Now for the third post in the “About” series. The first was About Writing and the second was About Car Paint. This one is About Sleep or the lack thereof.
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Sleep is so important but for entrepreneurs and parents it’s often hard to come by…and not from lack of trying. I consider my two kids two little ventures and I often say, I’ve now been involved in 4 start-ups, 2 being my kids. Kids are unique and require special attention and you definitely don’t want to screw them up. You can’t file bankruptcy on, sell, or shut down your kids!
There’s the physical sleep deprivation that comes from the newborn days and even as they grow older and wake up with a bad dream or just like us they sometimes can’t sleep. I’m a light sleeper so when they come to my bed I usually can’t get back to sleep very easily. There’s also the mental sleep deprivation that comes from trying to make sure you keep everything straight while your mind is exhausted from thinking about all the things you need to do.
I know many an entrepreneur even without kids who does not sleep well because they have so many things to think about from money to employees to product development, etc. Now add worrying about your kids on top of that and it can be overwhelming on little sleep. I see how tired some of the entrepreneurs are sometimes in the companies we have at the Austin Technology Incubator. I sometimes want to tell them to take several deep breaths, take a walk, or take a break. But most entrepreneurs (myself included) don’t hear that kind of advice. I also see how elated they are win they get a big win which makes up for the long periods of time of spotty sleep.
I’ve seen entrepreneur’s mess up meetings with investors or customers when they haven’t had enough sleep because the words they mean to say don’t always come out coherently. I know I certainly mix up words when the neurons aren’t firing correctly when I haven’t had good sleep.
The entrepreneurs and people I know who sleep well usually feel good about where they are in life, their company is doing well, or they are taking some serious drugs! I’m actually amazed at how many people these days take sleep medication. It’s actually quite common in my peer group and comes up often in conversation as we all try to manage the tons of responsibilities and information that comes our way.
I’m more amazed at how well many of us keep it together on such little sleep and present to the world an image held together sometimes with invisible glue, coffee, Red Bull, fake smiles & laughter, and quite often fear.
I wonder how much more productive we would be if we were all forced to take a nap just like babies and little kids do? Or if we could go to bed when our kids go to bed around 8:00 or 8:30 p.m. and somehow by some miracle not wake up until 6:00 a.m. ish the next day.
It’s too bad there aren’t adult sleep sites like there are great baby sleep sites! I wonder if there are positioners, pacifiers, or people who can rock adults to sleep.
Ah to sleep, perchance to dream...
| Filed under: entrepreneurship
| Tags: entrepreneurship
, sleep deprivation
| 7 Comments »
Photo by Sandy Blanchard
We are about 5 months and thousands of dollars into our search engine optimization (SEO) campaign managed by SpryDev and before you read the rest, I suggest you check out my Part 1 and Part 2 posts.
Let’s just say I’m not yet ecstatic with the results. On the plus side, Website Grader now shows our grade as 79 which is up from 67 when I ran it for my Part 2 post on March 3, 2008. We are also just now starting to show up in the first and second page of Google for our current keywords of ‘breastfeeding support’ and ‘baby sleep.’ We are showing up in the top 30 for other important terms. Interestingly enough, we are showing #1 for ‘baby care software,’ but I have no idea what the search volume is for that term!
On the not-so-great side, although our overall traffic is increasing at a pretty good percentage rate, we still aren’t seeing a huge jump in total number of visitors or more importantly a significant jump in trial sign-ups which have shown in the past a 7 to 10% conversion rate to purchase! For instance, according to Google Analytics, in December 2007 we had 873 total visitors of which 626 were unique visitors. In April 2008, we had 1,585 (82% increase) total visitors of which 1,162 (86% increase) were unique. Page Views during that same time have gone from 2,364 to 4,898 (107% increase). In the world of the Internet, the percentage increases are good, but the total numbers seem low to me especially when you see numbers like 1 million visitors per month thrown around often on Mashable and TechCrunch.
In February and March we saw an increase in percentage totals of people finding us using organic search engine terms but saw a drop in organic search and trial sign-ups in April. The more trial sign-ups we have, the higher the conversion rate of customers purchasing our apps. Direct and Referring site traffic is still greater than 70% of our traffic sources which means that’s a heck of a lot of my time emailing, blogging, twittering, as well as links from my friends and other interested parties. My family does not blog or twitter so unfortunately I don’t get back links that way.
I know that the SEO link team is submitting articles, press releases, and creating directory submissions on a monthly basis which seem to be getting accepted and picked up at a reasonable rate. SpryDev gives me good weekly and monthly reports, and I check out our Google Analytics to see how things are going. So I know that they are sharing all the information they can with me.
We did have an account manager change back in early March when Rose, who I mentioned in a previous post, left for personal reasons and now our account manager is Erik. We also had a keyword shift around that time from ‘pregnancy week by week’ to ‘baby sleep.’ I’m still not sure why we selected that keyword since we don’t have an offering for that keyword, but I think it was because it had a high search volume…needless to say it had a high bounce rate. In other words, people who found our site using ’pregnancy week by week’ didn’t stay long on the site.
We have also made several website conversion changes based on recommendations by SpryDev via Brian Massey of Customer Chaos, who I also mentioned in one of my previous search engine optimization posts. Some examples include:
a) Changing trial period from 30 to 15 days
b) Changing our trial follow up emails from same text emails X and 2X days from sign-up to different text emails on sign up, X days out, and Y days out.
c) Adding the Try It Free button on the Babble Soft home page and throughout the site.
d) Creating a new Contact form.
I can’t really opine on the conversion changes until we see a huge jump in trial sign ups. So honestly, I’m a little stumped and frustrated. Maybe my expectations at the beginning were not correct?! I had hoped we would see better results by now especially since I was tying some of our fundraising success to SEO. I don’t know if I’m alone in this or if everyone just has stellar SEO experiences and all of a sudden trial sign-ups and sales go through the roof! Anyone?
As I mentioned in my SEO, Here I Come post, I signed up with SpryDev because of their guarantee:
“By the end of your contract you will have at least as much additional business from your Web site as you spend on our services… or we’ll work for FREE until you do.”
Since the contract is for 12 months, we have 7 more months to go and they are assuring me that around the 6 month mark is when their customers start to see the big results…although so far May hasn’t been proving to be a big trial sign-up month yet. I’ve heard from others that they’ve seen big results in as little as 3 to 4 months from their SEO endeavors.
So now I’m wondering what could we have done better and what could we do better? Are we optimizing for the right keywords? Do people know to even look for applications like ours? Are people even interested in using applications like ours? Do we need to do more marketing around the benefits of using these kinds of applications more than the parent stories I pull together when the opportunity arises? Should I put the money that I would be putting into SEO into paid ads on parenting related sites, Google AdWords, etc. instead?
I have pretty much come to the conclusion that I will need to continue to bootstrap Babble Soft since fundraising has been challenging given this economic environment and because we have yet to demonstrate a compelling increase in the number of our users. I would feel much better going out to raise funds with thousands or tens of thousands of customers.
I am beginning to think that I might just have to get a job to support my entrepreneurial addiction!
If you are interested in reading more about my SEO trials, tribulations, and hopefully victories think about subscribing to this blog. If you know more about SEO than I do (which is likely), then leave a comment and share your advice with the rest of us!
| Filed under: babble soft
, baby sleep
| Tags: babble soft
, baby care software
, baby sleep
, breastfeeding support
, google analytics
, organic search
, pregnancy week by week
, search engine optimization
| 10 Comments »
I see the world of childcare changing before our eyes and having a place to keep up with your baby’s precious moments and activities can be a great way not only to share with your family and friends but also to make sure your baby is getting what he or she needs. More often than not, these days there are many people involved in childcare from dad, to nannies, to sitters, to grandparents, to aunts, and communicating effectively with everyone about when your baby ate, slept, or had medicine can be extremely important!
One of the ways I am currently trying to get the word out about Babble Soft is through marketing relationships with nanny and sitter agencies, and I recently had the honor and priviledge to write the following article for the International Nanny Association.
Why Keeping a Daily Journal is Important for Moms and Nannies
By Aruni Gunasegaram, President and Founder of Babble Soft
Written for the International Nanny Association Spring 2008 newsletter
When a new mom leaves her infant in the care of a nanny or newborn care specialist, what are her concerns? What does she want to know? How can a nanny help her feel more connected to her baby and help her deal with possible feelings of guilt over leaving her baby?
A new mom’s perspective
As a new mom, I was so concerned about leaving my baby with anyone else … even my husband! When I returned, I wanted to know when he ate, if he slept, and practically everything he did. Now that I have two kids, I still ask their teachers and care providers what they did during the day. It’s so comforting to have an idea of how their day went. I sent our son to a home care on a part-time basis when he was a baby. I felt frustrated by the vague answers I received when I asked about the details of his day; but I bit my tongue, felt guilty, and walked away wondering what I had missed.
It was difficult to leave my son with someone else and thereafter, leave my daughter – but I wanted to work. My career is very important to me and I knew I would be a better mom if I was able to pursue my passion. However, I still wanted to stay connected to my babies. It would have been a pleasure to receive an email, a text message, a picture, or even have the ability to log in to a website to see how my babies were doing. It would have made my life so much easier if I was assured that although they might have cried a bit when left them, they were eating well, sleeping well, learning and having fun.
I was still breastfeeding when I returned to work, and I made every attempt to time my pumping sessions so that I could nurse my babies when I picked them up. If I arrived only to find out they had just been fed, I would have to go home and pump instead of feed them, making me feel very disappointed. On the other hand, it was nice having breastfeeding support and knowing that I had expressed enough milk for them while I was away made me feel more connected to them.
What moms want to know
In the “old days,” moms had no choice but to stay at home. They could get advice and make decisions based on one-on-one face time with baby, family members, and friends. Nowadays, moms rely on their nannies to communicate their baby’s daily activities, issues, fussy periods, smiles, and schedules. When moms are not present, having the opportunity to review their baby’s activities at a glance in a daily journal or report is not only powerful, it helps them and their nanny make better baby care decisions. It is also a great way to provide records for their pediatricians, which can aid in making medical decisions. Here are more examples that illustrate the importance of keeping a daily journal:
- A new mom misses important milestones. While she is at work, baby shows off her biggest smile or makes a first attempt at crawling. Imagine a caregiver who captures the moment via a picture, includes a milestone caption, and emails it to the mom. What a way to brighten her day. Although the mom is not present physically, she can take delight in knowing that the true “first” was captured.
- An infant spits up often but with no discernible pattern. Both the mom and nanny are busy and jot down handwritten notes, which might be stained or misplaced by the next day! Maintaining an online daily record of the baby’s feedings (with corresponding spit-up times) can help to establish a pattern of feeding times and a correlation between the feeding quantity and spit-up periods. The mom can forward the reports to the doctor to aid in a decision regarding whether her baby needs medicine for acid reflux or if there is a need to simply change the baby’s feeding schedule.
- A baby has difficulty sleeping. Mom (or dad) puts the baby down in a specific manner and in a specific place during the weekends. The nanny arrives and puts the baby down in a different manner, thus she witnesses a different outcome. The baby appears confused, which results in additional stress for both the nanny and family. One solution is to review online reports that are designed to track a baby’s sleep patterns and reveal how the baby was put to sleep. The reports can serve as physical proof that specific baby sleep positions or methods work better than others for the baby. The reports can also give parents the assurance that their baby is okay, and shifting their behavior or the nanny’s behavior can make life easier for everyone.
- A baby needs regular medications. Administering medications is a critical part of providing childcare. Therefore, it is beneficial to have a central place where medicine doses are recorded. This procedure can allow both the mom and nanny to ensure medicine doses, reactions, and duration are properly recorded and timed. Proper daily record keeping can help to avoid accidental overdoses and ensure a dose is not missed.
- The nanny runs out of expressed breast milk for baby. If the mom keeps daily pumping records and both the nanny and mom keep daily bottle-feeding records, Mom can adjust her breastfeeding and pumping schedule to ensure there is enough expressed milk for her baby.
There are many more sound reasons to keep daily records. However, the most important reasons in my opinion, are for the health and well-being of the baby, and improved communication between the nanny and family. Although moms today have many more opportunities than they did in the past, they also have more decisions to make and more balls to juggle. Keeping daily records of an infant’s activities helps nannies and moms make better baby care decisions – and it helps moms feel more connected to their baby. A happy mom means a happier baby!
Aruni Gunasegaram is the President/Founder of Babble Soft and she blogs at entrepreMusings. To learn more about Babble Soft, please visit http://www.babblesoft.com.
| Filed under: babble soft
, baby advice
, baby care
, baby sleep
, baby tips
, breast milk
, breastfeeding schedule
, working mom
, working mother
, baby advice
, baby records
, baby sleep
, baby tips
, breast milk
, breastfeeding support
, daily record keeping for moms
, international nanny association
, keeping baby records
, mom pumping
, new mom
, working mom
, working mother
| 5 Comments »
I’ve seen companies doing soft launches of software products which makes me wonder what a hard launch is. So far the main difference I’ve noticed is that the official press release about the new application or new feature doesn’t go out until after the ‘hard’ launch. My guess is that a lot of bug fixing is going on between soft and hard launch.
So, I’m happy/thrilled/ecstatic to report that we just soft launched our new sleep and immunization recording features of Baby Insights Web! We are still working on some development issues on Baby Insights Mobile and plan to hard launch that app in January 2008. The mobile app is not web-based (yet) so we don’t have the luxury of a soft launch.
Babble Soft is offering FREE 3 month gift subscriptions valued at $19.95 until March 15, 2007 to anyone who discovers a software bug in our NEW Baby Sleep and Immunization features of Baby Insights Web. Gifts are transferrable! Sign up for your FREE account today. Happy hunting!
So far the soft launch has been uneventful (i.e., no major bugs), which is nice. Thanks go out to our development team Cressanda and especially our project manager. I recommend them highly. The smoothness of the soft launch is also because we don’t have
thousands upon thousands hundreds upon hundreds of users yet. I’m banking on our foray into SEO to help get us there. I mean if the “right people” (a.k.a. target market) don’t know we exist; it’s not surprising that we don’t have thousands of users yet. Even viral marketing takes a bunch of upfront work because you have to get to the right early adopters who have major Internet influence. I need to figure out how to do a video and get it in YouTube.
Given the fact that over 4 million babies are born in the US each year then include Australia, Canada, Europe, Japan and other Internet savvy countries, I’m anticipating that once those new parents and nannies find out about us, the floodgates will open. Babies and floodgates…not sure if the analogy works but I think you get the point.
I’ve been spending my time the last couple of days doing website updates to reflect the new features. And I’m working on pulling the pieces together of a business plan for some potential angel investor meetings that I have scheduled for early next year. If you know an angel investor (or you happen to be one) who likes the baby/new parent/web application/social networking space, please send them my way! The applications we have now are only the tip of the colossal iceberg.
Now for a short SEO break:
Whether you need breastfeeding support, are excitedly following your pregnancy week by week, are experiencing baby sleep issues, or are already under way creating your baby’s first year album, Babble Soft offers unique, easy-to-use Web and Mobile software solutions that improve communication between caregivers about baby’s and mom’s schedules.
Baby Insights helps caregivers keep track of baby’s breast & bottle feeding, sleep periods, diaper changes, medicine doses, and immunization records, as well as mom’s breastfeeding, pumping and medicine intake. Having important information stored in one location makes communication between parents, their nanny, babysitters, grandparents, or doctors seamless and reliable and gives new parents insight into their baby’s patterns to help with crucial baby care decisions. Baby Say Cheese lets you create a wonderful online baby’s first year photo album with milestones and family tree that you can share with friends and family.
If you are interested in reading about how I
cope with manage software launches, fundraising, and SEO consider subscribing to this blog’s feed. If you are an entrepreneur, it will be worth your while…even if I crash and burn….which I won’t…because I said so, that’s why. Now go play with your Power Rangers. Sigh.
| Filed under: baby insights
, baby say cheese
, baby sleep
, angel investors
, babble soft
, baby insights
, baby say cheese
, baby sleep
, soft launch
| 3 Comments »
I know that people have strong opinions about co-sleeping but we found a happy medium. I strongly recommend using a co-sleeper that attaches/sits next to your bed for several months after baby is born. We used the Arm’s Reach Original Co-sleeper with both of our children. With our son we placed it right next to our bed. First on my husband’s side because I was recovering from a c-section so when he was hungry my husband would give him to me so I could breastfeed him. Later we moved it back to my side but I wasn’t able to get any sleep because he moved so much so we moved him back to my husband’s side.
Our son was in the co-sleeper for probably close to 8 months. We started transitioning him to the crib around 6 months but it took us about 8 months to get him used to his crib. For several months he woke up so often that it was easier for us to keep him in our room. (This waking up every few hours sadly continued until he was over 3 years old…he still wakes up to this day.)
When our daughter was born, we put the co-sleeper at the foot of the bed (because we had a different bedframe and there was no footboard). This minimized the disturbances from movement that all of us experienced. She slept so well that we transitioned her to the crib at about 5 months. She is still a dreamy sleeper. Thank GOODNESS! The Co-sleeper also makes a great pack-n-play which we have used often. We still use it when we have visitors (because they stay in the guest room where her crib is) or when we go stay overnight with people who don’t have a crib or pack-n-play for her to use. It’s easy to assemble…not so easy for me to break down…but the positives drastically overwhelm the breaking down challenges. If you are thinking of co-sleeping, I encourage you to get a co-sleeper. Some people are comfortable sleeping with a baby in their bed but personally, I was downright nervous or shall we say petrified that one of us or the pillows/blankets would accidentally hurt them.
Note to new readers: these tips are based on our experiences, as well as those of our friends and readers. Please always consult with your doctor before implementing any tip that might impact the health of your baby. If you have a tip you’d like to submit please send an email to babblesoft blogger for possible inclusion. Please check the ‘baby tips’ category to make sure your tip (in some form or fashion) hasn’t already been posted. If it has been, feel free to comment on that post and support the tip. We also welcome respectful challenges to the tips because as is noted in our inaugural baby tip ‘everything is relative!’ We will, of course, give anyone who submits a tip we publish credit and a link back to their site!
| Filed under: baby tips
| 3 Comments »
So some folks have developed a face recognition system to help read emotions. I wonder what it would register for women who just had a baby who need/want to sleep? Would it be the same feeling as if they wanted “ice cream or chocolate?” I LOVE chocolate but I know my desire for sleep far outweighed my desire for chocolate on many occasions.
Dutch researchers Theo Gevers and Nicu Sebe, known mostly for their work deciphering the Mona Lisa’s smile, have created a face recognition system which can gauge a person’s level of happiness. The scientists, working with the multinational goods-manufacturer Unilever, created a face-tracking algorithm which maps video of a subject’s face into 3D regions, and then uses those regions to determine their level of pleasure. The tests followed European women’s reactions to eating five different foods: vanilla ice cream, chocolate, cereal bars, yogurt and apples. Unsurprisingly, the scientists discovered that women enjoyed eating ice cream and chocolate far more than an apple or yogurt — the latter even evoking “sad” expressions from 28% of test subjects. Unilever hopes to put the technology to work in creating products such as reduced-fat ice creams which elicit the same response as their full-fat counterparts, while the researchers will be launching a consumer version of the software sometime in August, as well as a website to analyze up to 1,000 user-provided photos daily.
| Filed under: mom
| Comments Off
Many seasoned parents probably know this: When all else fails to calm your baby down (i.e., mylicon drops, gripe water, walking around the house a million times (with your baby next to your chest, in a sling, on your shoulder, or on your back), putting your baby on a running clothes dryer, standing by the refrigerator in a semi-comatose state, yelling at your partner, yelling at yourself, yelling at your baby, all sorts of herbal/homeopathic medicines, giving him/her a pacifier, giving him/her food (bottle or breast), and/or pinching yourself, try a) putting your baby in the car and driving around or b) walk outside.
Several people will tell you (they told us) that putting your baby in a car and driving them around would create bad sleeping habits. We finally figured out we were screwed no matter what we did since our son (who is now 4 1/2) was born with the questionable ability to sleep so driving him around so that he could fall sleep would calm us down and in more cases than not put him to sleep so we wouldn’t totally lose it. Driving around in the car was a much better solution for us than being in the same room with him while we were extremely sleep deprived and irritable (caution: don’t drive when you think you too might fall asleep!). If you feel sleepy and your baby has fallen asleep stop the car somewhere safe and take a nap yourself. If you are close to home see if you can take your baby out of the car (keep him/her in their car seat), bring him/her inside and crash on the nearest couch.
Several well meaning folks might also tell you that you shouldn’t take your baby outside when it’s cold. Here in Texas it doesn’t get cold too often, but we found even on cold days taking him outside for 2-5 minutes made him look around and calm down. The only trouble with this tactic is he would cry for a bit when we first walked outside making us (or mainly me) worry about waking the neighbors! Thankfully, our daughter was born a wonderful sleeper because otherwise I might not have survived to write this tip!
As a reminder, these tips are based on our experiences, as well as those of our friends and readers. Please always consult with your doctor before implementing any tip that might impact the health of your baby. If you have a tip you’d like to submit please send an email to babblesoft blogger for possible inclusion. Please check the ‘baby tips’ category to make sure your tip (in some form or fashion) hasn’t already been posted. If it has been, feel free to comment on that post and support the tip. We also welcome respectful challenges to the tips because as is noted in our ‘inaugural’ baby tip ‘everything is relative!’ We will, of course, give anyone who submits a tip we publish credit and a link back to their site!
| Filed under: babble soft
, baby advice
, baby stuff
, baby tips
| Tags: baby advice
, baby sleep
, calm baby
, driving baby in car
, taking baby outside
, walking baby
| 2 Comments »