Balloon Balloon lifts ASU entrepreneurs

Balloon Balloon, a transcontinental managed venture startup created by ASU graduate students, is changing the status quo of parent-caregiver communication. 

Megan Kirk and Elizabeth Oviedo met last fall when they were both enrolled in the Lean Launch Course. 

“We were both working on different startups at the time but decided to team up for Balloon Balloon when we traveled for the European Innovative Academy,” Oviedo says. 

After meeting their future teammates and business partners at that same conference, Balloon Balloon could only go up. 

Balloon Balloon is an online platform for working parents and their children’s caregivers to communicate. It provides services such as streamline scheduling, appointment notifications and allergy and medical information all on a private online platform. 

 “When coming up with the concept, we were thinking about problems we had experienced in our past professional and personal lives,” says ASU graduate student and Balloon Balloon partner Elizabeth Oviedo. 

Oviedo, a former teacher, found that communicating with parents was difficult. 

Initially the project started as a parent-teacher communication aid. 

Megan Kirk, also an ASU graduate student and Balloon Balloon partner, says they ran into problems with communicating with teachers. 

“A lot of schools are facing budgetary limitations,” says Kirk. “Trying to sell software to schools could really be a uphill battle.”

“Every school and every teacher does their communication a little bit differently,” says Oviedo while discussing the other problems. 

Oviedo says that she and the rest of the Balloon Balloon team found that there was a demand for a better way for parents to communicate with their child’s caregiver. 

“With Balloon Balloon, parents feel that they are a part of their children’s lives, even while parents are away, providing peace of mind,” says Oviedo.  

Oviedo and Kirk manage the business-side of the startup, handling the marketing, financial and business responsibilities. Making up the rest of the team, Clemens Ehrenreich, the back-end software developer, Christian Østergaard Laursen, the front-end software developer, and Michael Ha, the user-experience and graphic designer, are all based in Europe. 

The team members battle a nine-hour difference in time. “It is definitely more difficult to work from different locations,” says Michael Ha, who is based in Aarhus, Denmark. 

Oviedo describes the time zone conflict as an advantage. “We have a staff that is working around the clock,” she says. “It feels that we get a lot more done since we are on different time zones.” 

Both Oviedo and Kirk felt Phoenix was a great place to set up their company. “Phoenix as a city has so many great opportunities to support startups,” says Oviedo. 

As a native of Arizona, Oviedo says she has seen firsthand the welcoming educational and business environment that exists here. 

“The W. P. Carey School of Business Center for Entrepreneurship has afforded our team hands on opportunities to learn and develop our business and Phoenix is experiencing a surge in the number of startups, entrepreneurs, and incubators,” she says. 

With all startup companies, finding its place in the marketplace can be a difficult task. 

“We are continuing to evaluate where Balloon Balloon fits in the market,” says Kirk. 

Balloon Balloon markets itself to areas of high-income level families with a large percent of working parents. “The two areas we looked into were New York City and San Francisco,” says Kirk. “For right now, our target market is only in the United States.”

“I think what separates Balloon Balloon from our competitors is that it allows the nanny and working parents to collaborate through an easy and secure online platform,” says Ha. 

Ha discusses the two different, but both very important uses of the product. “Parents can share information about the child and dynamically change the child’s schedule,” he says. “Whereas, the nannies can share the child’s day with the parent.”

Balloon Balloon user and single father of two, Ian Barnett, utilizes the software to keep in touch with his children while he works and goes to school. 

“Life is busy,” says Barnett. “Balloon Balloon is a great tool to be able to keep in touch with my kids during the day.” 

Through Balloon Balloon, Barnett says he reads what the nanny writes about his kids so that he can continue any teachings or activities orchestrated by the nanny earlier in the day.

However, Barnett does provide some insight about some needed improvements. “My nanny is not very tech savvy,” he says. “Making a complimentary product like a mobile app, allowing her to take pictures and videos on her phone and have them automatically upload to Balloon Balloon would be helpful.” 

Balloon Balloon has been in contact with mentors discussing the possibilities of marketing the product to U.S. expatriates. “We found that this need to feel connected to your child while away is universal,” Kirk says. “There is definitely a huge potential for Balloon Balloon in the future.” 

“I’m not putting a time limit on how long the team will work together,” says Kirk. “I’m just really excited to see how far we can get with this.” 

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