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Nothing prepares you for your first child. Or your fifth. But becoming a new parent doesn’t need to be so hard. There’s a lot of information and advice when it comes to parenting, all which can be very overwhelming. However, families are individual and unique, most people need tailored guidance that actually works.
That’s where Onoco steps in, a Google Play number one parenting app merging different categories including baby trackers, family organisers and baby development plans into one. You can also add additional profiles to your account (such as grandparents or nannies) so they have access to vital information if and when they need it.
We’re excited to speak to Margaret Zablocka, founder of Onoco, on her motivations building Onoco, what makes them different in the market, their achievements so far and exciting plans for the future.
Onoco was birthed from your real life experience of becoming a mother. Tell us about the moment you realised that all the books and blogs were not enough to prepare you for motherhood?
I think most parents will admit that nothing is quite enough to prepare you for the moment you take your baby home and realise that you are responsible for this new life. One of the biggest realisations for me with both my children is how quickly and uniquely they develop during the first five years. As well as how important it was for my partner and I – and our extended families – to encourage and influence this.
The idea for Onoco was really formed during my second maternity leave, with my son. It was at this stage I realised how important the collaborative side of our caregiving would become as we balanced the needs of our newborn with the needs of our toddler, plus my planned return to work. Providing endless lists and written schedules for nannies and family members wasn’t cutting it, and ended up causing us even more stress. That’s precisely what Onoco is designed to tackle, allowing everyone to really thrive during those early years.
What are some of the biggest challenges new parents face and how does Onoco solve these problems?
There’s so much information out there about parenting. It can be incredibly overwhelming to cut through the noise and really understand what is best for you and your child. Every family – and baby! – is individual and unique, so advice can be contradictory and therefore not particularly helpful; the old adage of “put the baby down to sleep tired but not overtired” immediately comes to mind. Onoco cuts through this by giving parents the power to find their own schedule based on their child’s individual needs and routine.
With Onoco, we are combining data science with AI to provide a fully personalised and personalisable experience for parents, to help them focus on their child’s development with confidence and control. This includes adaptive routine planning that can be shared between caregivers to ensure everyone knows what’s happening and when, from naps and feeding to toilet time and play; development milestones based on the EYFS (Early Years Foundation Stage) framework to provide age specific goals and actions parents can take to help their child develop; growth charts to help parents continually access and assess their child’s physical growth development; safe and secure photo sharing with family members; and the opportunity to share development data between caregivers.
Our next step will be the release of AI to help predict a baby’s next optimal nap time, directly tackling that “put the baby down to sleep tired but not overtired” advice, basing advice on their previous actions and routine. With little ones, patterns can regularly change, but Onoco AI will help parents identify these at an early stage to help their baby achieve full and proper sleep – essential to their growth and development.
Being a tech startup, what does your team look like?
We have an experienced leadership team with backgrounds in organisations including Betfair, Starling Bank and Palantir Technologies.
I founded Onoco two months before lockdown started, meaning our minimum viable product was developed by a fully remote team. We have continued with remote working since as it works for both our team and our product.
I’m a real believer that great teams make great businesses, so I was keen to ensure that there was a proper framework in place which encourages collaboration and the ability to properly address any technical challenges. I am confident that this has been a success, signalled not only by the growth experienced but also our ability to take on two new hires in 2022 who bring new ideas, new experiences and new ways in which we can continue to grow Onoco.
What have you found to be an effective marketing strategy for Onoco?
So far it’s been about understanding our users, and developing strategies around their needs. When you’re preparing for a baby or looking to make a decision on which tool to use to track your child’s development, you don’t want to be bombarded by technical details or complicated processes – you need to know how it will benefit you and your child, and to be able to independently onboard. For our initial rollout we have focused on digital advertising in target areas, to ensure parents have the information they need quickly and easily at the touch of a button.
With the hire of our marketing manager this year, we will be furthering this reach through organic and community created content which reflects the collaboration found within the app and encourages more connections between users; partnership development with consultants and family influencers; and a new website to provide a hub of information for parents available to all.
What does your competitive landscape look like and how does Onoco differentiate itself?
The parent-tech space is growing but remains fragmented. There are a number of one-purpose apps available in the market which track elements of a child’s development but they are rarely found together in one place. Onoco is very much designed to be ‘peace of mind in the palm of your hand’. We provide the full range of information parents could want about their baby (either for their own use or for sharing with fellow caregivers, visiting midwives during those early months, and medical professionals) with a clear and easy-to-access user interface.
It’s even rarer to find these apps designed for a range of families which include collaborative caregiving, and that’s something we really pride ourselves on. There is rarely just one key caregiver during a child’s early years, so why not invite grandparents, nannies, family members, and step-parents on the journey too? We do this by providing one central family administrator account. They can then then invite up to five additional profiles to contribute to, access and analyse a child’s development data.
Could you tell us about some of your biggest achievements to date?
It’s really important to me to remain agile when it comes to assessing our achievements, and I try to define success differently at each stage of Onoco’s growth. There have however of course been some big moments for us along the way so far, including:
- Ranking as the number one parenting app on Google Play at launch
- Being named as one of the best apps for new mamas in 2022 by My Baba
- Seeing user engagement growing over 40% month on month
- Reaching 6,000 monthly active users
- Securing funding from a venture capital firm, Jenson Funding Partners
- Expanding the team at the beginning of 2022 to allow Onoco to grow even more.
The feedback we regularly receive from our users is how we ultimately define success. Are we providing the best possible experience which is going to keep parents returning throughout their child’s development journey? Some examples that have really stood out to me recently are:
“I have been using your baby tracking app for a few days now and I absolutely love it. I was using another app before but have been much more consistent with yours due to the ease of tracking, the helpful stats and the aesthetics! It’s so clear to see my baby’s natural routine using the app and makes it easy to see what may be causing her discomfort when she’s upset by seeing what she’s done (or not done) recently. I also love the milestones and links to the early years framework!”
“Wish I had this app from birth, it’s amazing!”
“Hands down the best baby tracking app out there. So easy to use and provides the best data analysis for us to track everything we need.”
How do you plan to create a scalable and profitable business model?
The subscription business model is part of a wider cultural shift towards the membership economy. People are searching for “access” over “ownership”. At Onoco, we’re building a long-lasting connection between our users and the brand to increase referrals and word-of-mouth marketing. In the parenting space, this type of marketing is the core of the business and helps to create scale quickly. We’re a mobile app business, so for us it’s all about unit economics and smart scaling to leverage network effects. We also learn from very successful companies in other industries like Calm – who in 2019 had 50 employees and $150m in revenues.
What do you plan to do with the money you raise?
2022 is set to be a really pivotal year for Onoco! Raising investment will help us fuel further growth including the release of premium membership subscriptions which will include:
- Personalised daily tips based on a child’s specific activities and development milestones achieved plus
- Increased personalisation options in the daily routine manager
- An advanced family calendar
- Data export in different formats which can be shared with GPs (on health) or nurseries and schools (on development)
- The Onoco AI nap predictor.
We will also be focusing on our partnerships to further Onoco’s growth and expand our reach to new families. Additionally, a hub of consultants specialising in sleep, feeding, speech and healthcare will be available in-app for parents to connect with.
These developments will also influence the free version of the app, which will be retained for non-paying users. Ultimately, it ensures a full range of users can access Onoco and feel its benefits in their parenting journey.
What do you love to do in your free time?
I love spending time with my family – going for long walks, playing in the park, cooking meals together. Taking care of my house plants (stress-busters), or buying new ones is another joy. I have so many now since starting a collection from when the pandemic started. It gives me joy to see them grow (or to see those on the balcony to survive winter!). Even just being around plants is uniquely healthy for our physical and mental well-being.
If you weren’t building Onoco, what would you be doing instead?
That’s a very difficult question to answer. It’s like asking about an alternative dream someone would have. I could work as a product leader for one of the big tech companies. Would it make me happier, because I would have more time off? I am not sure, probably not.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learnt so far building Onoco?
I have learned that a big success on a team is something to cherish and relish when it happens. I’ve noticed that every time we achieve our goals, it gives us a boost of energy and great satisfaction. That feeling makes us want to achieve more and is part of the reason why startups disrupt industries. It’s very difficult to achieve the same result in a corporate culture, even if the company celebrates its successes – the hierarchical structure makes it difficult for employees to truly enjoy. So as a startup founder, I’m keen to create a culture where we can all celebrate our wins and collectively work to the next.
Interested in learning more about Onoco? Get priority access and join their mission to build a hub for every type of family here.