The politics of playdates can be nerve-racking for new parents. Who’s meeting up at the park and when? Is there a bathroom there? Can anyone offer a ride to the soccer game after? Nothing against the legion of twentysomething hackers plotting their apps over drinks at General Assembly, but this just isn’t an area where they are likely to innovate. Enter Kathryn Tucker, a single mother of two and former movie producer behind award-winning flicks like The Station Agent and Fog Of War, and the creator of RedRover, a new mobile app for iOS.
“RedRover was definitely conceived to fix all the things I fuck up,” Ms. Tucker told Betabeat. “The birthday party mixup was one moment. Basically, I received an invitation by email, the mom made changes to it a few times (the time, the location, even adding a second birthday celebrant to the party). Invitees then responded to the email a zillion times, I ended up writing down the wrong date since the thread was too long and meandering to read, my child missed the party (a sports party with his best friends that he would have loved) and the birthday child’s mom has been cold to me ever since.”
RedRover mixes elements familiar to users of Foursquare, GroupMe and Facebook groups. A birthday party becomes a node in a timeline that adjusts dynamically when the schedule changes. Conversation around it would be contained in a thread tethered to the event and would reach the user via push notifications. On the location side, Ms. Tucker sees an advantage in creating a segmented social network–one with a very specific set of needs. After a recent day trip to the Coney Island Aquarium, she recalls, her location based apps failed to meet her needs as a parent.
“The choices were gross and grosser. We couldn’t find anywhere decent to eat on or near the boardwalk so [we] ended up having corn dogs that had probably been reheated 5 times already. It pretty much ruined our otherwise great day. The incident got me thinking that it would be great to be able to pull up the local moms’ recommendations of what’s healthy and good in that neighborhood. On Redrover you can sort by what nearby has been voted kid-friendly or has a clean bathroom and you can see what other parents have said about the place.”
RedRover is part of a growing group of services that tack away from the one-size-fits-all, winner takes all social networks. Just as photo sharing service Path is betting users will have an inner circle they would like to share photos, RedRover is based on Ms. Tucker’s belief that there is a level of privacy between parents that larger services can’t provide. “It can form “Mommy subgroups” combining the power of local communities with social media,” says Consigliere founder and TechStars NY mentor Michael Duda. “Facebook is just so mass, they can’t do it.”
Ms. Tucker has a few skill sets to fall back on as she makes the jump from cinema to startups. “In film you iterate constantly on every aspect. It’s script changes on set, score, sound design, changing cast, audience research, a million things. In software, it involves re-prioritizing and cutting features, user feedback. They are both multi-tasking juggling acts,” says Ms. Tucker. And just as tech founders must convince a backer to stake their venture, so film producers learn the art of selling ideas. “Both are financed on the promise, both are incredibly risky ventures, so the alchemy of persuasion, the package of team, cast and market fit have to be strong for the investors to take the leap of faith.”