LinkedIn for Moms

November 13, 2008

LinkedIn stands apart from all the other big social networking names.  While it is built around networking in the purest sense, its value is the tangible benefit it provides its users in their day-to-day business lives.  Social networks that go beyond “social” offer compelling value.

SchoolPulse is doing the same thing, but for a different audience.  We offer parents – especially mothers – the ability to streamline hectic schedules and simplify communication in their day-to-day family lives.  Moms in America shoulder the responsibility for shepherding their children through a maze of educational activities (academic, social, athletic, musical…) and more often than not, they get lost in that maze.  Think about all the information flows that mothers manage:  flyers coming home in back packs, emails and phone calls from troop leaders, coaches, faith-based organizations, conversations at school drop-off and pick-up… The list goes on and on.  Technologists call this “unstructured data” and it’s a bear to manage.  We think SchoolPulse is the best way to manage it.

We just fielded a survey of some of our members, and here’s what we learned:

  • 39% spend 30 minutes or more every day organizing their kids’ activities
  • 73% have never used a social networking site
  • 47% rely on email to manage group calendars and events
  • 86% would recommend SchoolPulse to others

These numbers add up to a huge opportunity to simplify life for parents, with the indirect but immensely important benefit of reducing stress on American kids.

It took LinkedIn five years to become a household name in the business community.  Over the next five years, I want SchoolPulse to become a household name among American families.

Daring Dads to Get Involved

September 16, 2008

The PTA is the domain of the mothers.  Based on my own experience and observations, fathers have a much easier time getting involved with their kids’ extracurricular activites — coaching is the most common, and other activities like scouting coming in a distant second.  This summer, I did some informal research, asking our friends how they get involved.  Nearly all — at least 90% — of the moms I asked (most of whom do not work full time outside the home) are active members of their schools’ PTAs or volunteer regularly in the classroom as room parents, event organizers, and field trip chaperones.  I could not find a single dad who claimed membership in his local PTA.

Last week, I gave a presentation on SchoolPulse to an auditorium full of room parents.  Of the 50 parents present, only 1 was male.  I know the fathers care about their kids just as much as the mothers, and I know the fathers care deeply about the schools their kids attends, and yet they aren’t involved in school-based activities.  Why not?

  • Perception.  There is a broad perception that moms and PTAs go together.  Can you name a single PTA where fathers make up more than 5% of the active parents?  I’d like to hear about it.
  • Company.  The dads like to be involved in activities with other dads.  I think that’s one reason that coaching is such an easy choice for dads.  Even in girls sports, dads are heavily represented as coaches.
  • Time.  I think that a lot of PTA-related work happens during the work day, giving a lot of us dads an easy out.  “We have to earn a buck — how can we possibly get involved?”

I’d like to find a way to get more dads involved.  Can you imagine how cool it would be if more of us played a part in our local PTAs?  I think the moms would welcome the help, both because it would relieve some of the burden (we know that recruiting volunteers is always a challenge) and it would create more opportunities to do things together, as a couple and as families  I also think the kids would welcome it, and it would provide a good opportunity to show our children that dads can be involved, too.

Let’s break down the barriers that inhibit the involvement of dads.  It’s going to take a few daring dads in each school community to get the ball rolling — some real trailblazers — and I really think it can be done.  Here are a few ideas to help you get the ball rolling; ideas that I am going to pursue in my kids’ elementary school.

  • Recruit 3-5 other dads who would like to be involved but don’t know where to start.  I’m going to call mine a “support group” that will meet monthly, providing dads the chance to get to know other dads over a few beers.  We might even play poker or go to baseball games together.  Women have book groups — why shouldn’t men have support groups?
  • Schedule a kickoff meeting at a local watering hole.  Make it social, invite a bunch of fathers, and spend a few minutes (and only a few minutes!) at the beginning explaining the concept without being too heavy handed about it.
  • Work with the PTA moms to find ways to put this new “support group” to work.  I hope the dads will respond to the opportunity to provide the “man”ual labor before and after PTA-sponsored social events, carnivals, science nights, and holiday celebrations

My hope is that by offering an opportunity to socialize with other dads under the banner of providing a resource for their kids, other dads like me will respond.  Who knows… we may be able to start a revolution!

LinkedIn — I Called It!

June 17, 2008

Well, I didn’t call it exactly, but I did post on my love for LinkedIn and I suspect others might have caught the bug as a result (-;

Happy ManNobody is going to be surprised that top shelf investors seized the opportunity to put some money to work inside LinkedIn, nor will they be surprised that LinkedIn, though profitable, is taking capital to further propel its growth.

What will certainly surprise the skeptics is the $1 billion valuation — at a time when the bloom seemed to be off the valuation rose for social networking sites. I saw someone quoted recently (on Techcrunch? Can’t remember) that Facebook is not worth the$240 million investment Microsoft made in Facebook. The 1.6% stake Microsoft bought valued Facebook at a cool $15 billion.

I have no trouble with the LinkedIn valuation because they are doing what comparatively few other sites are doing: Delivering real value to their audience. The value per member — approximately $44 assuming 23 million members — is not out of line with other deals we have seen in the social networking space. Forrester’s Charlene Li blogged on this in March, quoting the NewsCorp/MySpace deal in 2005 at $27.62/user and the AOL/Bebo sale earlier this year at $21.25/member. In my opinion, LinkedIn has two significant advantages that justify the premium valuation: A more attractive demographic and a value proposition that its members will pay for. Bain Capital must see that.

The audience is the source of value, and companies that can attract and engage the right audiences will find numerous ways to capitalize. It’s early days for social media monetization.

I said in my April post here that if LinkedIn “came to me tomorrow and said I have to pay to maintain the relationship, I’d do it in an instant.” The valuation set by Bain Capital and its supporting cast suggests there are a lot of others that share my enthusiasm!

My Love Affair with LinkedIn

April 29, 2008

While the world frets about social media monetization (certainly a long-term challenge for the industry), I am getting great, real world value out of a number of social sites. Here’s the history of my growing love affair with LinkedIn.

I set up my account on LinkedIn sometime in 2006 and paid very little attention for a long time. I wouldn’t even call it dating, just a casual connection. I have been very careful to only connect with people I know well. Around the time that my network eased through the 100 person threshold, our relationship really took off.

  • I found our VP of Community after spending $125 for a job posting. I received more than 70 qualified resumes in the space of two weeks. Who needs Monster?
  • I used the Q&A service to locate a free compensation study that has been incredibly helpful in structuring compensation policy at SchoolPulse.
  • My connections have provided helpful feedback as we have played with designs and features for our site. I was surprised to learn that Google is far and away the most popular online calendar with my network.
  • Just tonight I asked my network for introductions to reputable mailing list brokers and yet again, LinkedIn came through.

I’ve fallen in love with LinkedIn because she is making a my real life richer.  I now have 228 solid connections (and I look somewhat skeptically at those super users with 500+ contacts — can they really know them all?).  If I had to quantify the value I’ve gotten (for free, no less) it would easily be in the thousands of dollars. If LinkedIn came to me tomorrow and said I have to pay to maintain the relationship, I’d do it in an instant. Sad to think that I’d pay for love, but in this case, I would.