There are enough people forming social networks through medium such as Facebook, Twitter, or blogs in the 21st century for it be called the Age of Social Networking. Some express their concerns for personal relationships that the younger, internet-savvy generation could be forming offline. However, this generation already seems to be hooked on the utility and entertainment that could be had online. Recently, a social networking service Parentie (http://www.parentie.com, founder: Sangjo Choi) was opened, drawing interest. We met Ji young Kim (36), the co-founder of Parentie.
You made the website useful for parents. What motivated you to start?
My brother-in-law tossed a question at me last November. “What do you think about an online service which enables parents to make a social network with each other?” That was our service’s starting point. As a parent, I have also thought that this kind of service that he mentioned would meet parents’ needs.
I had to find a daycare center in a hurry when a babysitter, who took care of my first daughter, quitted suddenly three years ago. Usually I ask my friends whenever I have a question about parenting. However, they did not have any information on daycare centers in my town. Moreover, I did not have a chance to make friends who have kids in my neighborhood because I worked daytime. I had difficulties finding a good daycare center and wished I had known anyone who could help me with this problem.
I also had a similar experience with parenting when my family just came to Champaign. At that time, my first daughter had no friends to play with. It was not easy to find kids around her age. As a service planner, parents’ social network was an interesting topic. Most social network services focuses on enabling people to make social networks based on their real-life connections such as friends. There was no service which connects people based on interests in information relating to their children. A number of existing services claiming that they are real social network services for parenting were only bulletin board systems.
In this respect, as a parent and a service planner, it was a worthwhile challenge to develop an online platform for parents’ social network. My brother-in-law and I started to shape our ideas. By the way, it was surprising to me how he thought about this kind of service as a bachelor.
Parents most likely have a lot of interest in their children’s education, personal relationship, health and hobbies. In what way does this website connect parents of similar interests?
You can make three relationships through the service once you join Parentie; Network, Group, and Friend. Network is the most fundamental relationship. You can be a member of Network automatically once you enter your children’s educational institutions such as schools and daycare centers.
You can share your ideas and information with members of your Network who are the people who send their kids to the same educational institution. You can join any Network that you are interested in even if your kids do not attend its institution.
Group is the relationship that people make based on their interests while Network is built on their kids’ educational institutions. You can search groups by location, kids’ age, or topics (education, parenting, family, hobby, etc.). You can also create a Group for yourself to share your thoughts if you cannot find a Group that you look for.
Lastly Friend is the relationship that people make when they want to establish a closer relationship with persons who they meet in a Network or a Group. You might be familiar with this relationship because it is provided in most existing social network services.
I feel that there should be benefits and appeals to draw people’s interest to a new service, since it’s in the early stage and there are many people who don’t know, and even if they know, many people already use Facebook or Twitter. What are some interesting features compared to the existing networks?
To be honest, that was the point that we were most concerned with when creating Parentie. A lot of people already built up the network with their friends or acquaintances on Facebook or Twitter. In addition, people tend to hesitate or feel pressure when starting something new from the beginning. Therefore, some people might wonder why they should make an effort to form new relationships on Parentie since they already have social networks on Facebook or Twitter.
However, as I mentioned earlier, Parentie is a social network service that allows people to network in relation to their children’s information, which differentiate it from other SNS. Looking at my friends’ networks, in most cases they seem to expand personal connections based on their schools, work or churches. However, it often happens that their personal connections get to change when children have. For example, the relationship between mothers might be affected if their kids do not play well together. In this respect, Parentie is different from other SNS such as Facebook or Tweeter.
Children-based networking is Parentie’s strong point, which is not provided on other SNS. I am sure that people’s networks cannot be clearly divided into one for themselves and the other for their kids. Therefore, Parentie has tried to provide useful functions to be compatible with existing SNS.
Just as Facebook went significant changes from its first stage, this service will likely go through many changes in the future. What is the ultimate vision you have for this service?
The goal of the service is defined and the long-term plan is set up in accordance with the goal when creating the new service; what the service would look like ultimately and how the service would be built up step by step. However, the long-term plan is usually modified after the service is launched. Interestingly people often use the service in a different way from our expectation though the service is created based on sufficient research; what people would want to get from the service and how people would use the service? It is always difficult to forecast people’s usage pattern because their attitudes towards the service are more active and enthusiastic than the past.
Therefore, it is very difficult to project how Parentie would be evolved in the future. However it is obvious that Parentie’s fundamental goal, which is to provide the easiest place for parents to make their network regarding kids’ education, will always remain unchanged though the service would be adapted constantly.
You might need some help from your husband, doing all this work and with children. Could you tell us something about your family?
I have two daughters – five and two years old. They have given me extreme experiences because their characters are exactly opposite. My husband always encourages and supports me even though he is a busy PhD student(Sang Wook Choi, Chemical Engineering). Having a family to take care of often gives me harder time than being a single. However it is obvious that my family always gives me driving forces of my life.
Now that I’ve heard of it, Parentie (http://www.parentie.com) seems like the useful, convenient service that parents have been waiting for. We hope that you keep advancing, and become the ‘Mark Zuckerberg’ of Korea.