This is guest article from Pavel Bains of Vancouver startup StoryPanda. Pavel attended 500 Startups' MamaBear Family Tech Conference last week in Silicon Valley and filed this report upon his return.
Last Friday, we attended the MamaBear Family Tech Conference. It was produced by 500 Startups, one of the most active investors in family tech. It was an eventful day, as you had startups, thought leaders, and kids media companies like Disney and Sesame Street explore how new technology will influence the family lifestyle.
The day started out really strong, with an excellent presentation by J. Allison Bryant from Playscience. A big takeaway was that when kids were asked if they had one extra hour of free time a day what would they do. The answer was they wanted to do things with their parents. Thus designing for collaborative play will be key for future products.
Kate Connally from Tadami and Jacob Klein from MotionMath focused on usability testing and design. Kate stressed live testing of your product with kids. Data analytics can do a lot, but with kids you will find out more by observing them. Jacob noted that when protoyping, you don’t need high end art. Kids are more concerned with if it’s fun or not.
Ecomom’s Jody Sherman talked about his personal trials and tribulations of the past year. What was supposed to be their biggest sales day ever turned into a disaster as their e-commerce site went down on Black Friday. Jody mitigated the impact by writing a personal apology on the ecomom Facebook page, and then him and his team proceeded to take orders over the phone. This honest and personal touch got them a lot of brownie points as more moms began recommending their service and engaging in their community site. When targeting families, it’s clear that trust is a major influencer in purchasing decisions.
A key demographic people miss are grandparents. They are becoming some of the most active users on the web as they love the new technologies that allow them to keep in touch with their grandkids. Some companies design portions of their sites just to make things easier for this group.
Easily the most inspiring talk was from LeVar Burton of ReadingRainbow fame. Remember him? He talked about how it is our duty as entrepreneurs to take the lead and do something good to encourage reading. His passion shone through and he got everybody to sing the theme of Reading Rainbow together.
For a first-time event, MamaBear was a success. We learned how big the market is and how we can influence it. For me the lasting impression came from LeVar: “All technology is educational. The question is, what are we teaching?"