being the problem of the parent who doesn't know how to make decisions about the products they need, and the second is for the baby brand that needs to identify and reach its target customer.
The baby business is incredibly fragmented, with very little consolidation to date. A lot of the brands out there were started by parents who set out to solve their own problems and are now doing between $5 and $50 million in revenue. They're reasonably small companies that don't have a huge marketing staff. They're not able to do tons of focus groups, so we're trying to deliver great consumer insights while also helping them with social referrals that are so valuable because, like I said, the window of opportunity to reach a customer for baby products is really short.
What are some of the big obstacles you're facing, or have faced?
Like most tech start-ups, recruiting, developing, supporting, and retaining top technical talent is a major challenge for us.
Which resources have been most helpful to you?
We participated in both TechStars and Springboard, two accelerators that help entrepreneurs rapidly grow their businesses through intense mentorship. TechStars currently has applications open for the 2014 class (deadline December 31), and I can't recommend it strongly enough; it was transformative for weeSpring. Springboard has been helping women entrepreneurs build strong networks for more than 10 years, and the women entrepreneurship community, while small, is particularly mighty. Alexandra Wilkis Wilson, co-founder of Gilt, is on our advisory board, and Carley Roney from the XO Group moved mountains-on very short notice-to attend our TechStars Demo Day and introduced me in front of an audience of 500 investors. I've been very lucky to have access to a pool of women who are dedicated to "paying it forward," and I do everything I can to do the same.
How can people contact you? (email address, website, blog, etc)
You can find us at weeSpring.com, and my personal email is firstname.lastname@example.org. We're always looking for parents (and parents-to-be) who want to be beta-testers for new features!
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