Local LA startup Wana Family Network hosts families across 23 states who use the online platform to meet, playdate, and trade childcare for “time points” instead of dollars. Now the company has announced closing of the acquisition of Komae, Inc., their Ohio-based market-leading competitor, adding four-star mobile apps and over 19,000 families to the Wana community.
Reminiscent of neighborhood babysitting co-ops popular in the 80’s, families on Wana take turns caring for each other’s children. One couple’s date night and another parent’s gym session are kept equal with points by the hour, and families that swap evenly use the network completely free.
Wana’s Founder and CEO, Erin Beck, started the venture not just for the savings, but to socially support her toddler with separation anxiety. At the first swap, says Beck, “she ran off and played with her friend and didn’t even look back. That was life-changing.”
Audrey Wallace and Amy Husted, the Co-Founders of Komae, saw the same need when they started a co-op at their church. “They said this is amazing, more people need this. What if there was an app?” recalls Wallace.
“As a working mom, frankly as a mom in general, the one thing I know is none of us moms can raise these children on our own,” says mother-of-two and investor in Komae, Jennifer Neundorfer. “There is nothing more valuable than knowing that I have that village at my fingertips when I need them, and also knowing that I can do the same for them.”
Five years later, as Komae prepared for exit, Husted says she “began to see the truth of what we had accomplished. We won ten pitch competitions, I think we only competed in eleven. We lived in New York [with Project Entrepreneur] and traveled back and forth on the weekends to make it work because both family and your dreams matter. We raised over $600,000. And now we’ve had the pleasure of participating in an acquisition.”
Husted continues, “We were contacted by quite a lot of people, and Erin said, ‘Why don’t we do this thing together?’ We decided we trusted Erin to take the torch and carry it on.’” Both Husted and Wallace are staying on as advisors to Wana.
The founders announced the deal at a cleverly-billed “Reveal Party” at Bounce Innovation Hub, site of Komae’s headquarters in Akron, Ohio, on June 20, 2019. Family, friends, investors, staff, and local members of the platform, called Villagers, were treated to sprinkled signature drinks and orange-coated purple cake balls at the kid-forward event. (True to theme, party-goers rotated the childcare.)
“What’s the thing that’s going to crack this problem?” challenges Beck. “As much pride as we take in independence, what we all really want is to care, and be cared for.” Beck makes her mission clear as she is joined by Husted and Wallace. “We have the team that’s going to make that happen.”
Full remarks available here.