With $1.5 Million Investment, Korean Startup Smile Mom Launches Mobile Community For Moms

Originally posted on TechCrunch

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Moms feeling guilty about baby-spamming Facebook with their child’s photos and their every precious moment now have a more private alternative for those updates, thanks to a new mobile social network called Smile Mom. The app, which is designed to connect moms with others nearby, has already grown to 14,000 users during its beta testing phase.

The founders behind the new app are formerly of Paprika Lab, a social gaming startup that was the first company Smile Mom CEO John S. Kim founded, and later sold to GREE in 2012.

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To date, Smile Family, the Seoul, South Korea-based company behind Smile Mom, has raised $1.5 million in seed funding from angels and institutional investors including Albatross Investment, Capstone, and Fast Track Asia.

Though obviously not a “mom” himself, Kim tells us that most of the people in the company are parents, and have faced the problem Smile Mom is trying to solve first-hand. Moms have inadequate channels on mobile to communicate with just their mom friends, he explains. Meanwhile, our Facebook networks have grown to include others, like former school friends and co-workers, who are not all that interested in our personal lives and family updates.

(In fact, you may recall that there was even a tool called “UnBaby.me” which was designed to keep baby pictures out of the Facebook News Feed. That how bad it is! And people loved that thing, too.)

But with Smile Mom, it’s not only about keeping the Facebook baby spam down to a minimum – moms are also looking for advice, parenting tips, and need a place to vent about their own daily routines, glamorous as they may be. Facebook, increasingly, is not the place for that.

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As for the app itself, it’s a familiar mashup of a Pinterest-like home feed, and other traditional social networking elements like user profiles, updates, photo sharing, photo albums, commenting, chat and more. Though not entirely original, the app’s design is very well done and enjoyable to use.

To get started, you sign up with Facebook or email, step through a brief wizard where you select whether you’re a stay-at-home mom or working mom, then add your kids’ names and birth dates.

A Local Streams section allows you to tap into what other area moms are talking about, too, while also offering a channel where you can buy and sell used baby items, for example.

In tests, however, I found my “local” stream filled with users’ posts from other East Coast states. This is likely due to the fact that the app defaults to showing you the posts from those closest to you when there aren’t enough users in your local community yet.

For now, Smile Mom is available only on Android, but an iOS version will arrive in early 2014. Despite this lack of cross-platform support, user growth during its soft launch has been, on average, 14% week-over-week. Smile Mom competes with other family networking apps like eFamily, 23snaps, Lifecake, Tweekaboo, and others.

Though currently based in Seoul, the company is planning to relocate to the U.S. West Coast – L.A. or Silicon Valley – as that’s where most of the app’s early users are coming from today, we’re told.

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