Monitoring your kids on the internet and on their mobile phone can be a sticky issue. Every parent wants to know that their children are being safe and that they are safe, everywhere they go and no matter what they are doing. Parents in this day and age have a lot more to watch out for than even 10 years ago. Child predators, cyber-bullying, texting and driving are all real problems facing parents and kids but privacy can be almost as sensitive.
Tampa Bay startup MamaBear has come up a mobile app that allows parents to monitor as much or as little as they want to on their child’s mobile phone. The first step though is the acknowledgement the app gets from the monitored phone (the child’s). Parents download the MamaBear app to their smartphone and then on their child’s phone. The child then checks in, both acknowledging the app is on their phone and letting their parents know where they are.
Parents can monitor locations, texts, social media, and more. In fact, MamaBear app also provides a list of words that could indicate the child is doing something that’s at risk or that they’re being cyber bullied.
MamaBear evolved out of a location based company that was working on providing businesses with location based business intelligence. One of the co-founders, Stuart Kime got into a conversation with a parent who had told him that her full time job was monitoring her kids’ social media pages. Kime along with his co-founders were able to come up with an app that gave parents a piece of mind all the way around.
We got a chance to interview Robyn Spoto, co-founder and company President. Check out the interview with her below:
What is Mamabear?
The MamaBear App is a tool parents can use to monitor their children’s social media activity, location and driving speed. Parents spend more than 8 hours a day worrying about their kids. Information from the MamaBear app can ease some of that anxiety, simplify technology and put only the information they care to know in the palm of their hands.
In layman’s terms, how does it work? (In other words how would you explain it to your grandmother)
1. A parent downloads MamaBear on their phone, creates an account and adds their children to the account.
2. The child downloads MamaBear and logs in with their phone number. The child sees three safety buttons – check in, come get me and emergency.
3. Once the child successfully logs in from their phone, the parent can set up alerts.
- Location alerts include letting parents know when their child isn’t at school or soccer practice during designated hours or visits a “restricted place” the parent sets up.
- Social media monitoring includes facebook and instragram and can notify parents when their child makes a new friends, follows someone new, uploads a photo, is tagged in a photo, message or at a location. Parents can also set up a restricted words list to be alerted to use of inappropriate language or words that may indicate bullying.
- Driving speed monitoring allows a parent to set up a speed limit they’d like to be notified if their child exceeds.
Parents choose the information they want to know and get alerts right to their phone. They can also see their child on a map including recent location stops as well.
Who are the founders and what are their backgrounds?
Steve MacDonald – Founder.
Steve MacDonald is a serial success story and multi-year recipient of the Inc. 5000 award. Steve started his healthcare career with PMSI in 1990, eventually serving as General Manager and Director of Chronic and Catastrophic Care. Early on, he saw the potential of the future digital revolution and left to co-found TechHealth, a national PPO of Ancillary healthcare providers. Well received in the market, he left to create myMatrixx, a completely paperless pharmacy benefits manager at a time when many corporations were still sharing email addresses. Both have been tremendously successful. His business endeavors have created hundreds of jobs for the Tampa community and earned him recognition from national media outlets including CNN, USA Today, LA Times and the Washington Post.
Steve’s initiative and acumen are also evident in his personal pursuits. He is an avid triathlete, fisherman and skier and has competed in races and tournaments around the globe, including a marathon in Antarctica. He also travels extensively to volunteer and advise freshman entrepreneurs in emerging markets including Africa and Asia.
Graduating from Duke in 2000, he started his full time career at Verizon Telecommunications Services Inc (currently Syniverse Technologies). Within 6 months he identified some technical deficiencies and convinced senior management to give him a month to create an entirely new way to rate and clear wholesale telecommunication transactions including Voice, SMS, WIFI, and International Roaming. In 2001, at age 23 his invention of the Event Manager platform saved $7 million a year in hardware and licensing fees and processed 2.5 million transactions per day within the first 12 months. Today, it processes over 1 billion per day (yes, it has definitely seen your phone).
At 25, he left to join his next door neighbor, Steve MacDonald, at myMatrixx. The myMatrixx platform is comprehensive and provided Stuart with an opportunity to diversify his technical expertise by creating in-house CRM, Accounting, Provisioning, Document Management, Network Management and Contract Management in addition to completing 400+ EDI implementations using dozens of languages and transmission protocols. Since Stuart and Steve met, myMatrixx has grown 2000%.
His pursuit of understanding how everything works is evident in his personal life. He is an ardent reader, specifically of behavioral economics, philosophy, economics, and astrophysics. He is a active hunter, fisherman, skier and scratch golfer (at least until Mamabear was created). He lives with his wife and 5 children in Austin, TX (okay, so maybe he doesn’t understand how everything works).
Tom Cardy – Co-founder
Mr. Cardy brings an extensive background as a senior financial executive and advisor to fast growing public and privately-held firms, as well as private equity and investment firms. Tom supports Mamabear’s finance, legal and capital market activities.
Tom also serves as Vice Chairman of myMatrixx a leading technology-enabled pharmacy and ancillary benefits manager. He is a previous board member of Emporion Inc., a provider of Saas supply chain service to the utility and manufacturing industries. He has served as Executive Vice President and CFO of publicly traded on-line travel pioneer Preview Travel, and as CFO and COO of Communications Equity Associates, a media and entertainment focused investment bank with operations in the US, Europe and Asia. Tom also has 20 plus years experience providing investment banking and financial advisory services to middle market firms, most recently as a Managing Director with Tampa based Hyde Park Capital. He began his career and spent 11 years in the audit and tax practice at Arthur Andersen & Co.
Cardy is a Certified Public Accountant and graduated with high honors from the University of Florida. He is a member of the American and Florida Institutes of Certified Public Accountants, the Financial Executives Institute and the Association for Corporate Growth, and is an active angel investor. Tom serves on the Board of Directors of the Tampa Bay Chapter of ACG, the Executive Committee of Tampa Bay Technology Forum’s Emerging Companies Network and the Board of Directors of Florida’s New World Angels.
Robyn Spoto, President
Robyn is a bona fide MamaBear with two curious, active boys. Teaming up with her husband to instill confidence, respect, hard work and a positive attitude, she’s passionate about giving her kids lesson-filled life experiences, while keeping them consistently safe and happy.
Professionally, Robyn is an experienced digital marketer with a successful career in media and marketing since 1998. At MamaBear, she’s focused on introducing MamaBear to parents, delivering a superb product with clear value and building an exceptional team. She also leads MamaBear’s sister company geoMOFO as VP of Business Development, enhancing mobile experiences for consumers through utilization of location data for businesses.
Previously, Robyn held the role of Marketing Director, Digital Media at the Florida Communications Group (TBO.com, The Tampa Tribune and WFLA), where she kept all three properties ranked #1 as Tampa Bay’s top preferences for news and information on Web and mobile platforms. During her tenure at FCG, she filled additional roles, including Director of Results with WFLA, and Real Estate Account Specialist at The Tampa Tribune.
Prior to FCG, Robyn worked with Garcia Media, an international information design company, as Operations Director, overseeing 5 years of profitable growth and propelling Garcia’s reputation to “guru” status. Before Garcia Media, Robyn was the Marketing Manager for the Ybor City Chamber of Commerce and an interactive sales representative at WFTS, Tampa’s ABC network affiliate.
A proud Tampa native, Robyn holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in mass communication with a specialization in advertising from the University of South Florida. She earned her MBA from the University of Tampa.
Where are you based?
Most of us are in Tampa, FL. Austin and Atlanta, too.
What’s the startup scene/culture like where you’re based?
It’s active with a good number of tech organizations and many planned events and discussions for start ups. The University of South Florida also contributes to the environment with Entrepreneurship and Innovation programs. Our local and regional organizations seem to work well together supporting each other’s efforts including Gazelle Lab, Startup Florida, Florida Venture Forum, Florida High Tech Corridor and the Tampa Bay Technology Forum.
How did you come up with the idea for Mamabear?
We were working on location technology meant more for business intelligence through app environments. geoMOFO is our first company providing knowledge to businesses based on their customer’s real-world activities. It gives insight into customer loyalty to your business locations as well as others. Then allows businesses to segment their audience and target messages to their segments more appropriately.
While on vacation, Stuart, one of our co-founders had a conversation with a parent that said her full-time job was checking out her kid’s social media pages. He empathized with five kids of his own. The rest of the team are all parents too and realized the combination of location knowledge and social media monitoring could really save us all some time and worry.
We got in a room of erase-marker painted walls and drew screens, erased, re-drew screens until we were all satisfied. That’s when the real work began.
How did you come up with the name?
It was the first name idea Steve, our founder threw out over our brainstorming lunch. We all looked at him for a few seconds, didn’t say a word and never looked back. It’s how we all feel as parents when it comes to protecting our children. It’s our job to keep them safe. I love it when people tell us that’s what their families call them – MamaBear. We all have some MamaBear in us.
What problem does Mamabear solve?
MamaBear can simply give parents peace of mind knowing their children’s location. MamaBear gives parents knowledge about their kid’s daily activities that they may not have known otherwise creating relevant conversations about safety and consequences. MamaBear saves parents time from manually checking in on social media sites and sends alerts right to their phones.
- Parents worry an average of 8 hours a day about their kids
- Our kids are spending an average of 50 hours a week on social media sites, meeting new people and in some cases having conversations with complete strangers.
- Teenage smartphone phone use is growing at 50% a year for tweens/teens http://www.comscoredatamine.com/2011/09/u-s-smartphone-audience-growth-by-age-segment/
- One in four 9 yr olds have a facebook account though COPPA tries to enforce age 13
- Many social sites are extremely public revealing personal information about our children.
- Social spaces are being highly adopted by teens – ask.fm, snapchat, instagram, FB . . .
- auto crashes are the leading cause of death among teens. http://www.allstate.com/tools-and-resources/safe-driving-resources.aspx
What’s your secret sauce?
Our team shares a few core behaviors:
We are extremely open-minded and listen with intent. 2. We consume customer data daily and adjust communication or product based on the data. 3. We have a common vision of worry-free parenting with a mission to create tools that provide parents a peace of mind while giving children needed freedom. Our core values are safety, family, trust, empathy and privacy.
Are you bootstrapped or funded?
What is your goto market strategy?
We’ve launched in BETA for free with marketing support in Tampa. We listen, observe data and adjust with frequent releases. Our targeted marketing mix of mostly digital tactics, conservative mass media and some local guerrilla approaches are giving us insight and the formula we need before taking our message to other markets and before introducing our subscription model.
Who are some of your mentors and business role models?
Professionally – Steve MacDonald, MamaBear Founder. He knows how to ask the perfect question that you will answer yourself about any contemplation or problem to be solved. We call him the “tuning fork.” He has an amazing business sense. I have a ton to learn from him.
Personally – my mom defines parenting with pure selflessness. I have a ton to learn from her.
In a general business sense I enjoy keeping up on Marissa Mayer, Arianna Huffington and Oprah Winfrey.
What’s next for Mamabear?
More parents with the MamaBear safety net, more kids safely enjoying technology and enhancements to the app and new products focused on worry-free parenting.
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