FAMIGO is a digital resource for cities and communities to present their family-friendly businesses, events and opportunities in a centralized, easy to use platform. As a partner of the cities and municipalities, FAMIGO creates the digital framework where cities and municipalities can provide relevant information for residents with children, families new to the area, or families on holiday – all age-adjusted and appropriate. (http://famigo.info/)
A family-owned startup for families by families
“My employment adviser asked me if I was drunk,” says Alexander Feldberger. He had just informed the officer that he would not be taking the well-paid position in the tourism industry. Instead, he wanted to found a startup and sign up for the Black Forest Accelerator, whose deadlines he had already missed.
Trading security for freedom and innovation
“While working on the accelerator application, I became more and more certain, that if I was accepted to the accelerator, I would decline the job offer.” He was accepted and his idea approved.
His idea now bears the name FAMIGO and is an impressive endeavour. Initially, it consisted of a B2C portal with user generated content, which centered around everything pertinent to families. “In the first workshop of the accelerator we discussed the difficulties of digitization for communities”, says Feldberger. He knew that for his idea to work, he had to get the cities and communities on board because they were the critical link to the families he wanted to reach.
A business idea developed from his own experience
FAMIGO intends to publicize event locations for local communities, not just playgrounds or sports clubs, but also toddler groups, baby yoga, kindergartens or elementary school. Feldberger developed the idea while on parental leave for the birth of his second child. “That’s when I realized how important these topics are.”
Through his work in the tourism industry, he knew what families looked for in the vicinity of their vacation homes. Now he also got to know the locals. “80 percent of all families with children go for a walk,” he states as an example, “but there is no directory for beautiful walks with children of different ages.”
FAMIGO has three target groups. First, the families who live in the community and are confronted with the issues of daily life. The second target group is families new to the community that need information on what the community has to offer. Last but not least, are the families who are on vacation or in transit and want to be informed quickly and reliably.
FAMIGO does not provide the information itself, but only provides the platform in the form of a website that displays user-tailored content. Feldberger emphasizes that they are not building an app per se but the website and its content are smartphone-friendly and accessible on any device via a dynamic web application. “Nowadays, users want everything at the tip of their fingers,” he says “our goal is to provide a central, accessible platform that is readily available and meets the users’ needs.”
A solution for the communities by the communities
The cooperation of the cities and communities is vital in order to get comprehensive information. The city of Offenburg has published playground locations online, but Feldberger argues that alone is insufficient. “As a visitor, I have no way of knowing whether they are suitable for my three-year-old, whether there is shade available, etc. etc.” This is where the families and communities come in. A call for cooperation by the mayor for user-generated content could be the key to success, and Feldberger is certain this will work. “We have seen that a request by a mayor can increase participation rates up to 50 percent” he says.
Feldberger has three pilot cities: Gengenbach, Offenburg and Willstätt. As a city with a large tourism component, Gengenbach is the pilot city for vacationing families. Offenburg, as a growing community, is committed to new citizens and is the ideal pilot city for relocating families. Finally, with the support of its mayor Marco Steffens (also Feldberger’s mentor), Willstätt is testing FAMIGO for the locals. In the future, Feldberger plans to expand FAMIGO to the entire Ortenau region, the Black Forest, Baden-Württemberg and eventually Germany-wide.
Fast-tracked through the accelerator
“The people in the communities we talk to have a wealth of information and new ideas,” says Feldberger. But the network of the accelerator program, as well as the exchange with the other participants, is indispensable. “It creates a group dynamic that is mutually beneficial for all” he says and adds, “without the accelerator program, I would never have come as far as fast as I have.” Thanks to the program and the WRO network, the mayors of Willstätt, Offenburg and Gengenbach (stakeholders in StartUp.Connect) are very supportive of the FAMIGO platform as a family-friendly tool. For Feldberger, this network has been a wonderful door opener.
The next steps for Feldberger and FAMIGO are clear. “We have the commitment for another funding program,” he says “we need a standard solution that works for all communities because it is uneconomical to create a new platform on a case-by-case basis.” With the cooperation of the pilot cities, a successful prototype will soon be refined. He is hopeful for one or another investor.
No regrets and more papa-time
Feldberger has never regretted walking away from corporate Germany, away from a nine-to-five job and secure income. “Of course, I also work a lot on my startup, but now I can partition my time,” he says. “If I work in the evening, I don’t take papa-time away from my children.” Thereby, he works on the FAMIGO platform at night and uses it with his kids in the afternoon.
“Without the Black Forest Accelerator, I would never have gotten as far as fast. The network we have here is enormously helpful. “