We are all using an endless array of apps to manage our professional lives. The ability of these apps to connect with one another brings a centralization that results in ease. For our family lives, we are used disparate physical bulletin boards, notes, apps, calendar invites, and conversations between spouses; leaving a lot to be desired. Hearth Display is a newly-launched family management platform that blends hardware (touchscreen) with elegant software that serves as a central hub for families to manage their tasks and activities. Billed as an operating system for families, the solution handles scheduling, task management, to-do lists, and routine building with built-in automation. Hearth has digitized economist Diane Elson’s “Three R’s – reduction, redistribution, and recognition into the user experience to build a technology solution that provides more support to parents than previously ever imagined. As of today, the company is accepting its second batch of pre-orders with plans for delivery in early 2023.
AlleyWatch caught up with Hearth Display Cofounders Mei-Lin Ng, Susie Harrison, and Nathalie Stratton to learn more about the business, the company’s strategic plans, latest round of funding, and much, much more…
Who were your investors and how much did you raise?
Hearth Display raised its first institutional round of $2.8M from Female Founders Fund, Stellation VC, Precursor Ventures, Reshma Saujani, Jenny Fleiss, and other strategic individual investors – bringing the company’s total funding to just over $3M in combined VC and angel funding.
Tell us about the product or service that Hearth Display offers.
Hearth Display is a new company designing modern technology to make the pain points of family management easier and more equitable. The company’s core product is a first-of-its-kind operating system that combines beautiful hardware with smart software to create a central hub for the thousands of decisions, tasks, and plans a family makes in a day – giving archaic, disaggregated bulletin boards, to-do lists, and fridge notes the boot. Hearth Display is the operating system for the modern family.
Three women found Hearth Display on a mission to simplify the time-exhaustive methods of family management while creating a more equitable division of household labor, which is 8x more likely to fall on women. We each grew up with superhero, working moms who “did it all” – but we see a different future for ourselves where parents have more support. Combining our unique backgrounds in product development, growth, and ed-tech, our team has spent the last two years developing and perfecting Hearth Display to solve for the “Mental Load” using framework inspired by economist and social scientist Diane Elson’s “Three R’s”. First, Hearth Display Reduces the mental load via a centralized hub with software that allows parents to manage chaotic schedules, tasks, and logistics with predictive automation. Second, Hearth makes it easy to Redistribute the work across the household through family-wide participation. And third, throughout the process there is Recognition of the often invisible work it takes to make a family function through visual communication.
How is Hearth Display different?
Following thousands of interviews with families over the course of two years, the team at Hearth Display learned that parents today are still using as many as 5 disaggregated systems to manage their family organization. This includes physical bulletin boards, fridge notes, chore charts, numerous calendars, and varying task management apps to name just a few. Hearth Display exists to simplify family organization by creating one central hub for all of the above that is visible to all family members – including kids.
Hearth Display’s hardware is a 27″ low-profile screen (16.5″ W, 26.7″ H, x” D) meant to be installed in the heart of a home for active, family-wide participation. Hearth’s software was created to streamline the core functions of family management such as scheduling, task management, to-do lists, and routine building. The interface offers a beautiful and easy-to-use experience that allows each family member to build and customize their own profile with imagery, calendars, to-do’s, routines, and more. The Hearth software integrates with a companion application to bring its core functions and settings to the palm of your hand or to your desktop for easy input. The software also includes access to the Hearth Helper, a virtual assistant service that will do tasks for you – like uploading event invitations or soccer schedules to your family’s Hearth calendar. Just snap a picture and send via text or email.
What market does Hearth Display target and how big is it?
At launch, Hearth Display is targeting the millions of American parents across income levels who are willing and ready to spend an estimated $217B on care-related activities and chores. Hearth Display currently has already amassed a waitlist of 30,000 parents across 47 states – the top being California, Texas, Florida, Minnesota, and New York (in that order).
What’s your business model?
We firmly believe that if you’re not paying for a product, you are the product. To that end, Hearth’s upfront hardware cost also comes with a monthly subscription model of $9/month. Hearth will exclusively generate revenue from product and subscription sales, and will not sell clientele data for additional income streams – as privacy is one of the company’s core customer guarantees.
What are your post-COVID office plans?
Hearth Display’s growing team is operating out of an all-new Brooklyn HQ on a hybrid schedule, with team members working remotely all over the world. Hearth Display will always follow local and federal guidelines to ensure employee safety.
What was the funding process like? What are the biggest challenges that you faced while raising capital?
When we first went out to find angel investors for Hearth Display in 2021, we ended up pitching to around 60 investors and only got one yes. The investment we received wasn’t quite what we hoped for, so we asked ourselves how far we could stretch those dollars. With that investment, we built two prototypes and launched a preorder campaign that sold out in three weeks—with revenue valued at four times our initial angel investment! The success of utilizing our dollars to prove our concept ultimately helped us raise institutional capital this year. As women-founded companies receive only 2.5% of venture capital funding, it’s that much more important for us to be resilient, resourceful, and creative as we build. We could have viewed the initial fundraising experience as a failure, but instead, we achieved our desired business outcomes and then successfully raised our first institutional round from some of the best early-stage investors.
What factors about your business led your investors to write the check?
Our investors saw how much progress we were able to make toward our business objectives with limited angel funding. They knew we were single-mindedly focused on achieving our vision of what Hearth could be for families and were going to find a way to make Hearth a reality. They also believed in the pain point we’re solving – they talked to families in their networks and heard over and over again how challenging and time-consuming family management can be.
What are the milestones you plan to achieve in the next six months?
Hearth Display will officially launch pre-orders on July 12th. Following this debut, the Hearth Display team will be heads down on final product development to ensure delivery by early 2023. Hearth Display’s software will evolve and grow alongside its customers and adapt to their needs.
What advice can you offer companies in New York that do not have a fresh injection of capital in the bank?
As much as possible, focus on staying close to your potential customers to really understand their pain points. Prior to raising any capital, we spent months interviewing families to learn more about their daily habits and needs so we could understand how to build a product that would have the most impact in their lives. While at times this work can feel repetitive and slow moving, this upfront research and development really streamlined our product roadmap by ensuring our team could focus on the core features that our customers really need. It’s also helped us build an avid following of customers who are excited to preorder, beta test, and tell their friends about Hearth!
Where do you see the company going now over the near term?
We see Hearth becoming a broad platform for family technology that helps shift the distribution of household labor, with multiple hardware products throughout the home and software to address every stage of family life.
What’s your favorite restaurant in NYC?
Like true New Yorkers, we love food and have many favorites. If we had to pick, Susie’s favorite is Sixty Three Clinton in the Lower East Side. Mei Lin’s favorite is Lilia in Williamsburg. Nathalie’s favorite is Oxomoco in Greenpoint.