Vested Capital
Vested Capital

Episode 21 · 1 year ago

(EP21): Sara Mauskopf, Co-Founder & CEO of Winnie.com, Childcare Provider Marketplace, Raises $15.5 Million In Funding

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Sara Mauskopf is the co-founder and CEO of Winnie.com, a marketplace platform that connects parents looking for childcare and preschool providers with over 250,000 centres around the USA.

To date, Sara and her team have raised $15.5 Million in venture funding over three rounds, with the most recent $9 million series being led by Rethink Impact

In this interview we first dive back into Sara's history as a math major, then moving over to computer science, which led her to a job at Google after graduation. She later left Google for Twitter, then left again to join Postmates, where she met her co-founder, Anne Halsall.

Sara and Anne were a little unique as working parents inside Postmates, and realized how difficult it was to juggle raising children and maintaining full time jobs. One of the challenges was childcare, an industry that was still driven mostly by a word-of-mouth for finding good options.

Sara breaks down all the steps from making the first version of their platform, how they built the supply side up, attracted parents to the site, raised funding and currently make money.

There's a lot to learn from Sara and she shares a lot of wisdom, so don't miss this one.

Enjoy the podcast.

Yaro

Podcast: https://www.yaro.blog/pod/
Blog: https://www.yaro.blog/ 

Hi there, this is Yarrow and welcome to vested capital, Episode Number Twenty One, featuring my guest Sarah Mouse cough, the founder of winniecom. Vested capital is a podcast about how people make money and put their capital to work. I interview start up founders, Angel investors, venture capitalist, Crypto and Stock Traders, real estate investors and leaders in technology. My guest today, Sarah, the cofounder of winniecom, is a daycare and preschool platform. So she built this company to connect parents who are looking for daycare with the daycare providers all around the United States at the moment, and I was a little surprised to hear that this is a marketplace that isn't really well served in terms of technical solution. So when he is blazing a path in this space, which is why it's also doing so well, it is a marketplace. So Sarah and her team have had to initially provide supply, which means getting all the necessary information about daycare and preschool providers around the country and then making sure that parents know this platform exists. So they're the obviously the users and potentially the buyers, although it remains free for parents, they're monetizing on the daycare and preschool provider side. Sarah Talks about the current monetization strategy. She talks about how they were able to build the first version and find information, basically create the first side of the platform, the supply side, and then how people are currently discovering it. Obviously searches a big deal, but it's becoming a brand. It's, you know, word of mouth. You go to Winnie to find what you need about daycare and preschool. It's really an amazing space to be in. I'm a little surprised how excited I got listening to her how she really is entering a market that is huge. I think about how many parents have children and then this decision they have to make about where to place their kids, possibly the first time ever, with strangers. It's their education. It's a big decision and it involves big money to this is not a small amount of money they spend. Sarah noted it's about fourteen thousand dollars a year, kind of for an entry level daycare preschool situation. It can be as much as triple that for the more expensive one. So it's a lot of money to be thinking about spending, and Winnie as well placed to help make that decision easier for parents. So really big mission and a really great interview. I love talking to Sarah because she talked about what it was like, first of all, coming up with their idea and where they focus on building and how they kind of zeroed in on this space that they're operating and now what it was like raising funding, how they did that, what they use the money for, both in the initial seed round of five hundred thousand roughly and the more recent round of nine million dollars. What it's been like raising that money. It's actually was a little bit more challenging than I expected it to be. I thought this was a no brainer because it's such a big market, but maybe I shouldn't be surprised with a lot of men being the one deciding about where to invest money and they're not the ones who have had the experience, possibly, with placing kids in day care and solving that problem. They didn't really understand the need, didn't see it as a big idea. So in fact, the most recent rays of nine million dollars was back by an all female lad an investment capital firm called rethink impact, so and that was their series a. That was just done recently as I record this interview with Sarah. So overall, really fun interview, Really Great Story. If you want to hear about building a two sided Marko Place, female founder, venture capital backed. All the cool things about startups are in this story and I'll know you'll love hearing from Sarah. And thank you, Sarah, for really being transparent and breaking down a lot of the behindthescenes things that you've done with your cofounder. And okay, before I hit the play button, as always, the sponsor for today's episode is my company Inbox Donecom. We provide a virtual executive assistant for CEOS, founders, leaders, professionals, anyone who's in a kind of a busy role and you need someone to step in and take over managing your email, replying to your messages,...

...dealing with your calendar, dealing with all those everyday tax that might come up as a result of your emails, to whether it's doing research on guests or people you're going to be meeting with, whether it's just research for anything kind of decisionmaking you're doing within your company or your role. Obviously it's the back and forwards with scheduling, it's dealing with all those everyday emails that you probably should not be dealing with, like newsletters, software updates, spam, questions that are not that important but still need to be answered, but not by you. All of that we take over. We assign you to dedicated people who have been specially trained with superior communication. More often than not US based. We do have some AUSI's, some Europeans, so we can cover different time zones, but we always focus on superior communication and we only hire about one percent of every thousand people who apply. And I'm not joking when I say that, because we do get somewhere between ten and forty applicants per day. So we're getting a lot of people applying, but only one percent of them roughly make it through our ten step hiring, vetting and testing and training process we put them through. That's what we bring to the table, where the hiring and testing department. So you don't have to do that, you don't have to source amazing people and we've always got your back. So if you need more dedicated virtual executive assistance, we can supply more as you grow, as you need more help, just head to inbox. DONECOM if you want freedom, if you want to get some more hours in your day because you're no longer doing those low level activities like email, like scheduling, like admin tasks. That's inbox. Donecom. Okay, that's it from me. Now we're going to begin today's interview with Sarah, the cofounder of winniecom. Sarah, thank you so much for joining me today. Thanks for having me. This is super exciting. So I'm looking forward to hearing about your company, winniecom. I'm going to that you describe what that is and how things are going. Maybe we can start with that. What exactly is Whinnie and you know where you at in terms of growing the start up? Yeah, so whinnie is a marketplace for childcare and education. We really got our start with daycare and preschool. We have over two hundred and fifty thousand licensed day cares and preschools on our platform. Parents come to Winnie and for free they can search and filter and find the day cares in preschools that meet their needs. So see things like prices and parent reviews and schedules and all this stuff that was just really hard to find on the Internet before. And, like you said, you can find us at whinniecom and we also have apps for iphone and android. Nice. So I know you've raised some capital. Actually really liked some of the titles the press you guys had when you raised your most recent round, like this from business inside or to pregnant co founders. Raised nine million for startup. That tackles a universal problem for millennial parents. So obviously you guys are venture backed. I think that's your second round of funding. Is that right? Well, depends how you cannot we raise like a quote presed round, then are seed round and then our series A. Okay, yeah, there's so many rounds nowadays. It's so many. Yeah, okay. Now the other thing. Obviously like to dive into your past and how Winnie was built. But even before that I was looking at your linkedin actually, and now I was like, you've got a bit of a WHO's who. You guys to youtube, Google and twitter in your background there on Linkedin. So you kind of really experienced some of the biggest companies. I'd love to like go back in time, maybe even start even before that. Where were you born and raised? I was born and raised in the suburbs of Philadelphia, so I am a philly girl at heart, which is what gives me my grit and I went to college at might and experience the cold weather of the Boston area, and so when I heard about this whole and I majored in computer science, which was the cool thing to do in Mt I was just trying to be cool and fit in all right. And...

...so, after experiencing four years of freezing cold weather, I heard that there were tech jobs in California and I didn't realize San Francisco was not like warm California. I thought it was like, Oh, Sunny San Francisco. So Google came to my campus and was hiring and I was like this sounds great, like I can move to California, I can be in this warm weather, and Google was like such a cool company to work for at the time. I'm sure still is, but this was, you know, back in two thousand and seven. So I took it. I went out to San Francisco. Yeah, who says no to Google? Right? So I'm curious. So even before you you started in college, were you a technical sort of person? Would you always interested in maybe programming language and things like that? I was always into math, but I had no idea what per gramming really was like. It wasn't taught at my school and no exposure to it. So when I went to college I thought I was going to be a math major and I actually started out as a math major and took a bunch of math classes, but at MIT was so collaborative. Everyone was like working on these like problems sets together, and I was like alone doing all my math problems. There was no none of my friends were math majors and I was like, I want to, I don't have friends and computer science it turned out I could use a lot of my math credits. It's obviously there's a lot of kind of theoretical computer science classes that are really just math classes, and so that's kind of how I got into it, but I'm super glad I did because I think opened up a lot of opportunity that would not have have been the same as a math major. Yeah, no doubt. It's funny math like I think of an academic career or teaching career, and then soon you just switch to computer science as suddenly, like anything and everything kind of opens up in terms of jobs. When you started with Google, do you get placed in a department? Because obviously Google is massive, even a two thousand and seven. That was fairly early, but they must have at least had, I don't know, obviously search and add words and maps and all these departments opening up. Did you get to choose one or did they place you somewhere? So I joined this like interesting rotation program that I don't think they actually have anymore. It was not the famous like Associate Product Manager Program it was this group called partner solutions, and basically it was like kind of the technical arm of the partnership's team. so as Google did a large partnership with an outside company, there would be lots of technical immigration work and product to build and that was where kind of this group played and so it was cool and that I got to kind of see both the business side of things and also build products. And that's where I kind of realized, especially as I rotated onto youtube, that I really like the product building part of it. That was really fun and exciting and working with like really smart engineers was awesome and I was like I want to try this product manager thing and started, you know, kind of looking at product manager jobs both inside Google and at other companies I was excited about and one one company I was super excited about was twitter, because those big user twitter at the time and that's how I wound up there. It's okay. Before we talk about twitter, I'm curious to when it comes to when you say product, like, obviously, as a startup founder, that I understand you. You have your own product. You're probably the one building the very first version of it and obviously I want to share that story with Whinnie. But when you jump into a place like Google, you're not suddenly responsible for an entire product yourself. Right. You join a team who might be working on the entire interface for Youtube, for example. How does it work when you transition from say, m MIT graduate then you slot into Google or Youtube? You know, the same place really and you are working on product. Do you like get told here your responsive for this little button on the Youtube player? Like how do you make that transition? Yeah, you know, it's been interesting. Like throughout my career I've joined smaller and smaller companies, ultimately my own, which...

...is the smallest, and not forlong though. Right, right, one day we will be bigger than Google. As you go to smaller and smaller companies, your scope obviously increases and you don't just get to control the color of a button but the entire product area feature. And however, there's tradeoffs and that you get a lot less help and you have to do a lot more yourself and don't have those amazing other team members to learn from. So I actually think, you know, starting my career at a company where there were really talented people to learn from and network with. These are people I still keep in touch with today, was super beneficial and I not to deter anyone from joining a startup right out of college, but I think I've learned a lot from being at a bigger company and kind of seeing the right way, but quote right way, to do things the big way. It was that scary. I can only imagine coming out of college and then suddenly you're in perhaps the most famous computer company in the world, just even thinking like am I going to be able to create what they need me to create? That would be my my fear, I guess. Yeah, I think it's a it was a really hard mindset shift for me to go from. In school you're told exactly what to do and how to get a good grade. You take these tests and you handed these assignments and then you get your a at the end of the day and when you're in a workplace, whether it's a big company or very small a company, you have to figure out what it is that you should really should be working on. No one really tells you necessarily what to do, how to spend every minute of your time, or even if you kind of have a general sense, they don't necessarily tell you how to get an AG doing it. So that was kind of a big shift and I had to make that shift again even starting my own company, where you get even less guidance and management or Autonomia to tell me with twitter, obviously Google's great. Twitter is great. Why was there a desire to switch companies? Yeah, I mean at the time twitter was not really great in terms of it wasn't really a known quantity. Back in two thousand and ten. When I joined for it had a lot of press and people talked about it, but when I told my parents they were like, are you crazy, you're joining for this startup like thing that doesn't really add any value to the world, like what is twitter doing to help people? And obviously, like no one says that. Now it's clear what an impact on society twitter has had, but at the time it was just seen as like a place to kind of put a status message and kind of like a joke. And so everyone thought I was crazy for leaving, you know, pretty established, big technology company for twitter, and in retrospect that was not so crazy and has paid off for me in many ways, and I think after that move I just gained a lot more confidence. A lot of times these bets don't work out, but to have my first one kind of work be like look, I joined this thing that wasn't anything and then became something really major and get to see the company Ipoh and grow just a massive amount. It gave me a lot of confidence to then take that to my next move and then ultimately my own company. Yeah, Nice. I can imagine your parents when they saw like the Arab revolution happening because of people twittering to, you know, organize meet up. So spen. Okay, this company did have an impact on society, but with twitter just quickly, you sounds like you were early enough. I'm always curious when you do get in as whatever it is, first ten, first twenty or something employees at a company that does have the success of twitter. Do you like I don't know if this your case, and you know, please help me if it is. But were you able to get enough early equity that you were very tied into the success of twitter for your your potential future net worthy even you like you know, you're thinking about this is my retirement money or this could be my house or...

...something like that. Will you tied in that way? So I joined around two hundred employees, which was still very early compared to where twitter is today, and I think that the thing I always tell people is like it's not really you can join a company as the second employee in that company could go nowhere. It's how you think the company could grow from when you join. You know, you could have joined stripe as the two hundredth employee and look at where stripe is to day. You be able to retire, and so it's like what is the company valued at today and where do you think it could be valued at? Is kind of the bet you're making. And then, of course, thinking about your equity. And I don't think I really prioritize that. It's like a young twenty something and you know, of course, hindsight is two thousand and twenty. But I was was like, oh, make a good salary, that'll be great. I can pay my rent. I wish and retrospect it had negotiated for more equity. But it was still a great learning experience to get to be at twitter through that phase and I think the most value I extracted was not the financial outcome, which could have obviously been a lot better, but was really the what I learned and the people I met along the way. Yeah, fair enough. Okay, it's funny. I now I feel like it's not obvious to me. It seems like it should be, but I am so immersed in the start out world that it's like, of course equity is a part of what you're thinking about as a new programmer employee at a text art up. But I realized too, if I think back to my s, I would not have been thinking about equity whatsoever. been just like, let's find a job at a company I want to work at, and that would have been about it. So I haven't really heard any anything entrepreneur yet in your life story so far with these first two companies. So you were very much programmer working for other companies. When did the inkling for I might want to do my own things start to, you know, bubble up in your brain? Yeah, and I was a product manager, so I was kind of even removed from the actual making of the product. In that way, like your little bit higher level in terms of your spending a lot of your time communicating internally and pitching stakeholders, not even getting to build the actual thing. I never had that entrepreneurial drive, like I am not the kid that had a lemonade stand or had some side business. I was always the type of person, and I still really am, that wanted to just execute on a thing and kind of achieve but I liked, you know, not a lot of ambiguity, just like knowing exactly what I had to do. So I never thought I would be an entrepreneur. I thought I would work through the ranks of a company and be a sea level executive someday, but not a CEO. And it really wasn't until I had my first daughter that I realized there was a huge opportunity to build something for parents and that I had worked with these amazing people throughout my career, solving really hard problems, really talented people, and none of those people were doing anything for parents. None of those people were making the most important thing that was top of mine to me any easier or better, and I saw that as both an opportunity and also like something. I felt if I didn't do this and I didn't work on this problem, like who would like? Here I was, I had a lot of privilege and talent and a network, and if I was like, Naw, I won't do it all, let someone else do it, I felt like no one would ever do it. And no one, you know, in the five and a half years of building, winning, still no one has done what we've built, no editors really. So I was right. No one would do this and we are. We are changing lives. So I'm glad I did and I think the impact we can have is still so much greater, but just seeing the impact we've had already, it is mind blowing. So...

...just to clarify that, like, obviously you have a child and there's a lot of problems, no doubt, when you have a child that you suddenly have never had to deal with before. Why did child care surface as the one you felt was the most desirable for you to even, you know, go after with the startup idea? Yeah, so it took us a while to figure out that child care was the thing we should be working on. We started winning and I met my cofounder while we were both working at postmates. We both had young children and my cofounder is extremely talented. She's a designer, an engineer, she's our head of product, she's like everything, and so I'd like kind of hooked up with this really talented person and I felt like wow, like I we should be doing something to help parents, and she felt the same way. But we didn't know what. We just knew like we could build a really talented team, we had the insight, we could fund raise, like we gotta do something here, but we had no idea and the first few things we tried did not work. They didn't have product market that we actually spent years iterating to get to where we are today. But ultimately what it came down to is like we can't really solve anything for parents unless we solve their most basic, fundamental need, which is the care and education of their children. Like there is absolutely nothing that trump's that like. If you cannot care and educate your kids, none of this other stuff matters. And so that was really a great starting point. And then the fact that literally no one was was operating the most part, or the incumbents were just so bad, so horrible that it certainly helped that it was just like this huge white space that we felt like we could tackle this and kind of gain traction pretty quickly. I tell I forgot to mention the postmates connection. From from twitter to postmates to now. We need just quickly. The reason you switch from twitter to postmates was again just wanting to be in a new, new, smaller company or so. I had spent four years a twitter and by that time had worked on a bunch of different areas the product and really wanted the experience of like building a team and working with a smaller team, being on the executive team at a company, and was able to kind of get that moving to a smaller company. And it was also postmates was a product I used a lot at the time and was important in my life, and I think that's kind of a has been a theme for me, like thing I work on has to be meaningful to my life and I kind of felt like I wanted to work on something that I was a big user of. I like the way you got this progression from Super Big Company, or recently big company at the time, Google, and slightly smaller start up twitter, and then even smaller postmates. It's almost like you're you're gaining skills and then you're also, because you're working in a smaller company, have more responsibility, more leadership, and then, of course, when you start your own thing, it's the ultimate in leadership and being in control, you mentioned before. So you're in postmates, you meet your cofounder, you realize she's super talented. Did it go like you both were pregnant around the same time and you both found yourself talking about the same sort of problem, because you did mention Whinnie's current iteration about childcare. Wasn't the first version? You had lots of things you played around with. Was that something you too did as like a side hustle while you're in postmate? So you did you fully quit and then raise money for an idea and then pivot to another one? How did it play out in the early days? Yeah, so, first of all I had just had my first daughter and she had two young children already. So when I came back to work after my brief maternity leave, I was like, Whoa, this is really fff and hard. It is hard to be a working parent and it has changed my life in these ways that I did not expect. I thought I would just pop out...

...this baby, get right back to work and like everything would be great. And suddenly my whole mindset shifted and what I cared about in life shifted and this child, my daughter, is more important to me than I expected. I'm more I thought about her more than I expected I would before having children and I still do today. So disrupting force. So we just kind of talked about parenting. I didn't know a lot of parents at the time. My friends didn't really have kids, and so we just kind of bonded over being parents and working in tech, being mothers. And when we decided it would be more meaningful in our lives to build something for parents, we realize like there was no side hustle. Like as a parent, your side Hustle is parent, has a working parent. There is no time for an additional side Hustle, at least not for us. And then also we wanted to build a company that we would want to work at as working parents. We both felt like outsiders in tech and at postmates at the time we were nursing moms and like it just we felt like kind of freaks. We were like, we want to build a company where we feel like this is the norm, and we have definitely succeeded in that. Like that is one of the things I'm most proud of. It. Whinnie is like it is just the norm to have children and to be parenting alongside of working, obviously with great childcare in the mix, hope. So, yeah, we've just built a company that we feel like we could work at for the rest of our lives, which is something that was really important to us booth. So it wasn't aside us. Also, did you to quit, raise funding and what we you pitching at that point? Yeah, we quit initially, we didn't raise funding, and I mean that speaks to privilege. Like we felt like there are not many people in the world who can just quit and not have any income and work on what they feel like is important to work on and also be builders, like we ourselves built the first version of Winnie. Yeah, that's amazing, and so we just felt like there's not many people in this position. We got to take advantage of it. So, just to clarify, when you say you didn't need funding, is that because you could rely on your spouses or you had some money saved up from previous jobs or yeah, both. I mean we both have partners, but we also have savings and I had done fairly well in my career and so I saw a runway though, like did you feel like you have to succeed in twelve bunths? Like how long did you give yourselves to make it work? You know, we never really talked about that. We should have, but what happened was like, as soon as we decided to start something, there were some people that came to us that we had known from other jobs that were now investors, that were like, why don't you raise a little bit of funding? And that was that preced I spoke to and that kind of just gave us some some capital, the ability to hire in, the ability to feel like we weren't eating into our savings if it took us some time to get to product market fit. And Oh boy, did it take us time. It did. So I'm very glad in retrospect that we raised because I think we would have probably been trying to monetize and make a quick buck sooner and it was really lucky that we got the opportunity just build a lot of value and figure out the thing that really created value in the world before we had to worry about how do we make money? Okay, cool, forgive me for getting really granular, but I find it very interesting at this phase of a startup. So what was that first seed find? Like initial investor? Is that Angel Investing, I guess? Or it was actually a firm called homebrew. They invest or. Now they, I think, have kind of grown a bunch and invest in all different stage is, but at the time,...

...you know, they would invest even preproduct. So we didn't have anything built. We knew the partners at home grew quite well from previous jobs and they were just willing to make a bed on US really at the end of the day. Okay, so that give you half a million dollars, you go hire a couple engineers. Is that sort of how it plays out in that very first yeah, I think they even gave us less and we kind of then we're able to get other investors along and so I think in total in that very first round it was like five hundred k of total funding, maybe even less, but that was a lot to work with. Yeah, yeah, it's it's it's a fantastic starting point for no product yet, for sure. How do you spend that? I'm always like I can imagine myself in that situation. I'm like, well, I got all these ideas for features I want to build. You, being technical, can build a certain amount each day. You're only one person, and maybe your cofounder, who said she was technical, to so you both could work on product, but it still must feel a little bit slow. Like do you think, all right, let's put all this money into engineering, or you're thinking, no, we'll need to save some of this for marketing or something else. Like how do you think about those first first few dollars spent? Yeah, we put it all into engineering, and we still do. Like that is where we spend all of our money, product and engineering. Okay, yeah, so we hired two engineers. We both worked on the product ourselves as well, and we built a first version in six months. We hadn't launched live in the APP store and so we could learned very quickly whether this thing was working and whether it really had product market fit. And, spoiler alert, it didn't. What was that first version like? What it did to do? So basically, it was kind of like a yelp for parents. We had all different kinds of places listed in Winnie with sort of information about them and a community. It was sort of the kitchen sink, although that wasn't really that useful and didn't really do anything well. What we were able to learn from that was that there was one thing people were trying to do in our product that was changing their lives when they could do it, which was fine, daycare and preschool. So we saw people using the APP to search for daycares in preschools near them. The APP didn't do that well at all and it kind of gave us this idea that, like, what if the APP did that part a lot better, and that's kind of where we got the idea for what Winnie is today. Okay, interesting. I've never had a child, so I don't know what the like. I never need to go to Google and search for childcare. So what was before when he came along? The current way you would normally find childcare. Google is definitely one of them. So it's still, you know, this is our main source of users, is people just typing into Google or new users daycare near me or preschool near me or take care best day cares in San Francisco or whatever it may be. But also it's very much still kind of like an off fline, private network sort of search where you'd ask your friends and you look around your neighborhood. It's still very much done the old fashioned way and it takes parents weeks and months and they're left with feeling like they don't have a lot of options, that those options are unaffordable, that there might be a long weight list because they don't actually know what all their options are and can't really compare them without an aggregator like Winnie. Okay, I can imagine it's a huge decision like this. These are strangers are going to leave your child with. Possibly the first time ever, you leave them with strangers, and then you want to know things like references. Who are the people looking after your children that? What kind of education might they be getting? And then, like you said, if it's going to be handled more in a sort of underground network of parents talking to each other. That's all about trust through reference. I can imagine you're thinking, okay, can we take some of these ideas and digitize that so there is a resource that sort of has the equivalent? Is that how you thought of? I guess we need to point out...

...because you start as a yelp and then like because if I think about Yelp, it's more like search results with reviews, right. You know what is that? And that was a winnie sort of was initially too, is search results with reviews. How does it it erate from there to provide a better match, to the point where I don't know how far away that version was to what you have today, like what was version two and version three and so on? Yeah, I mean parents were really flying blind before winning, like you just didn't have these critical pieces of information that you needed to make decisions. And when that happens, the demand the people searching are at. It just a tremendous disadvantage when there's this kind of information disparity, and what it leads to is like, you know, certain providers can be way more expensive just because they have better marketing presence with parents, but not actually provide a better quality of service. So we also wanted to really make level the playing field, make it about quality and comparing quality, which can be measured on a bunch of different levels. There's just some basic safety information that parents do need to know that they didn't know before winning, which is like is this provider licensed? Is that license still in good standing? Parents weren't checking that or had any way to get to that information, and we made it front and center. So there was sort of the basic let's just expose the information that parents need to make decisions. You know very much what Zillo did for real estate. But then kind of the next level and where we're at today, is like to really improve the way parents purchase care and education, we need the providers on board. We need them on the other side of the market place because they unlock the real both information and value. Like they need to tell us whether they have open space races and who those open spaces are for and the prices of their program and all the naty gritty details about their program so we can make these matches, and they need to be responsive to parents who enquire, and so that has really been the big kind of unlock for us, is getting those providers on and then that fly whell really starts to spin when you have both the supply and demand using your platform. I was going to ask actually being a two sided marketplace. That's always the challenge, right. You have to have supply and you have to have demand, and often you can't really get demand until you have supply. And can you maybe, because I can imagine. All right, your technical team, you build the platform, you you can allow people to search it and allow people to add information. Once it's there, do you then go, okay, we need to create a team that's like an an outbound connecting with all the daycare centers, getting them to on board information? Did you create a team to do that or how did that happen? Yeah, so I think the advantage we had here is like what existed was so, so bad that even just building the basic like directory of every License Day Care in preschool was enough to be a hundred ecks better than anything that existed, because I didn't exist. And so that got us the demand, like as soon as we started building that and putting these pages up and gaining national traction. We were ranking in Google search, people were talking about us, we were gaining like word of mouthtraction, were downloading our APPS, and so we kind of were able to solve the demand side. And then the harder part was, and is, the supply, getting the daycares in preschools on board. And now we're not just daycare and preschool. Were expanding into other forms of care and education. It's a super fragmented market and providers are not necessarily tech savvy, like not as text say, as parents, necessarily may not use any technology to run their business, and much to their disadvantage, like if parents are looking for these things on the Internet and trying to connect through the Internet. It's a problem as a business if you're not on the Internet. And I...

...think one of the things that really helped was actually covid because it's sort of forced adoption of technology, even providers that were reluctant to adopt technology, like it made everyone in the world a technology in a way that that pace was sort of unprecedented. So really that was a kind of a game changer for the provider adoption side and it's sort of only accelerated from there. It was sort of the tipping point event that was needed, I think, to really shake up the industry, and I'm really hopeful and optimistic that this industry is now going to be an internet industry and get all the good efficiencies of the Internet that this industry is desperate, really needs. Okay, the one thing I had not quite understanding, though. So you were able to create a directory without participation of the daycare centers? Yep, is that just because that information is rarely available. You just have to kind of collect it. But when you say participation, you mean they actually need to go in there and add certain parts of the information that you can't get from directories, plus be responsive to queries and things like that. Is that what you mean? Yeah, so the amazing thing about a lot of child care data is it's public, it's just not accessible. Licensing data is required to be public in all fifty states, but it's not actually something parents can access easily on the Internet. So building that integration with state licensing databasis is a big part of the work we do. And Yeah, that gets US really only basic information, and so it's it is really critical that providers come on and we do have a bunch of kind of automated systems that get providers on Winnie, but also they find us very much in the same way parents do, just through a Google search, and that has been really helpful, especially during covid when a lot of them had to turn to the Internet to run and manage their business. They didn't really have a choice to provide a physical tour. They had to meet parents virtually, and so we were there, like we were there when they were all having this moment of embracing the Internet, and that certainly helped. Okay, so I guess I'll encourage all the listeners here to actually head to winniecom too, because I know part of this for me is like I can think of a Yelp, but I I'm sure there's more layers to how you're presenting information and how people can interact with all the providers. So we can obviously go and experience it on winniecom. Your obviously made the choice to become venture back once you have the opportunity and, as I said at the very start of this, you have most recently raised nine million, correct me if I'm wrong, in whatever round we want to call that, and a round or something like that. I'd love to know a couple of things. A. What do you do with nine million? Do You keep pouring it into more engineers and more development be what was it like to actually be the CEO of a company raising nine million, which I'm assuming is a little different, like a new experience you had, compared to raising the very first initial seed funding? Let's start with those two. I don't overwhelm me with questions at wants. Yeah, yeah, so we did mostly spend it on product and engineering. I mean we still like the majority of our expenses are the team. It's headcount, because we are building a platform. There's not massive operational expense and there's not, you know, we're not physically building goods that we then sell. So it is the team that that cost the money and I think, you know, while we definitely the core of our team, our engineers, we now have some other functions, like folks that talk to providers and get them on board and also help them be really successful in our platform, and those functions are really, I important as we grow in scale. So definitely like expanding beyond what I'm personally good at and know and...

...hiring for like, which is product and engineering, and and really getting out of my comfort zone and realizing, like, to really grow in scales a business, we need sales and marketing and these other functions that are so critical. and was it hard to have more money? No, I mean the actual process of raising, though. How was that? As a you know, fundraising is not my favorite. I think it's tough because when you're fun raising you're not necessarily working day to day on the business and especially in the earlier stages that can be really hard because you don't necessarily have that team of like executives behind you to run the business and you are used to being the daytoday manager of a lot of things. So that's kind of the hardest part for me, is like context switching between eatings with investors and all the things that I just need to actually do to keep this business going daytoday, like going into the office and picking up mail and of the stuff. It's like just been basic stuff that you don't you don't have anyone else covering at the earlier stages. I think it's also sometimes tough because the way investors might want to think about your business or interpret what you're building is not necessarily right. It's they're kind of quick, split second decision based on like the mental model they have of the world. They haven't been working on this for the years that you have and they don't know all the nuances, and so trying to get that all across two investors in a short period of time, I've always found it really, really tough. And I think finally, like childcare and education is not the sexiest area for investors, and it should be. It's a massive, massive market to during twelve billion dollar industry in the US alone annually. But for whatever reason, probably because a lot of investors or white men who've never experienced this issue themselves before or they have someone else handling child care for them, they don't feel it viscerally. It just hasn't been a sexy area for investment and so it's just it's frustrating when you see a big opportunity and you know what you're working on is huge and life changing and meaningful and then you get an investor who's like, I didn't really have this problem because my live in nanny is awesome and you know, it's been fine. Once we found her, it's been great. It's like that's not how the world works, that's not how the majority of real people in this country operate. That's probably the most frustrating part from me about fund raising. If I'm just again reading your information, I found about your about that series a. It was rethink impact was the lead of that round and it was female led. So I think that speaks to what you're talking about. They're having the sense of actually experiencing the problem, so understanding you know, your vision and so on. I've never heard of them. So is that they like newer on the scene or have they been great and they're awesome breathing. In fact, is actually one of the largest funds that invests in women founders and they've been an incredible partner to us. As has reached capital, which let our seed round. We also have a woman on our board from reach, and I mean I think that is like one of the big missing pieces. It's like we need more women in investing roles at the highest levels, like not just oh, there's a woman on the team and therefore we're covered, but like real decisionmakers who can have conviction and not need to convince a group of...

...like that's another thing I found is I would have a great connection with like the woman investor and then she would have to convince, like all of her male partners that this thing was going to be huge, and they'd be like, I don't know, childcare, educations, or really that big? Is it? You know, is it an NFT? And Wow, then it would fall apart. And so having not just women at the table, but women who are able to make decisions, who are confident and convicted enough to make a bet in something that is not necessarily maldominated and sexy two men. I think is what we need to see more of, and like we've just been so fortunate to have investors that have these firms that are not just have women at the table but are actually women led funds. It's surprising, I would have thought, just like you said, the total addressable market size, like how many babies are born, is a pretty large market. You know, it's entire human race, right, so I would have been surprised that they wouldn't have seen the potential for this being like a billion dollar plus company. On that note, so it sounds like they from the story you're sort of sharing. A lot of product building has been so far your focus with Winnie, which makes a plete sense, and I know you said right at the start, before you switch to actually getting investors, you were thinking, well, we'll probably need to focus on revenue and actually have a monetization model earlier on because we need to be able to make money to keep going, and that's more like the sort of non venture backed business model. But then you got backing, so you were able to sort of focus on product and not necessarily think about the money side. Where are you at with that right now? Would like that you still just building features, or do you need to show some sort of revenue return now, or how does it look on the runway? Yeah, so we focused first on value creation prior to value capture, which I think a lot of market places do you need to start this way to grow. Yeah, so we gave away a lot of value for free and ultimately we realize like we could start to capture some of this value. So the value is that, like we are, we are filling spaces in childcare and education providers. We are putting butts and seats and we were doing that all for free. And and child cares really really expensive purchase. So when you think about the cost of full time care, on average in the United States it's like fourteenzero dollars a year and in some cities it's like three x as much. So you know, even just filling one space that's fourteen thous and annual revenue. That that business. You're adding to that business. So we started realizing our customers were the day cares in pre schools who are really benefiting from filling your spaces and earning revenue faster on those open spots, and started basically monetizing them. Getting a te ache of that value that we're sending them, and I mean we're still very light on the value capture, in other words, like we're not taking anywhere near what we should be for the kind of value we're creating. But we're kind of okay with that for now, as we grow our network and kind of increase the just overall size and scale of our business and just become more and more kind of fundamental, like it's getting to be sort of impossible to do a daycare and preschool search without using winning at some point in your process, which is a great place to be as kind of an aggregate or market place, and so we're really happy with power growing in that direction and our revenue has kind of increased along with our growth and just in the last year, like we grew our revenue X. were, you know, very close to being a profitable...

...business, like real profitability, not not this like kind of fake measure profitability. So that's kind of a great place to be and we're not in a rush to get there faster because we feel like it's it's very close. Okay. Well, congratulations. It's not easy come with a market place, especially, like you said, you really got to build a value first, and that's hard. So I can see, especially like I don't know what the profit margin is for running a day care center, like you know what they're potential is for giving you guys part of that. You know, where they start resisting taking on Winnie as a supplier. But I can imagine there's a lot of room so and not. That's just, like you said, one thing. Yeah, I mean, what's amazing about like the Child Care Industry? Is it? It varies like, like there are some businesses in childcare that are not even profitable themselves, like they are running at a loss. Oh, there are other businesses that are extremely profitable, like look at the nine billion dollar market cap company Bright Horizons, that operates, you know, hundreds of daycares across the US, and part of that is we believe technology can help make these businesses more profitable and help them run a lot more efficiently. And so that's kind of where we see our roles. Like can we make every childcare business that is high quality a profitable, growing, thriving business, and then of course we can share in that, but we should be increasing the profitability of the business, not just like taking from the existing profit margin. Yeah, that makes sense. So I can imagine for a lot of day cares, their presence on your site is their website, like that's the only presence they have online. So it's that way for about fifty percent of the providers on our platform, which is insane. But yeah, it's almost like you're a shopify for the daycaret world, which I would never have thought of, but it's kind of the way you could look at it. It was one thing. I was thinking of that. It's slip my mind out while you you're saying that's Ereah, how was it? But yeah, so it's going forward with the growth of this. Is it a case of you managing? Okay, we want to focus on value creation more than value capture, like you said, but at some point do you go okay, now we're going to switch. We've got such a presence, we've really I don't know if you're going global or, you know, USA first, but and then you think, okay, let's switch on premium list things that switch on? I don't know, other types of subscriptions you could sell directly on the platform because you have such an audience of parents. It could be other things. Is that the way your vision is kind of like that big. Is that how you're thinking? Yeah, I mean we just really believe in like making this process for both parents and providers a lot easier and better and more efficient, and the value capture kind of comes along with that, like as we continue to improve their businesses and we continue to make this better for parents. Like we just this is a massive, massive market. There is no question of like how big this business can be. We do believe like it's very important to keep the product free for parents. Parents already pay way more than they can afford in childcare and education expenses. So we don't want to add to that. And we have a great customer in the business itself, the daycare and preschool who we are helping to make more money, and so it just doesn't make sense for us to charge parents anything for now or the foreseeable future. Like I think it would have to. We'd have to really expand in some into some adjacent area for there to ever be something we charge parents for. Right, right, like you're not going to suddenly start selling nappies on the platform or something like that. That's going to be quite the Virgin. Yeah, maybe second last question here maybe wrap it up. Sarah, the domain name whinniecom. Fantastic. How did you manage to get that and where? Is there an origin story behind while you chose that name?...

Yeah, so when we started Whinnie, like first and foremost, before we even knew what product we were building, we knew it would be important to have a strong brand for parenting in particular, like brand is everything. You trust a brand, and this we knew we would be working on something that involved a lot of trust from parents and really could be something that they would not just use but remember and share with friends and really believe in. It was really important to us that it be a brand that was, you know, as inclusive as possible, not just for mom's, not just for dad's, for anyone with children in their lives, like caregivers, teachers, obviously, MOMS and DADS. And a lot in parenting is so exclusive, like there's just this whole concept of a mother's group that is just basically for women, but only certain kinds of women of certain status, and what that does is it just makes it really hard for other people to participate in the caregiving process and increases the burden on like only certain people to do all this work. So it was just really important to us to pick a brand that could be as inclusive as possible, and then we also knew we wanted to build a business that would have a lot of traction on the Internet, and so having a brand that was easy to say and spell and remember and get the domain and all the handles associated with it was important. So we looked into that before we picked a name. So that's kind of how we landed with Winnie. It sort of had all those qualities and we were able to get the domain winniecom. How it was it it kind of important for our like kind of strategy of we rank in search, but then ideally we're getting enough traction in a region that people just remember us and can say like, Oh, you're looking for daycare, go to winning. You're looking for your preschool, I found mine on Winnie, and then when they type in whinny, it takes them to the domain. In itself, though that that's like a onewordcom. It can't have been easy. I'm guessing that wasn't available. You must have had to have purchase that from someone else. I'm guessing we did have to buy it, but it was not being used and I think it is important when we we had a domain broker, but it is important to do a bit of research beforehand. Yeah, because if we would have picked GOOGLECOM, there's no possible way in the world we could have ever gotten that domin but we picked one that was not being really used, were valued by anyone. Exactly like you. Wanted to have been like an adult entertainment site prior to switching to Winnie. That would have had a bad sort of history to connect with. Just a little curious to maybe. Now it's a second last questionnaire. Sarah, you working with your cofounder and now it's been I'm sort of doing the math in my head. Raise nine million around. You're probably looking at fifty million isch valuations, depending on up or down, but that's huge. That's amazing, like you too must be, you know, obviously very proud of what you've done them. No doubt you see a big future, as well as a lots of work to do still. How you too enjoying working together still, since it was just you at the beginning, and no doubt a bigger team now. Yeah, I mean the cofounder relationship. It is, for me, very similar to a marriage. It's it's a long term commitment and you have to work at it. It's not just this thing that's always going to be the best times ever and you go through highs and lows and you really want someone that is going to be with you through all of that. My cofounder, and is amazing and we've both kind of been through real highs and lows during this journey of Winnie. My...

...husband got cancer at one point in starting the company. I had two additional kids. She had one additional kid while we were working on this. She got quite sick at another point, and so there were times when we've both like leaned in times when we've had to lean out and cover for the other one. I really didn't understand how critical a cofounder is to the kind of lasting position of your company. I really do not believe. I don't believe I could have parented my kids without my husband. I don't believe I could have gotten Winnie this far without my cofounder. I know people do it and there are tons of single founders and there are tons of single parents, but for me those two relationships have been so critical I don't believe I personally could have done it without the support of my cofounder. Yeah, it really is like a marriage. I have a cofounder too for my own company, and it is very much like not just making business decisions but managing everything around life as well. So, yeah, last question. What is a day in the life of Sarah like? At the moment, I'm imagining it's not like when the company was first started, when it was you probably sitting in a computer creating product. Now you're doing hiring, your fundraising. But what is a typical day for you like? Yeah, it's like so much less exciting during covid because it's basically me getting out of bed, maybe showering and going into my office and locking the door so my children don't come and disturb it. But as far as, like what I spend my time and energy on, it's really never the product, and I think that has been the hardest thing for me as a product person, as someone who loves getting into the weeds and working on the Nitty Gritty, knowing that like that is not the best use of my time. One of the top things I spend my time on is communication. It's communicating internally, like what is important at any time and making sure that everyone has the right context to make decisions and to build independently. Of Me and it's external communication to our board, to investors, to potential investors, it's to our customers and potential customers. I often feel just like a broken record. I'm often repeating the same things and I think it's really underestimated how important that is. So I end my days a lot of times with like no voice. I think I'm having that now, but like it's because you're just doing a lot of communication and that is kind of your main value as a leader is like you hold all the context and you need to make sure that other people have that context to be able to expand and scale what you could do yourself. I'm glad you're voices lasted all the way to the end of this episode, Sarah. So anything else you want to throw at everyone before we roup up the interview? No, thank you so much. This is wonderful. No, I appreciate it and thank you for sharing, you know, the whole story their early days and everything you're doing now. I feel like we're kind of catching you maybe round one of three or four for Whinnie, with lots lots of potential growth in your future. As I look forward to the watching how everything goes. And Yeah, I think it was sharing the story awesome. Thank you so much. I hope you enjoy today's interview with Sarah and the whinniecom story. I especially like that because I'm always thinking about a potential marketplace idea that I could possibly start in my future, but I know the challenges of Engineering. Obviously you need either to be an engineer and certainly have money to hire engineers to build a platform, whether it is Sass based or market place, web based, whatever it is, you're going to need that technical solution and hearing how Sarah built her platform, how she used her funding, what it was like just growing the company, it was really insightful. My brain was certainly clicking away in...

...the background and I really appreciated Sarah being so open and transparent sharing those steps you went through and I'm looking forward to seeing where whinnie goes. Part of me was also saying, Geez, I wish I could have invested in Winnie during that first seed round. Being one of her Angel Investors, I certainly would have said yes. I think it is a massive market that certainly needs a solution and it's a high value market. The might of money being spent in the space is massive, so that's a lot of powerful decisionmaking. To be a part of that, I think whennie right now is very well placed. So, as always, if you liked this episode, if you have a friend or a family member or colleague would benefit from hearing Sarah's story, send them to episode twenty one of vested capital, the podcast that you just listen to, and tell them they should subscribe and listen this episode Twenty One with Sarah, the founder of whinniecom. And also you should subscribe as well. If you haven't clicked the plus button, the follow button, the subscribe button, whatever APP you're using, they'll be a button like that that you can click to subscribe. And you can also do that by going to my blog, why a ro O dot blog? You'll see a link for the podcast there, or just vested capital podcastcom. I have that domain name. It redirects to the podcast page on my blog as well. Spread the word. I really appreciate your reviews on Itunes as well. Obviously that really helps. If you have a minute or two and you've listened this right now and Itunes, click that review button, leave five stars. Let me know what you like about the show and also if you happen to have any guests you think would be great. I love hearing from successful founders like Sarah, people doing amazing things with Crypto, with real estate, with investing. Send them my way. Love to hear and share their story on the vested capital show. Okay, that's it from me. My name is yarrow. I will talk to you on the very next episode of vested capital. Thank you for listening. Bye. By.

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