I recently sang the praises of Tinybeans, an app that serves me well in two primary ways: 1) it’s an amazingly robust private social network; and 2) it is by far the best way to catalog and record all of your children’s milestones. Scrapbooks and baby books are a thing of the past. Which, for me, really is for the best. I can only handle so much decoupage.
Everyone in my family has been an avid user of Tinybeans for nearly two years now. I’m at an age where Facebook and Twitter are significantly less interesting, and I find myself going days without checking either of them. Tinybeans, on the other hand, engages me every single day.
So where did Tinybeans come from? Like me, you might assume that Tinybeans is the materialized remains of a dying angel’s last breath. Surprisingly, Tinybeans isn’t a miracle from heaven; it’s the brainchild of Co-founder and Head of Product and Engineering Stephen O’Young.
Tinybeans began as a little pet project for Stephen in Australia. To date, 3 million users worldwide use the app every day to share memories with their friends and families.
I had the wonderful pleasure of talking with him about the app and what lies ahead. Read on for our interview.
A technology born out of guilt (and a desire to do less work)
Stephen, thanks so much for taking time to chat with me. I got into Tinybeans the day after my daughter was born. It was recommended to me after I complained to a friend about how much work it was to text pictures and updates to everyone in my network. Did the idea for Tinybeans come from a similar experience?
To be frank, I created Tinybeans out of guilt just before my third son was born.
At that time, a few of my parent friends had blogs and I didn’t, so that made me feel like a crappy parent. I liked the idea of doing a blog for my baby but as a busy parent, I really dreaded the amount of work I knew it’d take to keep it up. I thought: “what would be the minimum amount of work I could put into creating a keepsake for my child?” I decided to commit to taking a photo a day – surely I could spare the time to take just one photo a day, right?!
Being a tech geek who wanted to learn more about mobile apps, I decided to write an iPhone app that reminded me to take a photo a day and uploaded the photo to an online calendar. I put effort into making the calendar look good because I hoped that seeing the calendar fill up day after day would motivate me and give me a sense of accomplishment.
I had a workable app by my third child’s birthdate, and after documenting his life for a couple of weeks, my calendar started to look really great, so I shared it with my family and some close friends out of pride (of both the app and my newborn!).
It was then that I discovered the app’s communication potential. My parents lived 45 minutes away from me – not really that far – but far enough that they didn’t get to see their grandkids every day. Unexpectedly, the calendar became a window for my parents to see into my daily life. They’d see that my child was sick during the week, and they’d ask me about it. The app really helped connect my family – and all this without me doing any additional work! This was when I knew the concept had value and could help other families as well.
Alleviating the pressure to be perfect
Tinybeans has been amazing for my family. I’m still so impressed at how well it engages my grandparents – my children’s great-grandparents – I never imagined we’d be able to share a technology like this.
From your perspective at Tinybeans, in what way do you think technology is shaping our approach to parenting?
We have so much more transparency in parenting now. We collect data about so much of our children’s lives. We have baby socks that measure the baby’s heart rate and oxygen levels, we have apps to track when and how much our baby feeds, and of course, we have apps like Tinybeans that help us collect our children’s moments every day. So much of our baby’s life is tracked and recorded, and we have so much data to compare and benchmark our lives against.
I believe this is a double-edged sword; we have infinitely more tools to help us be good parents, but it also gives us more pressure to be the perfect parents.
Take photo-sharing for example. A lot of parents share their kids’ photos to all their friends on social media. Apart from the obvious privacy issues, this is problematic because parents tend to self-censor when they know lots of people are watching. They feel compelled to post only the perfect moments. You know the ones: the child is behaving angelically, the sun is shining, everything is perfect with the world. This has two issues: first, you’re missing out on a lot of special moments (sometimes the “real” moments are the ones we’ll treasure the most in the future), and second, it perpetuates the false notion that parenthood is all sunshine and rainbows.
I’ve noticed that, and it’s kind of a vicious cycle, isn’t it? You want to project your best self online, but when everyone does that, it elevates the standard for what “best” looks like. Our standards of perfection are continually on the rise. How is this idea connected to your vision for Tinybeans?
I believe the ideal parenting platform allows parents to be themselves without judgment, and it provides a place where parenting experiences can be shared and learned from, a place where every parent feels supported by their family and other parents. Parents shouldn’t have to pretend they have everything under control all the time.
Connecting parents to the right things at the right time
Switching gears here. In addition to the picture-sharing aspect of Tinybeans, you’re also a publishing platform. In fact, it was one of your articles that taught me the most effective way to burp my baby, which I’ve used ever since on all my kids.
What was the inspiration behind becoming a publisher and how do you think that enhanced the Tinybeans experience for your users?
One of our goals is to help families by connecting them to the right “thing” at the right time. The “thing” here can be a service, a person, or an article. We believe there’s a wealth of useful things out there for parents. We want to curate the best ones for our families so they don’t have to sift through as much themselves.
As for the “right time” part of the goal, we want to time the recommendation at the moment that it’s most useful for the parent. There’s little value in serving you an article on choosing the bicycle for your toddler when you have a newborn, for example. Many of our families start using our app for their newborn, so we are fortunate to be part of their parenting journey from the very beginning. We’re there for them at many significant milestones so we are in a good position to understand the “right time” and help the parents by curating and recommending the right thing appropriately.
I really appreciate Stephen’s time in contributing to this article. If you have children and are looking for an easy way to connect with your family and your parent friends, you have to check out Tinybeans.
It’s a free app, but there is a Family Premium plan that adds some sweet features like high-res photos, longer video clips, memory search, and free shipping on printed products.
Tinybeans is giving all The Not-The-Mama Dad Blog readers the opportunity to try Family Premium for six months FOR FREE! That’s a $48 value – just for using the promo code NOTTHEMAMA. Here’s how:
Promo Code Instructions
If you’re a new user, click here (https://tinybeans.app.link/NOTTHEMAMA) to download the app and the promo code will be applied automatically.
For existing users, go to www.tinybeans.com/redeem. You’ll be prompted to log into your account, then after that, you’ll see a text box to insert the promo code. Type in “NOTTHEMAMA” and you’ll instantly get six months of Family Premium for free.