WALNUT CREEK -- It was a simple dinner party that got Soren Kaplan thinking.
Sitting around a table with friends, the Walnut Creek father of two realized that the conversation revolved around their children's activities -- how hard it was to schedule them, the difficulties in getting them to and from an event, where to get good recommendations for unique family outings and similar issues.
"It suddenly became clear to me that there was a need to make this easier, that maybe there was a business there," said Kaplan, a veteran business consultant. "It seemed like a dream to have everything in the same place, but then we realized, 'Why not solve the problem for ourselves?' "
Such were the humble beginnings of Famtivity.com.
With the help of friends with Silicon Valley startup experience, Famtivity.com, a sort of online backyard fence, launched quietly in
November, with a more intense push -- or "hard launch" -- scheduled for this month. It is designed as a one-stop shopping spot for kids' activities, a place to go to research and enroll in age-appropriate classes and sports, and even plan carpools with your children's friends.
The concept is simple, Kaplan says -- use the site to search out children's interests, and a variety of providers will appear. The site not only allows you to enroll your child, but also coordinate their schedules with other kids', which makes the logistics of getting from one place to another easier.
The site is centered in and around the 925 area code, but Kaplan hopes to expand it to include all of the Bay Area shortly, perhaps eventually go nationwide.
He says early response has been tremendous. Just after the soft launch in
November, he saw Famtivity's Facebook page "likes" soar to more than
"There is a real need for this type of service," he says. "Parents get it, the
providers get it."
He says that when he was growing up in the early 1970s, there wasn't a
need for such a service. "We all just played outside until it got dark," he
said. These days, for various reasons, a child's life is more structured, and it
takes a bit more finesse to keep children involved.
Besides activities for kids, Kaplan says he hopes Famtivity.com will be the
go-to stop for family events and activities in the Bay Area.
"Our team has really scoured all the event calendars to come up with 'hidden gems' that can create memorable experiences for kids," he says. "Whether that's a small theater production or a magic show, or a family picnic at a park, or something else that may not be in a parent's scope of reference. We can provide information on that."
Many East Bay parents think it's an idea that is long overdue. "I wish I had
had something like that when my kids were younger," said Walnut Creek
mom Denise Crane. "It would have save me a lot of headaches."
Prospective service providers like the concept, too.
"I was excited by Famtivity, because it would help families see how much more we have to offer as a school," says Jennifer Perry of Walnut Creek's The Ballet School for the Performing Arts.
With the site's formal launch this month, Kaplan and his team are canvassing schools across the East Bay to offer help with afterschool activities. At some point in the near future, he hopes to have Famtivity.com enroll many of such classes, taking the load off parents and teachers.
"And we will give a portion of our proceeds back to the school," he says.
For a 45-second video, go to http://www.tout.com/embed/touts/fa6lmc