While there are many wonderful things to be said for parenting, there is one inarguable downside to bringing new life into the world: it is very, very expensive. From birth to age 18 the average cost of raising a child is estimated to be around $250,000 on average, though obviously those averages vary quite a bit within income levels.
All human offspring need to be fed, clothed and amused — though, obviously, there are many levels up for grabs in fulfilling each of those basic needs. And that is particularly the case when it comes to that last one — amusement — where options and expense levels can really start abounding.
Between media, technology, lessons, fun zones, classes, ropes course and various cultural hotspots like museums, planetariums and aquariums, there are no shortage of ways to fill a child’s time. Want your kid to take Mandarin Chinese, learn classical ballet, learn to play the guitar and learn the finer points of impressionistic painting? As long as one lives in the right geography and has enough of a budget to make it happen, any and even all of those things can be an option.
And, as Gen X and (more recently) millennials are proving, the world is full of parents who are willing to do some serious spending, especially to keep their offspring entertained and educated. Some estimates put the cost of filling the time of American children during summer vacation at around $16 billion a year (as of three years ago, that cost may well have gone up), about half of the $25 billion-$30 billion spent on various back-to-school shopping exercises each year, but roughly in line with the $10 million-$15 million parents spend during the school year on “enrichment activities” like lessons, museum trips and tutoring.
Tapping into some of that parent spend has been a mission for various new Web and mobile startups hitting the market in the last few years. KidPass and Pearachute both offer variations on selling passes for children’s activities and have collectively snagged $1.5 million in seed funding over the last year.
But there’s a new kid on the block, so to speak, that is making waves in the kidtivity market — a little firm called Sawyer, which hopes to be the OpenTable of kid entertainment bookings.
Originally called “Kid Passport,” Sawyer has a pretty simple premise for parents in the Brooklyn area (soon to be Manhattan area as well): for $99 a month parents can buy access to six classes with one of Sawyer’s 80 local partners, or they can pay $40 a month for access to two.
The essential challenge the business has faced is finding a way to offer package services at a price that appeals to those moms, entices vendors to sign on and allows the cut Sawyer walks away with to be sufficient to justify the effort. CEO and Founder Marissa Evans has been pretty tight lipped about what their margins are, or how much of that subscription fee it keeps as opposed to sending it back to their merchant partners.
She did note, however, that though some of their competitors have looked into an “unlimited classes” option, Sawyer has stayed away from that model as something they can’t make profitable.
And getting to profitability is the firm’s goal — a goal made somewhat more attainable by an infusion of investment funds. The seven-month-old firm has grabbed up $1.5 million in funding provided by Notation Capital, Collaborative Fund, VC1, and other strategic angel investors.
Going forward, Evans notes the firm’s main goal is getting their service right, as opposed to getting it big.
”We’re more focused right now on innovating than trying to get as many families on the platform as quickly as we can,” says Evans.
“Ultimately,” she says, “the passport will be just one line of business.”
How strong that line of business is remains a bit of a question mark, as Sawyer will not confirm just how many families have used the platform as of yet. However, the firm does note it has booked over 1,000 classes in its short time on the market.
Investments for the week ended 4-4-16
Anemia? Try hypothermia. This is being written during what might charitably be called a cold snap, weatherwise. The investment activity seemed to plummet along with the temperatures, and the tally this week was a positively glacial $54 million. That’s about the size of midlevel deals seen in past weeks, on a singular basis.
Scant though the numbers may be, on an absolute basis, the B2B sector crept up as a measure of percentage, this time to around 27 percent, whereas previously, and historically, the huge preponderance of fund flows had been confined to FinTech.
This time around the biggest deal barely made it to double digits, with Blispay grabbing nearly $13 million in financing from a consortium of investors, having launched its customer financing solution and grabbing its capital from the likes of FirstMark Capital, among others, with the roster extending to TriplePoint Capital and Accomplice.
Dare we drill down further? The next largest transaction slipped to slightly more than $9 million, coming as Branch International got $9.2 million to push its mobile banking platform into sub-Saharan Africa.
The month is out, and it went in like a lamb and out like a lamb. The top deals for the month of March appear below, and have not much to show for the four weeks, at least in terms of dollar amounts.
Might we have expected to see a flurry of activity toward the end of the quarter? Perhaps, with the dry powder that has thus far remained dry. But the mindset seems to be one of wait and see … and wait.