As the signal to noise ratio decreases on larger social networks, more and more startups are beginning to take a stab at creating much more private networks. Path is one big example of a social network for just your close friends, while others like Pair and Cupple (now currently operating out of Copenhagen) are building apps that allow couples to privately share messages, pictures, and checkins with each other. Continuing this trend is HeyWe, a private sharing app for families. It seems to hit all of the key pain points that parents and children have, or at least the easiest ones solved by mobile.
HeyWe is the first product built by the Oulu, Finland based startup, Cosmic Gecko. To build the product CEO Jyrki Matero leads a team of 15 people listed on their webpage (including three trainees). On top of HeyWe, the company also lists Cosmic Gekko Arena, a free location-based game, in development.
HeyWe has just launched on App Store, Google Play and Nokia Store, making it open to families with a mix of phones.
The first main feature the app offers is a group calendar, which I can imagine is a much needed features for families these days. I'm sure many of us remember growing up with some physical calendar next to the landline telephone phone, but these days I bet more and more parents just operating out of their smartphone's calendar, leaving information disorganized (or at least kids out of the loop). HeyWe's calendar syncs across all the connected phones in the family, making sure everyone knows when that next soccer practice is.
For the more concerned parents, HeyWe also offers optional location tracking. So instead of calling your kids to see if they're on their way home, you can check where they are, live on the map like Google Latitude. This still doesn't let you know if they're getting into trouble, but at least you know they're not in another city somehow.
HeyWe also offers private messaging, which is an added bonus for the less tech-saavy families that are still paying for text messages between each other. You can also include a status message but only for your private family network. HeyWe suggests that this makes a good learning tool for a child's first social network.
The last real feature of the app is its Note section, which they describe as like a virtual refrigerator. It doesn't keep things cold, but its a place to pin up notes, reminders, and any other information a family needs to hold onto and remember.
The application is free to use on for the first month, and then charges €1.5 per month, or €10 for an entire year. The pricing includes the whole family, I suppose making it an easier cost to justify.
I think by now, each newspaper comic has run a joke that involves emailing/Facbooking/Tweeting the kids and telling them dinner is ready. But as our phones get more and more engrained in our lives, I suppose that once ridiculous sounding gag is the new normal. HeyWe is providing a logical and useful feature set, but I wonder how much natural family interaction they're able to plug into. Can your phone replace the notepad on your fridge, or does it just fragment information into more places?
HeyWe is clearly not the first startup to try to build a social product for families. I've heard and read about others experimenting in this area, but the fact that I can't name one might be a sign that the space is still wide open.