With summer underway, parents -- particularly those who work full time -- face the challenge of coordinating weeks of activities for their children.
Whether your kid stays home with a baby sitter, takes swim lessons through the local parks department or signs up for a dizzying array of camps, the logistics involved in patching together activities can be overwhelming.
Now a host of startups, including ActivityHero, ActivityTree, Camperoo and Famtivity, have sprung up to streamline the process for parents. Part clearinghouse, part community bulletin board, each makes it possible to find and book summer camps and recreational classes for kids online. The Web-based services are supported by ads and are free to parents. By one recent estimate, Americans spend $16 billion on summer camps and activities.
Peggy Chang, a software engineer who lives in Palo Alto, found it nearly impossible to easily organize camps for her two children. Her son, now 13, is into computer programming and tennis; her daughter, 11, does gymnastics and synchronized swimming. Finding relevant camps and registering for them became a job unto itself -- not to mention trying to coordinate schedules with other parents to arrange carpools.
"I was working full time and planning for two kids. I had a zillion browsers open to find a camp in August without a good search engine," Chang said.
That inspired Chang to co-found ActivityHero, which launched in the Bay Area in 2011. ActivityHero has a search engine that allows parents to easily find camps by type of activity, city, age group and starting and end date.
For example, you can search for a science camp in San Jose for your 7-year-old during the third week of August, or a drama camp for your 12-year-old in Oakland. You can also register for the camps directly on the site.
ActivityHero has more than 14,000 provider locations nationwide and has more than 3,500 Bay Area providers, ranging from regional camps like iDTech, Steve & Kate's, and Challenger Sports to specialized, local camps like Wheel Kids, Kids Art Bash and Wanderers Camp.
"Our traffic keeps increasing, and June is our peak month," Chang said. "It's a way to find what you are looking for and cut out the other noise. We also have a planning calendar so that you can visualize the schedule and share it with friends and family."
Famtivity, another startup that helps parents find, share and manage their kids' activities, has raised $500,000 in funding from angel investors. Soren Kaplan, a consultant and author of the best-selling business book "Leapfrogging," is one of the company's six co-founders.
"If you have a kid, you immediately get the problem. It's not a hard sell," said Kaplan, who has two daughters, ages 12 and 14, and lives in Walnut Creek. "Things have changed since I was a kid. You used to play outside and come in when it got dark. Now it's a full-time job figuring out what to do between school and dinner, and in the summer. The cost of all these activities is astronomical. It's a huge, huge space."
Famtivity sees social networking as the secret sauce that will lead to growth.
"My kids don't want to do anything unless their friends are doing it too," Kaplan said. "How do you figure out which friends are the critical friends? It's social navigation that you have to do with kids, and then coordinate with other parents."
And camps and activities also come with gear, from soccer cleats to ballet shoes.
"There's all the classes, and then all the things you need to buy," said Kaplan. "It could become the Amazon of kids equipment and supplies."
Contact Dana Hull at 408-920-2706. Follow her at Twitter.com/danahull.
ActivityHero: A search engine that lets parents find camps by type of activity, city, age group, and start and end date. It has more than 3,500 Bay Area providers, ranging from regional camps like iDTech, Steve & Kate's, and Challenger Sports to specialized, local camps like Wheel Kids, Kids Art Bash, and Wanderers Camp.
ActivityTree: Claiming to be the largest online resource in the United States for parents to find information on classes, camps and sports leagues for kids, it offers a way to search for information by ZIP code, city or type of activity. It also offers discounts for programs.
Camperoo: It also allows parents to search for camps or activities, as well as register for them online. It also offers what it calls the "Camperoo Concierge" for additional help.
Famtivity: In addition to offering the ability to search for activities, it emphasizes the ability to use social networking tools to find activities and share them with others.