Meet the Winners of our Startups Business Acceleration Grant: Gether

Isabelle Comber5 mins
Meet the Winners of our Startups Business Acceleration Grant: Gether

Anyone juggling a family against the other pressures of modern life will be familiar with the very real burden that is the mental load. Whether it’s returning excursion permission slips or registering for sports teams, booking dental appointments or remembering to buy birthday presents; the sheer volume of family responsibilities can rapidly lead to overwhelm. 

Even in 2024, we know that these responsibilities are not evenly distributed. Recent data from the Australian Institute of Family Studies found that in 78% of heterosexual households with two working parents, the mental load was “always or usually” carried by the mother.

Australian-born startup Gether is shining a spotlight on these often-invisible tasks, and – more importantly – using frontier AI technologies to organise and distribute them, dramatically easing the pressure of family life. 

For any parent, it’s an extremely compelling proposition. And it’s one that captured the judges attention at the Giant’s Mentoring Pitch Competition at this year’s Sunrise Festival. Founders Claire Waring and Elly Bartens took home Airwallex’s latest Business Acceleration Grant, courtesy of our new Airwallex for Startups program. 

We sat down with Elly and Claire to uncover what makes a winning pitch, and discuss how they’re plotting the end of the mental load for parents worldwide – once and for all.

AWX: Congratulations on your incredible win at Sunrise! How did you come up with the idea, and why do you feel tackling the mental load is so important? 

Elly: So this was actually Claire's idea which came about a couple of years ago when she was working in the advertising world. Both of us are busy professional mums, and we found the core problem to be that busy mums have no time. They're trying to juggle work and home life, and the pressure of the mental load is relentless. 

It’s a problem that affects both men and women, but all the research that we've done shows that it impacts women more. Something like 92% of women are responsible for their family household schedule. We wanted to do something about it.

Claire: The irony is that men actually want to help. From maternity leave, the mother often becomes a gatekeeper of all the information around the kids and they tend to retain that as the child gets bigger and bigger. 

What we’ve seen personally, with colleagues and friends, and in a lot of the validation surveys that we did – is that it's holding women back from their careers. There comes a point where for many women, it just gets too hard. So either they drop out of the workforce or they just pull themselves back from going to that next level. 

There wasn’t tech to help with it. They just weren't tools, apps or anything out there, other than books on time management.

When we dug a little deeper into that, we found that because the problem is invisible and because it's a female problem, it isn't getting solved by the vast majority of tech founders who are male and probably in their twenties and early thirties. They haven’t had the experience of it or recognised that it’s a problem worth solving, so we really felt compelled to make a difference ourselves. 

What we also recognised early on is that it isn’t just about mums, we need to bring partners on board to collaborate. The only way mental load is going to be solved, is if we have this triumvirate of partners working together sharing the load, but also technology helping to lift that load as well.

AWX: You’re using AI to power the capabilities of the platform. Talk us through the functionality. 

Claire: The platform is designed to aggregate from multiple channels through email. So it will take images, photos of paper notes, emails – basically any format that you send through – into the system. Then it sorts out all of that communication and it pulls out the relevant information for your family. 

Let’s say that you have a 15 page school newsletter. You don't need all of it, you just need things that are relevant to your child and their age groups. It will sort and pull out relevant information, and then it will schedule family events, tasks and notes and put it all on one central family dashboard which parents and carers all have access to. 

So there's one central location for everything, which means that mum or the primary carer is no longer carrying the bulk of information. The system will aggregate all of that, it will allocate it to the right child, and then you can tag which adult is gonna be responsible for that event.

It will also send you daily round ups and reminders of everything that is going on. And that's one of the things that we're finding that our customers really love.

Elly: Another really good example that we tend to use is the birthday party invitation. So you get given this physical invitation for your child’s friend’s birthday party next weekend. You can take a photo of it, and the AI will automatically scan all that information and put it in as a calendar event. 

It will then send you a reminder the day before and send you a reminder to go and buy a present. It functions that way across everything that you want to do with family life. 

AWX: It’s something that we can imagine mums and partners deeply embracing. How has the growth journey been so far?

Elly: We started out with a huge survey last year which had over 300 responses. 

And then we got into the Giants Mentoring program, and they asked us why we weren’t doing a pilot. So we got a group of twenty mums and we ran a pilot last year for a few months and got all sorts of insights about what features are useful and what wasn't. That was really successful. 

We found we have a product market fit of 89%, so we went crazy building the beta prototype that we launched in market in March. And it's been going really well so far. We've had signups across 12 countries, so we know it's got really good global appeal.

Claire: One of the most exciting things about has been that all of this has been done with zero paid media.

AWX: For sure - the power of word-of-mouth is incredible, especially in communities of mums! 

Claire: Absolutely. And to be honest so far, we've been holding our mums back from spreading the word too much because we wanted to make sure that the platform was stable, that it was able to deliver on a smaller number of people before we started to really push it out.

We’re delighted at the results so far and we're getting ready – post this beta – to launch it to a much broader audience and really leverage that we call it the “mums-get-mums” network.

AWX: This “mums-get-mums” marketing program was a key part of your pitch. How will you use the Business Acceleration Grant to launch it?

Claire: It’s a program in three parts. We’ll target mums in Facebook groups by sponsoring those groups with paid partnerships. We know that’s where mums live and have conversations. 

The second part is leveraging our current customers and giving them referral offers to pass on. And the third, and a really important part for us, is a retargeting program as well. Because what we know about mums is that they get busy, they get distracted. They're not always going to be in a moment where they're going to commit something. But if you remind them if it comes up again and again then you have a great chance of converting them. 

Elly: The last thing to mention is we’re conscious that we're still early stage. So we’re trying to find what we call “product language fit”. We really want to use this new group to give more feedback about what's working and not working for them. 

So we'll save some of the money to incentivise people that don’t finish the signup process and use the product to complete a survey, which will be a key opportunity to get some more learnings about the product.

AWX: Then in the near future you’ll be going wide and harnessing these networks - how do you see it scaling, and where would you like to see Gether in the near future?

Claire: We've got a target of getting to 100 million within ten years. The vision is that we have Microsoft AI at the office and Gether AI at home. We really see this as a global product. 

We've discovered as we've gone along that there are really key moments where mums feel the pain and they're ready to adopt a new solution. When school starts in the Northern Hemisphere in September, that's going to be a key moment for us taking it I guess truly global. It's global already but we've really kept it to Australia so that again we can test, learn, iterate on a smaller market, particularly where we have access to our customers for lots of conversations, before we then take it to a much broader market. 

Elly: To hit that big number, we want to focus on enterprise as well. We see enterprise as a real opportunity for us getting into wellness corporate programs, particularly in the US, which would  boost our adoption rate. We’ll start with this B2C model which we're running with now, but we’ll get the growth from B2B.

AWX: You took out the winning prize in the pitch competition. What was your strategy going in? 

Elly: We’ve pitched through the Giants program before, so we had a good handle on where we want to go with this product and what our growth goals are. Thinking about the pitch itself, because we already have a product in beta, we really wanted to get the $5k to run the “mums-get-mums” marketing program.

Claire: In terms of strategy, we wanted to make sure that we demonstrated a connection to the problem space, which we're so passionate about. 

But we also had to balance it for the room because – to be perfectly honest – mums get it immediately. But when you're in a startup room, not everybody is a parent and certainly mums are in the minority. So I think making sure that we really clearly articulated the problem space for people who weren't living that experience, making sure that it really resonated with them, was the first strategy that we had. 

The second was to make sure that we showed that we already had traction in market and an ambition for global scaling.

AWX: It was a strong strategy that served you well! In general, do you think there is a key pitch secret that can help you get noticed when you’re trying to get your startup through early stages?

Elly: It’s the classic structure of – what’s the problem, what’s the solution, and then backing up that solution with demonstrative research about how your solution is going to fix that problem.

The other thing not to be worried about is – because one of the pieces of the feedback that we have heard before and we are conscious of – is that there are other competitors in the problem space. 

I personally don't see that as an issue, because if you're coming at it with solid research about how you're going to do it and your point of difference – it does have a place. Just because other people are playing in the space, just step forward with your differentiator.

Claire: I also believe that storytelling is really important. I'm biased because I come from an advertising background, I spent a lot of years having to convince people to hand over a lot of money by pitching to clients and connecting with them emotionally. If you have an emotional connection with somebody, you have a much greater chance of them buying into what you're doing – be that a product, a service, even a pitch for $5k. 

So I would say don't underestimate the power of storytelling. You have to keep it brief in a three minute pitch, but storytelling is universal.

The next round of our Business Acceleration Grant for Startups is now open! 

Feeling inspired to take your startup’s growth to the next level? You can apply for Airwallex’s next Business Acceleration Grant by joining our exclusive Airwallex for Startups program. Sign up now! 

Your free membership not only enters you into the running for our next grant, you’ll also unlock our amazing member benefits;

  • Exclusive Offers; Access a range of game-changing offers from Airwallex and our ecosystem partners.*

  • Education; Unlock industry-first research and helpful resources to master your financial foundations.

  • Community; Come together with like-minded founders, VCs & mentors at exclusive events.

  • Spotlight; Leverage media and editorial opportunities to build your brand.

Hurry, because entries for this grant round close on 30 June 2024. Terms and conditions apply

The photography in this article was supplied by gener8media.

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Isabelle Comber
Business Finance Writer

Izzy is a business finance writer for Airwallex. She specialises in thought leadership that empowers businesses to grow without boundaries.

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