It’s just the new normal: families sitting around the dinner table or lounging around the living room (assuming you can herd them all into the same place at the same time), each fixated on their own mobile device, lost in their own digital worlds – a mere couch-length away from each other, but virtually worlds away. We live in an ever-more connected world thanks to our technology, but for families, smartphones and tablets can sometimes keep parents and children from experiencing life together. Along comes a new platform called Picniic from a Vancouver-based startup, to turn that idea on its head: download an app to simplify your everyday family life.
“It’s about how you get your spouse or your kid involved – that’s the big thing, bringing the family together.”
Their product has just launched this month in the Apple app store in Canada. The company is led by Michael Cole, whose previous venture, Fit Brains, became the world’s second-biggest mobile brain-training software, with millions of users, and ultimately sold to Rosetta Stone. Picniic aims to help people in a very different way.
“It’s counterintuitive because you’re thinking of a family sitting around a table looking at smartphones, but this is the opposite of that,” he says. “It’s about how you get your spouse or your kid involved – that’s the big thing, bringing the family together.”
Looking for his next big opportunity after Fit Brains, Cole discovered this problem in need of a solution, very close to home. “We talk about Slack for communicating better at work, but at home, there’s just no good system for managing your home life,” Cole says. “This goes beyond scheduling and is more about helping to run the household.” The dashboard for the platform shows off different areas of your life, including options like scheduling, meal planning, a family locator feature, a place to put your passport information and a whole set of other features to help avoid problems like keys or phone numbers hidden in a desk somewhere – and other elements of the chaos of family life.
Cole talked with 150 families about how they manage their homes as his team of five was developing Picniic – and found that many were using up to 6 or 7 different apps, in addition to offline tracking methods like a calendar in the kitchen or yellow sticky notes. All the data was siloed in the various apps because it is meant to be used for individuals, not families, Cole realized – which helped him realize that there was a big opportunity that could come from combining all these systems into one. He suggests that as more users start putting more data into the system, new features will arise organically, such as shopping list suggestions that integrate with the meal planning features (e.g. If you’re making spaghetti on Friday, you might get a reminder to pick up pasta sauce that week).
Early data analysis shows that most users are mothers – roughly 75 percent, Cole says. “But there’s more value when you bring a partner on, where you’ve got everyone on the same page and can share responsibilities.”
Cole aims to test the market locally before taking on users from across North America. If it works as intended, it might just help keep family members stuck in their own little worlds to connect again with those closest to them.