If you're a parent, man or woman, Winnie going to be your favorite website. Anne (left) and Sara are changing the way you find kid friendly restaurants, changing tables and other parents full of help, advice and camaraderie.
I know you and I chatted briefly about this but why quit your amazing jobs and go out on a limb? What need did you see?
Anne - Getting parenting info online right now is like shopping online before Amazon. You're looking on a million different sites, you're not sure who to trust, none of it is personalized and the experience just sucks. It was actually a big culture shock for us as we became moms and realized first hand just how bad the status quo is — it shouldn't be that way in 2018. Compounding that is the fact that becoming a parent can be isolating — unless you already have a bunch of parents in your social circle, you're going to lose touch with some friends and probably have to dial back on hobbies as well. The network you had before becoming a parent may not be able to support you in your new role, and we wanted to build a platform where people can make new connections.
Tell me in your own words how Winne is solving those problems.
Anne - We're making the big aggregation play. We're trying to bring literally all parents, in all walks of life, with all ages of kids, onto one platform where they can share knowledge and help each other. This allows us to do SO many interesting things that wouldn't have been possible before. We can build the best resource in the world for parents, that reflects the infinite diversity of their problems and needs. We can literally map the world for parents, down to something as granular as where the nearest changing table is. We can also make it easier for other companies and businesses to build solutions for parents and kids, by making it easier and more efficient for them to get in front of the right audience.
Where did you two come from that powered this dream team of an ALL FEMALE ENGINEER COMPANY (celebrate!!!)?
Sara - We’re not all female. We're a women-led team and our Head of Engineering is also a woman. This was not by design but just how it worked out!
Anne - 4 out of 6 of us are female :) We have two male employees. But we are majority female, thanks to having two technical woman founders and access to some of the best talent from Reddit, Google YouTube, etc.
How does being parents add to your work and personal life?
I asked that because so many people ask the question how does being a parent "affect" your life. And to me this is a slightly negative connotation. As if children might hinder a career or our \social city lives. But I've seen a rise of women and men who make children work and personal life look like it truly all fits together. And I see your company vision as fitting into this. You're encouraging people to get OUT, meet people and engage is that right?
Anne - Right, we never wanted to build something like an addictive social app that just sucks up all your free time. Winnie isn't meant to be something you look at because you're bored and it becomes this lamprey on your attention. Parents don't need more of that. We want to empower people to get out their front door and have magical experiences with their children. We want Winnie to be that trusted network you can turn to when you're struggling and need advice. We think one of the reasons it seems so hard to have kids AND a life is that there are no good tools to help parents be more efficient. It's astonishing really — it's been decades since the majority of American households had a stay-at-home parent, yet the world is still designed for that. This is an area truly ripe for disruption.
Sara - Being parents is what made us realize that this was a huge need, and it also is what motivates us. We owe our success to our kids honestly (but don't tell them that). I also feel like being a mom is my superpower at work. It helps me prioritize what I do so that I'm always working on the most important stuff.
As far as having a life, we wanted with Winnie to give parents a tool so they could spend less time figuring stuff out and instead spend more quality time with their families. It's working! 90% of our active users reported that they actually visited a business or activity they were searching for on Winnie. We are enabling people to get out and do more in real life.
And what is happening at Winnie now? What are you working on?
Anne - A few months ago we launched a really magical daycare and preschool search, currently available in the Bay Area only (winnie.com/childcare). It was INCREDIBLY successful and it was immediately clear that we really hit on a major pain point for people, so we're now working on rolling it out in ALL 50 states... stay tuned for that later this month!
I'd be interested to know what kind of fears you had when you started compared to what kind of fears you have now? If any :)
Anne - At first I just needed to convince myself I could do it. I don't need convincing anymore. I've found things inside me I never knew were there and I truly believe we're the best people to solve this problem, and it's more important than ever for us to do it.
Sara - I am not afraid of anything. I have absolutely nothing to lose. Winnie didn't exist and I wanted it to exist so the worst that could happen is that it still wouldn't exist.
Any piece of advice you'd give our entrepreneurs out there of any genre teetering on starting a dream of their own?
Anne - Being a founder is an uncomfortable life. You know exactly what's going wrong in terrifying detail, and no one will pat you on the back or tell you what to do. It's stressful and can be very scary. But that discomfort is a symptom of real responsibility, and it's a responsibility that I'm incredibly grateful to have. Just like being a mother. No one is ever really ready for it, but you rise to the occasion somehow. You wouldn't trade it for anything in the world.
Sara - Starting a company is hard. Work on something you're passionate about because it will get you through the hard times. At the end of the day, Anne and I care deeply about is making parents' lives easier and remembering that mission helps us overcome all obstacles.
What time do you wake up in the morning?
Anne - 6 AM.
Sara - I usually wake up around 7:30am. That's "late" for a parent :-)
How much time do you spend working together?
Anne - About 8 hours per day in person, but we have a near-constant low-level background chatter in Slack. We're both moms so we aren't shy about messaging each other at all hours of the night.
Sara - I'm in the office for about 8-9 hours a day. It's really important to me that Winnie is a company where people don't need to be in the office at all hours of the day. I want my employees to have fulfilling lives outside of the office so they come into work refreshed, healthy and happy.
When you have an hour of personal time what are you doing?
Anne - Playing video games. I'm a supernerd and lifelong gamer. Lately I've been playing Elder Scrolls: Skyrim.
Sara - Spending time with my daughter exploring some place new. Maybe that doesn't count as "personal" time but she's my favorite person in the world and my best friend and I'd rather spend an extra hour with her than do anything else.
Any books or podcasts you can recommend our readers?
Anne - I really enjoy Exponent, Ben Thompson's podcast. Required listening for anyone working in tech.
Sara - Sarah Lacy's new book "A Uterus is a Feature, Not a Bug" is an awesome read. It's all about how women are actually more productive after they become moms. It really helps clear up a bunch of the misconceptions about motherhood.
Thank you ladies for allowing me into your lives and company!! One day I'll be a parent and thanks to Winnie I'll basically be set.
Summer Wilson - Creative Director and Photographer of Battle Cry
Photo by John Thatcher