Sarah and I met in a rainy playground three years ago when we were both getting to grips with having “two under two”. We were at the height of sleep deprivation and finding the long days tough (and lonely!) when that friendship swept in and saved the day. We hung out together all the time, and reflecting on it all a few months later, we wondered why there wasn’t a better way to find mum friends.
We did our research (90% of new mums admitted to feeling lonely), put some bullet points down on a business plan, and ran a proof of concept (all whilst babies napped). We put posters in every playground near us, pointing people to a basic website on the premise of finding ‘local mum friends with kids the same age’. 300 mums signed up within a week, and we knew we were on to something.
An angel round from private investors and the impact fund Mustard Seed gave us a year’s runway and an MVP through a development agency in Ukraine. Our buggy and badly designed app came to life in April 2016 and we started getting mums around London to promote it with flyers. The slogan was ‘Mums, let’s do this together’.
It took off in a way we had not foreseen. Dubbed ‘Tinder for Mums’ by the press, our launch was covered by every newspaper, and mums started popping up all over the UK. We quickly realized that the scattergun growth was leading to a poor experience for mums because there weren’t enough mums near them on the app. That and a platform that was breaking under the strain of a limited tech stack meant that our first few months were spent putting out fires.
Emerging with a faster app, we had a successful growth campaign of social ads and community advocates that started filling in the gaps around the UK. Mums weren’t the only ones noticing our innovation either; big brands were approaching us to target our audience and we got revenue through the door. We were now ready to go for more funding. We put together a compelling pitch video on Crowdcube alongside the support of our seed investors, and raised just under £1m in December 2016. Sarah and I could finally move out of the local coffee shop and hire a team.
2017 was all about retention. Mush was growing 80% organically and no one was in doubt that it was a much-needed service in a growing sector called ‘Parent Tech’. High profile campaigns put mental health in the spotlight, and we were able to ride the wave of awareness around loneliness and maternal mental health. However our product was flawed: mums weren’t sticking around on the app long enough. Having made friends, we would receive heart-warming letters of thanks before they dropped off the app.
Our new product team (by now we had bought in a superstar CTO/ Product Manager Alex) built in community features that turned us from a ‘discovery app’ to a fully-fledged social network, adding local advice boards, recommended places and better content.
It was this transformation in metrics that attracted the attention of Octopus Ventures. Mums had always loved Mush, but they were now staying on it for an increasing amount of time, and Octopus were intrigued by the opportunity of a ‘mum vertical’ social network. We closed £2m in January and are delighted to have them on board.
The next 2 years will see new location agnostic features being launched on Mush, as well as bringing tech in house (any React native developers apply here), honing our growth model, a few new Mush babies and a path to revenue. But most of all, we will be making mums’ lives better.