Kathryn Tucker recalls the time she missed her daughter’s friend’s birthday party because she lost track of the information. It’s a thought the mother of two returned to when she developed RedRover, a social location-based network for parents, that helps them connect, plan play dates and discover new kid-friendly locations.
The service, which launched this week as an iOS app, speaks to the power of niche social networks that play to specific demographic and privacy needs. Unlike Twitter or Facebook, RedRover is designed for a smaller circle of users, whose lives often revolve around the schedules and movements of their kids. And unlike many location services which record where a user has been, much of RedRover’s power is in helping its members schedule and coordinate upcoming events.
Users who download the app are able to send out broad invitations to their collection of friends, alerting them they’ll be at a location at a specific time. Whoever can join is welcome. But users can narrow down events to a smaller group and can communicate just with those parents that are invited. Members are able to see all their future and past events on one continuous timeline, which helps parents remember where they’re going and who they’re meeting. When users are not meeting up, they can share information, tips and recommendations on nearby locations. Places are listed with two tabs for being kid-friendly and having bathrooms.
“Parents respond to this with hunger because this is such a huge pain point,” said Tucker, a former movie producer. “You spend so much time coordinating your children’s schedule and when you can cut out emails, phone calls and search, you free up so much time.”
RedRover also features local events through a partnership with TimeOut, which can serve as potential meet-up events for parents. And it includes an emergency button that allows parents to send their location to up to five people.
Altogether, it’s a simple idea, but one that might resonate with parents and caregivers. And it shows that even with the dominance of Facebook, one social network doesn’t fit all. As my colleague David Card pointed out, it makes sense for users to group themselves in several social networks as they do in real life. And he said Facebook’s efforts at specialization are still immature enough to open the door for smaller networks. And as Om talked about recently, communications are evolving toward more interactions, which allow users to share their location, information and communicate synchronously. It helps explain the growing popularity of group messaging apps like Beluga, GroupMe and others, which like RedRover, are more about sharing among a smaller group of people.
RedRover’s focus on being a more private network of parents will limit its growth potential. But it could also yield decent revenue opportunities by offering ads that are focused on parents. Tucker, however, said the business is still being worked out.
The New York-based start-up is funded by Stillwater LLC, which led a Series A round in July 2010. The story behind Tucker is also interesting. This is the first start-up for Tucker, the producer of The Station Agent and other movies. She fell into the New York entrepreneur scene after she considered making a romantic comedy about media consolidation and its effect on the Internet. In the course of her research, she became friends with Columbia professor and new FTC advisor Tim Wu and Foursquare founder Dennis Crowley. She later came up with the idea of a more private network that catered to people like her, a mother of two small children.
“A lot of moms use apps to keep their kids busy but they’re not using it in this way,” she said of Red Rover. “This is an underserved market.”
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