Stefanie Lemcke is the founder of GoKid, the complete carpool solution for schools, teams, and families. Follow GoKid on Facebook and Twitter.
What inspired you to start your company?
Like many families with two full-time working parents, we were struggling to balance our job needs with the family schedule. My girls were in first and third grade when after-school and sport activities kicked into full gear, and we also moved from New York City to the suburbs where nothing was within walking distance. I reached out to neighbors to coordinate carpools, but it was hard to manage - tons of emails and messages to set up the carpools drove me insane. I started searching for technologies that could help us, and when I couldn’t find anything that worked, I decided that someone needed to fix this problem. Only later I found out that half of our schools in the US no longer have school busses (budget cuts!) and over 30 million kids are driven to school every single day. We estimate the lost productivity time for parents to amount to over $90 billion annually. After working on building the technology as a side project for over a year (side project to a day job, raising two kids and a puppy dog), I decided to run the company full time after we got accepted into Techstars.
What advice would you give to fellow women who are looking to start their own tech company?
Talk to as many fellow entrepreneurs who have started their own companies as possible. It takes a lot of time, energy, and commitment to launch a tech company.
Do your homework, research, and make sure that it is a big enough problem you are solving and that you will LOVE to solve this problem because you will spend the next years doing that pretty much on a 24/7 schedule.
Have your friends and partners on call for the tough times.
Celebrate each step on the road.
There are many affordable resources to start up a business - go to websites like fiverr and hire specialists. You can’t be doing this alone.
Stock up on wine - you will need it.
Is there any coding or technical knowledge that helped you create this business?
Prior to launching GoKid, I co-founded a media and technology company called New York International together with my husband, for which we build websites, social media, and advised international startups. As a Principal for Quantum Media, a consulting firm for technology and entertainment, I had worked with Fortune 500 companies on innovation projects, which included evaluating hundreds of technology startups. Looking at what companies like Uber, Postmates, and Boxed had built inspired me to bring the latest technologies to the carpool world for parents.
What is the most important thing that you hope your daughters learn about women in tech as they watch you in the years to come?
As a mother of two, this is one of the most important and rewarding aspects of running GoKid: my girls are part of this journey, from choosing a name for the company to strategizing about our social media channels. I talk to them a lot and try to show them what we are currently working on. I stress the of importance of learning to code, and luckily one of them is already teaching herself on CodeAcademy. The girls are also coming to tech conferences and seeing me pitch at competitions. We all need to work on changing the ratio in our industry, and nothing helps more than seeing other women work for and run technology businesses.
What is your favorite founding mom moment?
My girls and their friends are part of the journey. You will see them in our photoshoots and helping out at tech conferences. When I was part of Techstars, I hired an (amazing) intern who was 17. When my girls came to visit the program in Detroit, I realized that my intern was only 4.5 years older than my older daughter.
How do you create balance in your life?
The company becomes a part of the family, and I’m lucky enough that everyone is in it with me. I need to exercise otherwise I would go insane. And have I mentioned wine?
What are ways you stay current? Do you have any favorite websites or podcasts?
We are lucky to be part of the Techstars network, where we get access to forums and conferences for founders. I subscribe to a handful of industry specific newsletters: Garrys Guide for finding good events here in New York; Product Hunt for news on other startups; I love the StartUp podcast by Gimlet Media. You need to listen to the REAL stories of starting a company.
Beyond websites and media, I regularly go out and speak and attend conferences such as SXSW, CES, Mobility Specific, and school conferences to learn about the wider industry trends and to meet with our customers.
Is there anything else you would like to share with Moms Can: Code?
I simply love what you are doing and hope that you will help thousands of moms learn how to code. When I was searching for developers, I could not find anyone in my target group: a developer AND mom who would understand the product we are building not only from a software perspective, but also from a user perspective. With more than half of the population being female consumers, we need to get moms into designing and developing technologies. Otherwise, we will end up with hundreds of additional social media networks for college-age kids. And please start carpooling using GoKid!