Poppy founder creates ‘Milo,’ a new software tool to help manage ‘the most important team’ — family – GeekWire
Two years after shutting down her technology-powered child care startup Poppy, Avni Patel Thompson is still on a mission to develop the tools and software to help families.
Patel Thompson and her new startup Modern Village have reached a milestone in that mission with the creation of their first product, Milo, a combination between a family operating system and an SMS assistant designed to lighten the load during heavy times. The tool manages a family calendar and emails and offers up expert recommendations to help make planning easier.
“What we’ve found is that parents need power productivity tools to manage the complexity of school, activities, etc., but don’t want to feel like they’re using project management software at home,” Patel Thompson said. “At the same time, they love the lightness and ease of having an assistant that they don’t have to manage.”
Patel Thompson has spent several years on the front lines trying to figure out what parents need. She ultimately found herself in the thick of needing her own product as she and her husband were both running companies and they were juggling the demands of kids, remote learning and child care.
After getting Modern Village up and running at the end of last year, she was once again accepted into the Silicon Valley accelerator Y Combinator in January. A beta for Milo launched just as the first wave of COVID-19 was arriving in the U.S.
For the past several months, a team of six split between Seattle and Vancouver, B.C., where Patel Thompson now lives, has worked on Milo for a small but dedicated group of beta users. The wait list, which had grown to 2,200 families, is just now being opened up.
“[The pandemic] kind of provided perfect, if painful, inspiration, to figure out how software can move the needle in this space,” Patel Thompson said, adding that parents are being asked to do superhuman things and that the conversation ends up revolving around which partner is or isn’t doing enough.
“For me, where I come into this conversation, I don’t think technology is doing enough,” Patel Thompson said. “I mean, the last time that we’ve had massive technical innovation is what, the dishwasher, the microwave, for women … to free up their productivity?”
After tackling on-demand child care with Poppy, in which she connected parents with vetted care givers, Patel Thompson was interested this time in having software that could take on what she calls “the invisible load.” This load is generally carried by women, involves managing the most important team — family — and involves three vital roles:
- A database that stores all vital information: What are the kids’ shoe sizes? What’s the plumber’s phone number?
- A project manager who manages everything: Where’s the Zoom link for this class? What’s for dinner?
- A chief memory maker who coordinates the fun, the vacations, the social activities.
In a busy household with two working parents, Patel Thompson didn’t want to be the single point of contact or failure for all of that stuff.
“That for me was the first place to start,” she said. “I want it out of my brain and into someplace that anybody could access.”
The plan is for Milo’s collaboration and coordination to work at three levels: between the people in your household; among a couple of families in your community; and to benefit from the wisdom of the extended village, through an upcoming shared-space feature called Circles.
Patel Thompson said she now relies on Milo for such things as meal planning and storing what she refers to as “the plays” of the week as if she’s a quarterback managing a game.
“If it’s a Tuesday morning and one kid has to bring a Viola and the other kid has to bring library books, I don’t store that in my head. Milo just tells us the rundown for the day,” Patel Thompson said.
Milo costs $15 a month for full functionality, including a dashboard and the full SMS assistant. A free version offers up tips and suggestions via SMS without the calendar/productivity aspect.
Modern Village is the latest tech startup looking to help parents manage during the pandemic, especially as child care and remote learning become such a huge task to manage for working parents.
“There is an opportunity, and frankly a need, to be innovating and building in this space,” Patel Thompson told GeekWire back in May. “Otherwise, it’s not going to be pretty.”
Patel Thompson doesn’t think anyone else is coming at the problem in quite the same way as Milo, and figures her biggest competition is Google Workplace — formerly known as G Suite — where people coordinate calendars, docs, sheets and more.
Poppy raised more than $2 million and facilitated 36,000 bookings between thousands of families and caregivers over three years before Patel Thompson determined that the company was unable to find a scalable business model. Modern Village has so far raised about $1 million in pre-seed funding.
Patel Thompson said that Poppy had slower measured growth but had off the charts retention and engagement.
“Milo is no different,” she said. “But in a way that can scale to quite literally millions of families.”