While few would argue about the need for a technologically advanced solution to make parenting easier, the request is more obvious than execution. Parenting is difficult and requires support for a whole host of moments, from when your child accidentally eats a button to the first signs of depression on the remote school day. The diversity of issues parents face could therefore be a customer service nightmare, but that’s exactly the reason founder Saurabh Kamalapurkar feels strongly in favor of creating Guardians Collective.
Collective of Guardians brings together small groups of families and associates them with an early childhood educator, a broad term that can describe a professional who has experience working in early childhood learning and development programs or is licensed in a state to run a daycare. The company’s mission and broader goal is to make early childhood educators more accessible to families, who once had to rely on formal daycare as the only way to get support. Instead, it offers a more expert and supported way to scale peer-to-peer learning, including early morning and late night.
Today, the startup announced a $ 3.5 million seed investment round led by Reach Capital with the participation of Impact America Fund and Gary Philanthropies.
From my perspective, Guardians Collective is bringing a new take on a controversial trend since the earliest innings of COVID-19: learning pods. The term, somewhat synonymous with microschools, pandemic pods, and small group learning, describes small groups of children of the same age group who are paired with a private instructor with the goal of replacing or supplementing school learning. Critics saw the growing trend as a threat to low-income students who would consequently face an even greater gap in access to teaching materials.
Chian Gong, who led the investment for Reach Capital, thinks Guardians Collective is much more than a learning pod or even a WhatsApp group with other parents.
“WhatsApp connects you to people you already know … while Guardians Collective brings you together with 3-5 other families and an early childhood educator in a safe space to ask questions you can’t ask anywhere else,” she said. . “Gain the wisdom, insights and empathy of an educator who has worked with thousands of young children and who is leading the dialogue between four other families with children of the same age. [and] stage. “
He added that he thinks the platform’s magic is its combination of skills, content, and community. Winnie, another firm-backed startup in the early childhood industry, is a childcare marketplace that parents can use to find physical daycare centers and preschools near them. And recently, KaiPod Learning has raised millions to give home-educated children exposure to local, supplementary, and society-centered learning centers.
All startups differ in execution and product strategy, but they seem to fit into the same vision of bringing more connection and access to resources to empower children on a large scale.
Part of Guardians Collective’s strategy includes getting more early childhood educators to step onto its platform. It’s a political issue, considering most states require people to get licensed to run daycare – and prices plus bias can increase who can actually go through that process. The startup is trying to find a balance between quality assurance and unlicensed people who have been supporting children for generations.
“Many systems don’t even call these people educators,” Kamalapurkar said. “But they’re not just diaper changers, they’re teachers.” Teacher organizations are biting into the idea of joining a more asynchronous workforce: Guardians Collective callouted 40 educators and received 470 applications within days.
So far, Guardians Collective has families using its app in Detroit, New Orleans, Alaska, Navajo Nation, Oklahoma, and California’s Central Valley. More than half of the customers are classified as low-income, the founder said. The startup uses a subscription model, with a sliding scale, to make sure it can offer an affordable price to any family who wants to use it.
With risk money in the tank, Guardians Collective will have to balance user retention with new growth expectations. The company has over 700 households using its platform in the Bay Area, but has a 16x nationwide growth rate since early 2020. It also claims retention is 94% and 94% of users are using the app. daily on weekdays.
The big metric Kamalapurkar focuses on is elusive, looking at what families are talking about, where conversations occur, and what percentage of messages are helpfully answered.
“Scale is not just a function of the number of customers we reach, but of what we mean to them,” he said.