Most parents want to always be in the loop of their children’s lives. That’s especially true when they’re at that vulnerable preK age, starting daycare but too young for independence, and still elusive about what’s happening during those long days away from mom and dad. That parental need was the seed of inspiration for the new app Brightwheel, which will pitch Silicon Valley entrepreneur Chris Sacca and other rich folks on Shark Tank Friday night.
But Brightwheel’s central function is not exactly a tracking system for parents to look in on their toddlers. The app is a system for daycares to track all aspects of a child’s day, including attendance, activity, and bathroom breaks. That tracking is already required by law, but as TechCrunch reported last year, daycares are generally private operations that also have to run their business at the end of the day. The administrative burden of a child’s life and a small business balance sheet can be too much to bear.
— brightwheel (@brightwheel) April 28, 2016
The time-saving nature of the app has intuitive appeal, especially when Brightwheel’s target customer is taken into account. As much as parents would love to be able to see pictures of their child’s activities while in daycare, that alone might not turn the app into a multi-million dollar business. Saving daycares time and giving them the opportunity to provide value-add to parents, however, could be a money-making proposition.
That potential was spotted by Brightwheel’s early investors. EdSurge reported in June, 2015, that the company had raised $2.2 million in seed funding from a number of venture capital partners. It’s not known when the Shark Tank episode taped, but given that late date it’s likely the company’s founder, Dave Vasen, stepped onto the carpet looking for investment prior to the launch of the app.
EdSurge quoted Vasen’s summation of the product’s value proposition, which focuses on the connection parents want to maintain with their young children.
“It’s really hard being away from your little human being all day, wherever they go—and those eight, sometimes 10 hours a day of daycare are a black box, in terms of how you can be involved in their developments.
“Brightwheel enables connection both to your child and your child’s education in these early years.”
Parents can add other people to their child’s account on the Brightwheel app, so Grandma can spy on little Jimmy if she’s given the right permissions. Daycares can also use the system to streamline billing and other aspects of daycare operations.
Whether any of the Shark Tank investors will bite is hard to predict. EdSurge named four other companies with similar value propositions to parents. However, those startups focus on the K-12 space, and not preschools. Brightwheel may be the first to target this young age group and private educational environments.
Educational apps and services have on occasion received Shark Tank funding. Scholly set off an infamous Shark Tank fight last year, with Daymond John and Lori Greiner eventually getting the deal with entrepreneur Christopher Gray. Earlier this season, SAT whiz Shaan Patel got a deal with Mark Cuban and even tried to create a viral campaign around his Shark Tank appearance.
But perhaps Brightwheel is more appropriately classified as a parenting tool or a small business administration app. Its appeal is less about advancing in education than it is giving parents insight into a child’s experience and environment when he or she is not at home. It is also about giving those who run daycares a way to streamline the requirements they must meet to stay in business.
Shark Tank airs Friday nights at 9 p.m. on ABC.
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