Pod-Masters, Zoom-Bombing, and YC’s on a Fam-Tech Streak

It’s strange to imagine that when we first started the Fam-Tech Trend Report, we struggled to find enough exciting fam-tech news to fill a monthly report. Fast-forward a mere 4 months, and the premier startup event of the season -- the famous YC demo day -- featured not one or two but SEVEN emerging fam-tech companies among its hallowed few. Meanwhile, the pandemic continues to surface new crises for families that literally can ONLY be solved with technology -- from the logistics of forming a learning pod to a spate of online class sessions being hacked and/or Zoom-bombed with racism and porn. Add to that the $222.8 million in funding nabbed by ed-tech startups this month alone, and the picture is complete. The family tech revolution is upon us.

Welcome to your monthly Family Tech Trend Report, brought to you by Nanno.

YC is on a Fam-Tech Streak

Like every other tech startup, we spend YC demo-day week poring over TechCrunch’s amazing rundown of the companies pitching at the event (this year virtual). This year, for the first time, alongside the usual parade of developer tools and Uber/Shopify/Sunbasket for India/Africa/LatAm, we found a welcome surprise: seven newly anointed fam-tech darlings! Here’s our rundown:

  • Together Video Chat: Books and games for kids + video chat, so kids can read and play with distant family and friends. (Looks like pretty much the exact same thing as Caribu, but that’s ok -- competition validates the market, right?)
  • Mozper: A debit card for kids in Latin America. (Can’t wait for them to come to the U.S.!)
  • Hellosaurus: An interactive, video-based learning platform for kids. Three cheers for gameschooling!
  • ZipSchool: A platform that offers video classes for kids, via Zoom. (I signed my daughters up to learn how to draw a cartoon elephant next Tuesday. I’ll let you know how it goes.)
  • Tappity: A science-focused, ad-free video learning app for kids.
  • Hannah Life Technologies: A mysterious device that can be used during sex to help couples conceive. No peek at what this thing looks like. (The suspense is killing me!)
  • Ilk: A pandemic-focused platform for helping families form learning pods and find teachers to lead them. (More on this one in a minute.)

Pods, Pods, Everywhere It’s Pods

A somewhat surprising number of special-purpose startups have popped up in recent months to help parents form these elusive learning pods everyone’s talking about. (ICYMI, “learning pods” or “micro-schools” are basically nanny shares for older kids, where like-minded parents band together to co-host pop-up daycare / schools, sometimes with babysitters, caregivers, nannies or professional educators guiding them, sometimes led by the parents in shifts.) The logistical challenges of pod-finding are no joke, and technology truly is necessary to make it work. The question is, is there a sustainable, long-term business here? Or even a revenue model at all?

  • Ilk - Essentially a nanny-share platform for older kids. Cost: Unknown  (maybe free?)
  • SchoolHouse - Billed as a full school replacement. Cost: $9,418 per student per semester.
  • CareVillage - Focused on pod formation and resource sharing (not so much teacher/sitter-sourcing). Cost: Unknown (maybe free?)
  • Learning Pods - A highly managed approach to pod creation. Cost: $15/hour/child.
  • Selected for Families - This one focuses solely on sourcing professional educators to lead pods -- babysitters need not apply. Cost: Hourly fees negotiated with the educator. There is also a platform fee, but you have to get pretty far along in the booking process before you find out what it is.
  • WEEKDAYS - Focused on building micro-schools led by professional educators. Cost: 10% of the price paid by successfully formed schools.

For our part, we tested this market at Nanno, with StayCare, our temporary pod-matching product connecting parents with potential podmates and babysitters, and determined that pod-matching is unlikely to be something parents are willing to pay much (if anything) for, even in these desperate times. So, rather than risk being perceived as pandemic profiteers, we decided to give access to our StayCare platform away for free, to support parents and caregivers during these crazy times. Obviously there are plenty of companies that reached a different conclusion. We’ll be watching to see how they work out.

Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)

As the first season of online distance learning sweeps public schools nationwide, a new threat has emerged -- beyond the child care crisis suffered by parents and the dramatic educational and socialization losses suffered by school kids. At the risk of sounding like a doomscroller, it turns out there’s yet another big problem with online classrooms: hackers. Though there has been little national coverage of the issue, there have already been several local reports of zoom-bombing of online classes.

  • On the first day of virtual school, 5th and 6th graders at a California elementary school were zoom-bombed with pornography. (Ashley Ludwig, Patch)
  • A middle school in Arizona was zoom-bombed with a sexually explicit video, when a hacker created a fake email address and duped the teacher into letting him in. (Zach Crenshaw, ABC 15)
  • School officials from North Carolina districts have reported incidents of zoom-bombing where a person who popped up in the class screamed obscenities or made vulgar gestures. (Tanya Mendis, WCNC)
  • In San Antonio, TX, a high-school class was Zoom-bombed with 40 minutes of racist and sexist photos. (Meghan Roos, Newsweek)

Why anyone would spend their time Zoom-bombing kids is beyond me, but with so many instances in such a short period, we have to anticipate that this is a real thing -- and likely a good market opportunity for enterprising cybersecurity experts.

Also On Our Radar

  • According to a recent column in the WSJ, parents are increasingly relying on tech tools to increase their kids’ productivity. If you ask me, it’s about time! (Julie Jargon, The Wall Street Journal)
  • Family health startup Maven joined forces with Brown University economist and parenting author Emily Oster to develop the COVID Child Care Decision Tool, an evidence-based tool to help patients assess the risks and benefits of different school and child care options. (Heather Landi, FIERCE Healthcare)
  • Google Assistant rolled out a new tool called Family Bell to help families track their school schedules. (Tanishka Sodhi, Gadgets 360)

Fam-Tech Funding Notes

  • Lambda School raised $74M for its virtual coding school (Ingrid Lunden, TechCrunch)
  • Online learning platform Skillshare raised a $66M Series D (Christine Hall, Crunchbase News)
  • Educational tutoring company GoPeer closed $2.3 million seed round (Dan Anderson, Pulse 2.0)
  • Juni Learning announced its $10.5M Series A (Natasha Mascarenhas, TechCrunch)
  • Online learning platform Course Hero raised an $80M Series B (Natasha Mascarenhas, TechCrunch)

The Family Tech Trends Report is brought to you by Nanno, the first on-demand child care app that lets parents book high quality sitters and nannies on demand. We are to babysitting what Uber and Lyft are to transportation. We make it quick and easy to find and book an amazing sitter, so parents can live their lives (personally and professionally) knowing their kids are well cared for. Because we’re a family tech company and the market category is fairly new, we spend a LOT of time looking at what other companies in this space are doing. Since we’re doing all that work anyway, we thought we’d share it with you.

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About Liz Oertle
Denver, CO
Liz Oertle is the CEO and co-founder of Nanno. A recovering attorney and mother of two, she is passionate about helping parents connect with high quality childcare on demand.