What do you know! It has been one year since we started our little Oslo-based parenting-problem-solving team. Is it really doable for four Scandinavian non-parents to understand and solve parenting problems on the other side of the planet? To Benedicte, the only way to find out has always been to «Just Fucking Do It!». In November 2012 we attacked our first problem. Let’s say you’re a parent to a baby and you’re on your way out. You might ask:
– Where are the nearby places you and your little one feel welcome?
Lilly Maps, a map made by parents for parents on their iPhones, was our starting point in our quest for knowledge about parenting problems. A lot has happened in one year. Here are the highlights:
We—meaning coder-in-chief Benedicte, coder Tom Erik, teller of Lilly Tales Ola, and finally high-five-provider and happiness-content-creator Marit—made, launched, improved and promoted three super solutions in order to learn more about three frustrations parents experience.
These Are the Three Parenting Frustrations We Focussed On in Our First Year:
Parenting Problem 1: Photo Sharing
Sharing baby photos with those family members who care the most about your baby and thus deserve more photo-sharing than you have time and energy to provide. Our experimental solution was:
#lillygram – Granny receives good old paper printed photos of your baby in monthly deliveries by her trusted mailman. All you do is upload a photo of your baby to Instagram and write «#lillygram» in the caption or in a comment. We print, fold and post your photo letters. Sign up on the #lillygram website.
Parenting Problem 2: Lack of Sleep
Your baby wants to stay awake all night while you want to sleep. Our experimental solution was a special Scandinavian flavor of white noise:
Lilly Sleep – Your baby falls faster asleep with Norwegian household noise like Benedicte’s vacuum cleaner or her magical kitchen fan. All 9 noises were lovingly recorded by Eirik Myhr, professional music composer specializing in kids’ and family movies.
Parenting Problem 3: Where to go with the Stroller?
Your baby and you are on your way out of the house. Where are the nearby places where you and your little one feel welcome?
Lilly Maps – a local map of parent approved places on your iPhone.This is what we call a «dugnad» in Scandinavia, where we work together for a couple of hours to share, say, useful experiences of local cafés with local parents.
How Do You Go From Drawings to National Press Coverage?
We are proud of our quick journey from hand made drawings of ideas to national press coverage—including appearance on Norway’s most popular radio show P1’s «Norgesglasset», online news outlets e24 and Dagsavisen, the local newspaper Romsdal Budstikke and parenting magazines like «Mamma» and «Babydrøm». We would never be the darlings of the press without Marit’s magic touch.
We started with this:
Before we knew it we were here:
Three Survival Tips for Your First Year as a Tech Startup
1) Have good coders who want to make something new and know how to quickly make new ideas testable on real customers.
You need both techies and non-techies on the team to get the simplest solutions to parenting problems. Benedicte comes up with new concepts and explains them to us in heated sessions with loud voices, furious drawing on large pieces of paper and quotes from interviews with customers flying like angry birds across the table. After all four have had our say, Benedicte codes the first drafts. Then Tom starts helping with the code.
Together we get the first unmagically un-easy-to-use version in the hands of the first paying customer. And then we find another paying customer. With #lillygram we have several manual processes in place of a completely automated backend. As soon as possible we get in touch with a parrent and ask for feedback—always with a smile and a twinkle in our eye.
Ola and Marit work to get the word out to friends, customers, conference organizers and media before the products are even remotely presentable. Marit makes sure Benedicte, Ola and Tom Erik get high fives when they have done something great.
2) Get Those Customers Talking!
You, our customer, and your kids are why we do all the work. We need to get you talking, ask you to test early, and then spy on you shamelessly. Early testing is super important and is saving us hundreds of hours of coding on every Lilly product. We will talk to you again after you either are a happy customer or have quit on our product. If you do not want to answer questions we expect you to simply tell us «No».
3) Face-to-face Meetings and Working on Individual Tasks in the Same Living Room.
We could have been sitting alone and still communicate easily over the internet. We could have been super efficient that way. But we wanted to have good times together. That’s why we have weekly dinner meetings and frequently travel together to the Swedish coast for intensive work retreats.
Every time we meet, we discuss. Hotly. We agree on something to test in the real world, assign tasks and go do the work. When we meet next, the progress is sometimes surprising. Like when we recorded all the household noises for Lilly Sleep in a few days because we had professional help to do it as efficiently and straightforwardly as possible.
How did Lilly Apps Start?
Benedicte and Marit had both gone abroad to have internships in startups through their universities. One day in the late summer of 2012 Benedicte said to Marit:
— My friends are starting to have kids and it is stressing them out. They worry too much and have so many unanswered questions. I would love to help them with the legacy of my grandmother, Lilly. Lilly always helped people and was real tough on us kids if we were less than disciplined. Lilly was self-reliant using what she had available. So I want to use my knowledge of coding to help simplify the life of parents. I want you on the team Marit. I need your PR skills and your bubbling positive energy for the marketing.
Marit had observed the same problems among her friends. They too were stressed and worried about being a parent.
– Yes! When can I start? Of course I’m in.
Growing the Lilly Team
The boys were asked to join the team nearly a year later, when Marit and Benedicte decided to launch #lillygram. The work load would be at least threefold—both with product development and with customer interaction.
Benedicte needed more coding muscle and someone to bounce the technical details off of. Tom Erik had experience with both bouncing from the «Norwegian BBC»‘s online weather service (yr.no) and with coding.
#lillygram was shaping up to be more up close and personal with the customers since we would be testing the product and developing it with real baby photos. Ola had years of experience with interviewing customers and understanding their hidden needs.
The fact that Ola had been living with Benedicte for several years had nothing to do with the hiring, nor did the fact that Tom Erik was Ola’s best buddy and practically had been part of the household for years.
From Idea to Paying #lillygram Customer in Six Weeks
Starting in May we went from idea to our first paying #lillygram customer in just six weeks (see Benedicte’s 7 minute conference talk on vimeo). Ola and Tom Erik were hired in the beginning of those six weeks, after Marit and Benedicte decided that in order to create #lillygram at the right speed they needed more manpower.
The Road to Fearless Parenting
Together we work to help parents with young children reduce stress and we will keep on doing that in the year to come.
So three times HURRA for Lilly Apps – a one-year old baby girl who has gone from crawling to taking her first steps. That is worth a birthday celebration don´t you think?! Thank you for your support on the way and we are looking forward to walking the road ahead together!