Thank you so much for joining us, Sarah-Jane! So where did the company’s name of “Tinybeans” come from?
Thank you so much for joining us, Sarah-Jane! So where did the company’s name of “Tinybeans” come from?
Actually, really a cute story! My cofounder Stephen O’Young (initials are SOY) called his first technology software company, Soybeans. So when he had this idea based around kids, he just changed it up to be Tinybeans. So that’s where it came from!
What are some of the core values of your company that you feel have really resonated with parents and families?
So we have a handful of values that we try to stick through to and we try to apply each of these values equally amongst our team and our users. One of them is we’ve got your back. I’ve got your back for our team means we can always count on each other and for our users, how we think about this is how we look after their kid’s photos; how we guard their privacy; how they own their photos. And we really look after them. We still answer every email that comes through personally. We don’t let any query go unanswered. So that’s just a couple of ways we have each other’s back. And spreading sunshine - we try to make Tinybeans as happy and positive place as possible! And that comes from being founded in Australia but traveling the world, spreading happiness. Our users often say that Tinybeans is the highlight of their day. We enable parents to share photos of their kids safely and securely with their families. And compared to Facebook which can feel like a drunken bar fight sometimes, it's a really happy space. It’s often grandparents who say it’s the highlight of the day. One user said “I save my Tinybeans for my coffee beans” - every morning, they get their cup of coffee, they make a ritual of it, and log into Tinybeans. Another value is trying to have fun like a kid, and never forgetting that level of playfulness and joy and bringing it into our work and all that we share with our users. And telling it like it is: as a team, we try to give really candid feedback so we can grow, and Tinybeans is a place where you show off your photos you wouldn’t want to necessarily put on Instagram, where everyone seems to have a perfect life - Tinybeans is all those small everyday moments, kids with food on their faces or having a tantrum. I had a memory flash up of my son, now he’s nine, when he was three, having tantrumed (is that a word) himself to sleep because he was so cross, and I didn’t enjoy it at the time, but now it’s super-cute. So telling it like it is.
As Head of Product Marketing, what are some nontraditional strategies you’ve found that have helped Tinybeans’ growth from a marketing side?
Some of the most effective things we’ve tried have been the most simple. Like one of the things we do is, after we know that parents have been onboardeded, and they’re using the product to share, we send them an email saying “If you’re loving Tinybeans, we’d love it if you could post in some parenting groups you belong to.” And that’s had a huge impact. Such a simple, easy thing to do, and it’s been effective because people use their own words. So it doesn’t seem inauthentic or forced. We haven’t told people what to say, or paid them to say it. It’s just people sharing with others in their communities what they love about Tinybeans. It’s super-simple, doesn’t cost us anything, and has had real impact. The other one is constantly tracking the data, seeing where we can strengthen things that are important to us. One of the key things for us is having parents add family members as soon as possible. If you’re just posting for yourself, it’s easy to fall out of the loop, because parents are busy. So parents seeing other family members getting value from the sharing really helps. And tapping into peoples’ emotions. People often ask “Why would we use Tinybeans when we could use Google photos?” And my answer is that parents put that little bit of extra effort into Tinybeans, adding captions, so they can remember better. My favorite feature by far is “Flashbacks” where we surface memories unexpectedly. The office knows when I'm stuck in Flashbacks as I'm always nearly in tears about how tiny and cute my kids were when they were babies. Those everyday moments you forget about that get surfaced are the ones that mean the most and we want parents to appreciate making that little extra effort so they have that for the future.
You connect millions of families around the world. What are some of the stories and feedback that you get from subscribers?
I think I touched on it earlier about the joy it brings them. That’s what we try to do, provide the most happiness. These days if you watch the news it can feel like it is all doom and gloom, and Tinybeans gives you safe refuge. NYMag calls us “the happiest place on the internet.” I wish I’d thought of that myself and we're always trying to give people a positive reason to come to Tinybeans. It’s about how much we connect them. My family’s in England, my husband’s family is in Greece and New Zealand, families can be so spread out, so how connected we can make them feel is important. One grandparent wrote to us the other day thanking us, saying they hadn’t seen their grandchildren for a year, but that they “see them every day, how they’re growing, and I feel so much more connected to them thanks to Tinybeans.” So giving people those happy connected moments is why we do what we do. Every day I read all the reviews that come in, customer support sits in my team, and I’m obsessed with making that happen.
The TinyBeans Photobooks integration is brilliant. Do you see Tinybeans expanding into other gift categories in the future?
What we’re looking at the moment is how we can add more value to parents across all aspects of their parenting. We just launched our content site - short, actionable tips based on your children’s age. I often see articles about “30 fun things to do with your kids” and I can barely fit a few of them in my head! So we’re trying to keep our articles short, actionable and fun. And curating the huge amount of content out there for parents: bring it all together for parents to be a one-stop shop. We’ve just launched gift guides as well, saving families time and making their lives easier.
I just returned from Collision Conference, and one of the questions that was asked often to speakers on the Centre Stage was about rebuilding trust in online platforms. With Tinybeans, you’ve said in past interviews that “Everything you upload, you own.” Do you think that helps you stand out in today’s tech landscape?
Absolutely. That’s our mission, to be the trusted platform for parents. That started for us with exactly that: safety and ownership of your photos. I know that other social media networks say they own your photos, and whilst I haven’t seen my photos posted there appearing anywhere else no one quite knows what’s happening with them. So we provide that level of reassurance. These are your precious babies! That’s super-key for us. And with our new products starting to roll out, it’s starting with our trusted relationship with parents. So we’re just trying to build upon that, and not do anything to change that. And also I think people appreciate customer service as part of that trust - they trust us to fix a problem, whether they have paid or a free membership. Sometimes people often email us in an aggressive way, because they don’t expect someone to be on the other end of the line as most companies have automated responses, and when we reply, they apologize - they realize there are real people at the other end of our email, and it makes a big difference. So those are just a couple of the things we do to build trust with Tinybeans families.
Being an international company, how do your teammates stay connected and updated across timezones? Are there particular productivity tools you’d recommend, or tips for founders with distributed teams?
Sure! This is definitely a challenge for us. New York and Sydney are not very compatible timezones, especially this time of year. There’s very little crossover. So we use Slack to stay in touch. We have a daily standup between our product and tech team that we do at the end of NYC time / beginning of Sydney day. And that makes a huge difference as well. And I think it’s just trying to over communicate. We try to plan out as much as possible so people can work independently in their timezones. It’s definitely a challenge, and one we’re always trying to learn about better ways to do it. It’s about being flexible. Our team are incredible. Sometimes the NY team is here a little later than they want to be, but they can also come in later in the day, so they can balance their personal and work lives. Any tips anyone else has, I’m open to hearing! Technology is amazing. We use Zoom, Slack, Jira to move things along the process. But time transportation would be even better!
With Tinybean’s success, what keeps you and your team inspired as you continue to build and grow?
You know, that’s really interesting. I think it’s because we don’t necessarily think of ourselves as successful yet. We have such a big vision. We started with photos, but there’s so much we want to do, we’re at the beginning of the journey. It’s a uniquely Australian thing - “tall poppy syndrome”, you can’t get too big for your boots - which can be dangerous when you don’t celebrate your achievements, but it keeps you grounded and honest and striving for more. So we think of ourselves as the start of a journey, and we know there’s so much more we want to do.
It was really my cofounder Stephen’s original idea when his third son was born, and he said some of his friends were writing blogs, sharing all the news of their kids, and he was too lazy to do that. And I’m grateful for his definition of lazy. He wanted to create an app to share photos of his son with his family, and they loved it. His family wasn’t on Facebook. We got introduced through a mutual friend as my background was in marketing and I’d done a lot of work reaching parents and had just become a parent myself. As well as just moving to Australia from England. And we just met for a half-hour coffee, and became cofounders ever since. It was a product I wanted, and I thought “Why not try it?” We didn’t make a penny from Tinybeans for years, but I never lost sight of the fact that it was a great idea, I wanted it, my family wanted it and my friends’ families wanted it. I’m glad I had that approach even thought it didn't seem very sensible to a lot of people.
Oh wow! Well, Australia just had an election dubbed the "Climate Change Election" and the planet did not come out the winner. It's crazy that in the aftermath of the election, the conversation is around how we can get the majority to prioritize climate change without moralizing. Crazy that one of the biggest threats to the planet seems to be becoming a marketing exercise and political weapon instead of a mission everyone gets behind for our collective survival.
I talk to our users a lots and the thing that I’m thinking about the most is how to stop people regretting not taking the photos that will mean the most in the future. That’s a REALLY hard one. Personal regrets are I think I’ve got only one or two pictures of me being pregnant, no pictures of me breastfeeding - all those everyday moments I thought I’d never forget, but now struggle to picture. I’ve heard from people wishing they’d taken photos of their bump growing then changing to a photo of the baby when it’s born, you can’t fake those pictures afterwards. So we’re constantly thinking of enabling ways to capture the moments that mean the most without putting life in a lens, or permanently having your phone in your hand - capture the moment so they can enjoy the moment.
How can people best stay up to date with you?
Check out Tinybeans - it’s a free app for ioS and Android:
And I post most on Instagram.