Famtech Startups Combine Parenting, Wellness, and Innovation

Willow

Today, parents of young children are busier than ever, and COVID has further complicated parenthood and its community.

Proving “it takes a village,” a new wave of family-oriented companies are stepping in to lend a hand. From DTC plant-based baby food to smart breath rate-monitoring cribs, famtech is starting to mirror macro trends in health and fitness.

The stress gap. Burdened with increased childcare responsibilities, lower job flexibility, and higher stress, mothers are burning out at a disproportionate rate.

  • In January 2020, the percentage of women in the workforce hit the lowest it has been since the 1980s.
  • Last spring, over 3.5M mothers with school-age children left active work — downshifting into paid or unpaid leave, losing their jobs, or leaving the labor market altogether.
  • For moms still in the workforce, over 80% say COVID has negatively impacted their ability to work effectively, which some say could cost the economy up to $341B.

Now, family tech is getting a fresh wave of funds; VC deals for US baby startups have almost doubled since 2016, climbing from $182M to $491M. And, from sleep tech to personalized nutrition, the infant innovations look a lot like the trending tech adults are adopting.

Rock-a-buy. Happiest Baby Inc., maker of “smart bassinet” SNOO, is exploring a staggering $1B sale, and smart crib maker Cradlewise just raised $7M. Meanwhile, Huckleberry ($12.5M) uses AI to provide parents with personalized pediatric sleep advice.

Pump it up. Cell-based breastmilk manufacturers TurtleTree ($30M) and Biomilq ($21M) led lucrative funding rounds this fall, along with breastpump hardware makers Elvie ($80M) and Willow ($27M) earlier this year.

Here comes the airplane. This summer, DTC baby meal upstart Little Spoon secured $44M, while Tiny Organics raised $11M to scale its early childhood nutrition business. Plant-based Once Upon a Farm just acquired Raised Real to expand its portfolio.

Chief of family. Helping ease the administrative side of parenting, Maple ($3.5M) wants to become the “SaaS backoffice” for the family. Other AI assistants include Modern Village and Strongsuit.

Tele-sitter. On the childcare/early education side, software platform Brightwheel raised $55M in February, while a16z-backed Wonderschool recently committed to expand access to its services.

But… expensive baby tech, like SNOO’s $1,595 bassinets, can exacerbate inequities between families of different socioeconomic backgrounds. For single mothers forced to leave jobs, some now facing food and housing insecurity, fancy baby software isn’t quite the answer.

On the other side of the spectrum, critics say that baby software may be more exhausting for parents than helpful, micromanaging their baby’s health the same way we’re tempted to micromanage our own.

Takeaway: Parents are on the clock 24/7, juggling work, life, and parenthood. This past year, the pandemic has highlighted the frazzled state of family health and the importance of supporting burnt out moms. VC has long overlooked the space, but now famtech is bringing child-rearing to the forefront.