The art of parenting seems like it used to be a lot more laissez-faire than what it’s become. From planning playdates to organising extracurricular activities to keeping up with what goes on at school, parents are now more involved in a child’s life than ever thanks to a range of technologies that keep them constantly connected to other parents, teachers, and their child themselves.
Melbourne startup Kizkaz is the latest to enter the parenting space. The startup has created two products; the first is an app for mothers, helping them organise activities, find recipes, shop, and communicate with other mothers. It includes Genie, an on-demand personal assistant, to help them do research and make bookings, as well as a Childcare feed, which connects to the second product, Kizkaz Observation. Observation is a platform for childcare centres, allowing centres to keep track of forms, plan their days, and take pictures, videos, and notes about kids to share with parents.
Kizkaz founder Sean Guo came up with the idea after months of dropping off and picking up his daughter from childcare. He realised that he had no idea what she got up to while she was there and, speaking to other parents, heard that they didn’t know about their kids either. And so he came up with Kizkaz Observation.
From that came the Kizkaz app for parents, aimed at stay at home and working mums with children under the age of 15.
“Finding things for their kids to do, new recipes and keeping in touch with childcare are important issues that mums are faced with on a daily basis. At the moment there is no good solution for mums on each of these issues. They either need to Google it themselves, or go to a number of different websites and apps and do their own research,” Guo said.
Guo soon brought on first employees Alec Jiang, Jasmine Elias, and Jason Zhao, who have worked to make the lives of mothers easier by aggregating all the content they could possibly want into one app and building a platform for them to share this content with their friends. The Kizkaz app covers child-friendly events and activities, split across ‘Top Picks’, a selection of events curated by the Kizkaz team, and a ‘What’s On’ list that covers all events, sorted by location. Further research and bookings can be made through the Genie function.
However, perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of the app is its social media or chat component. Like Facebook Messenger or Whatsapp, it supports group and one-on-one chats, taking the chat at the school gates online.
“We found a lot of parents don’t want to add new parents they meet to their Facebook, as it’s ‘too personal’. Instead, they can add and chat to their friends on Kizkaz without worrying about their history. Users can easily send each other ‘playground’, ‘event’ or ‘recipe’ cards directly in a conversation,” Guo said.
Guo said 50 childcare centres were pitched the alpha version of the Observation app, with three agreeing to test it and then becoming customers. As well as connecting educators with parents, the app aims to help educators be more productive through features including a built-in Early Years Learning Framework, learning outcome summaries. Since inception, over 25,000 photos, videos, and learning stories have been shared through the app.
The startup raised a seed round in July from two angel investors, including Peng Xiao, CEO of Chinese events and activity platform Wanzhoumo.com. He has since been advising the business. The funding has gone primarily to product and content development, with minimal spending on marketing. Still, Guo said Kizkaz has amassed a “small but active” user base around Melbourne, with 78 percent of users visiting the app monthly, and 55 percent using it weekly.
Word of mouth driven by mothers has spurred the growth of countless businesses, so it’s easy to see it becoming a big factor here, and it’s something that the startup will be looking to leverage in order to monetise its apps. Kizkaz is determined to keep both Kizkaz Observation and the Genie service free for parents and childcare centres; as such, its long term goal is to allow users to share and recommend partner products or services with friends through its chat service.
“We are also trying to design an awarding system to motivate users to share products or services by giving them a share of the revenue. We believe the future of shopping is a balance of social media and word of mouth as means to help businesses reach customers exponentially,” Guo said.
There are a number of platforms in the market that play in the same sort of space as Kizkaz in one way or another; for example, Eventbrite in the event space, a whole host of on-demand personal assistants, and Kinderloop and Parent Paperwork for connecting parents to educators, albeit to varying degrees. However, Guo believes Kizkaz is the only one to combine them all and link them with rich content. What’s more, the beauty of Kizkaz Observation is that it is getting parents onto the app when their children are very young; developing new features that attend to the needs of both the parents and kids as the kids grow could ensure years of use.
The team is focused on validating new ideas in Melbourne, with a view to expanding its existing services to Sydney and other capital cities early next year. They will also be looking to raise further funding over the next few months.
Image: Jasmine Elias, Jason Zhao, and Sean Guo. Source: Supplied.