Why We Started LivingTree

My wife and I have two little girls, ages 8 and 6. We love watching their personalities develop, seeing them tackle new challenges and explore new interests. However, each new grade, class and activity is always accompanied by new people to coordinate with, schedules to track, emails to parse, and websites to visit.

We found ourselves growing frustrated by how chaotic and inefficient it was to manage our girls’ daily lives. We wanted to be more effective as parents and as spouses. We wanted to calm the chaos.

In talking to our friends and colleagues, we realized we were far from alone in feeling this way. The pains we experienced appeared to be universal:

Mastering the family schedule is tough. My wife and I tried hard to stay on the same page regarding our own schedules (work trips/dinners, dinner with friends, etc.) and each kid’s schedule. But without a central playbook, all the calendar invites, emails and text updates caused us to spend a lot of time coordinating (and “re-coordinating”). Did we have mix-ups? Way too many.

Add in external calendars, and things become chaotic. All the people helping to raise and teach our kids also have their own calendars. Teachers, schools, coaches, leagues, gymnastics, ballet, Sunday school, swim team…the list goes on and on. This adds more and more chaos, especially since calendars are dynamic – deadlines change, locations get moved.

Schools and groups send massive amounts of information, in so many ways. Most schools and organizations use mass emails and website updates to keep parents updated. So we must comb through (literally) hundreds of emails to parse out the dates, schedules and requests that apply to our kids; bookmark websites to visit in case there’s an update; chase volunteer signup request websites and emails (or the physical sheet of paper taped to the class door!); and then manage and delete a tsunami of reply-all messages from other parents.

It’s hard to get transparency into it all. As a working parent and a spouse, I wanted to be more engaged and knowledgeable about what’s going on in my kids’ daily lives, as well as my spouse’s. I wanted to know what happened today at school BEFORE I got home, and I wanted to be a better spouse by having the context to help more proactively. But I couldn’t — I had no transparency.

And life just moves too fast. I also wanted to slow the game down. Time was passing by WAY too quickly, and I felt anxious about being able to “remember” all of the beautiful moments that our children bring to us. All of the photos/videos we take just find their way into the abyss of the photo library on our computer, or sit in our SMS app on our phone. I wanted to chronicle EVERYTHING, because I don’t want to forget. Ever. And I know I will.

So we started LivingTree about a year ago, to solve these problems through technology.

We asked ourselves, “What would the ultimate tool be to allow us, as parents, to stay on the same page while also slowing things down to enjoy family life even more?”

Our technology development backgrounds, and our personal experiences as technology users, told us that the platform needed to be based on similar collaborative principles as popular social networks, but had to be applied uniquely in a private and safe way. We are talking about our children here. Yet we wanted to leverage the power of the “Web 2.0” connective fabric. After all, there’s a reason that more than 1 billion people connect in this way.

However, there’s also a reason that traditional social networks don’t work for coordinating and sharing children’s information. We knew our tool needed to be extremely private and built for the unique needs of parents, teachers and the other adult leaders who help us shape our children.

So we worked with thousands of parents to test and create LivingTree’s private sharing and scheduling platform, which enables spouses and caretakers to securely coordinate and chronicle children’s daily lives. We worked with hundreds of educational professionals to give teachers, coaches and other leaders tools for sharing schedules, assignments, photos, documents and post updates with parents — enabling collaboration with parents to discuss issues, fill volunteer spots and more.

Now, instead of checking in constantly with multiple people and sources, hoping the information they get is the latest, parents finally have one central playbook — LivingTree.

LivingTree’s real power is in how all of the information from all of the people in your child’s life is now funneled into one integrated and safe place.

Now mom and dad can go to one place to see what is on the activity schedule today or for the week, or the smile of the ages that Beth Anne made getting off the bus today after she made a 100 on the spelling test. Only certain people care about that moment, and want to chronicle and share those moments. We want to create that place for the people who care. Easy to chronicle, safe to share – for parents, and extended family.

When your child’s teacher creates a classroom event or the coach moves practice to a different field, this information automatically feeds into your calendar in the context of your child. Yes, you can hook it up to Outlook, Apple Cal, Google Calendar, etc if you wish. No more chasing emails, websites, etc.

LivingTree creates a single shared family playbook and a single point of connection into families for the organization, team, class, or group!

Finally, a word about the LivingTree and the Lion.

People often ask us: Why does LivingTree have a lion in the brand? Well, there is a tree in Africa, called the Baobab Tree. It is referred to as the “tree of life,” providing shelter, food, and water for the animal and human inhabitants of the desert regions. Prides of lions are known to establish themselves under or nearby these trees given the replenishments they provide.

The story of this tree struck us, as it is our goal to enable that one safe place that can help you raise your pride. We hope to slow the parenting game down, allow you to take a breath, and enjoy it just a little bit more — because being a parent is awesome, and if we can calm the chaos and make parenting even that much more meaningful, it’s worth it!

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Comments 4 Comments

  1. cindy bradford May 22, 2013

    Extremely informative!

  2. Nikki (Bitzer) Christensen Jun 19, 2013

    Greetings Cullin! We met at TEPSA last week and I've been looking over your website to see how I could use it in several areas, not only with my new Nikki's Work It Classroom Management System. I look forward to seeing how we could partner together and make a win-win for both of us! I'm extremely impressed with Living Tree and how it will impact families and schools! Feel free to contact me. I'm training the next few weeks but will be checking my emails and voice mails. My cell number is 903-819-9719. Great job! Nikki

  3. Anne Jun 23, 2013

    Have you used this with an entire Elementary school?

  4. Joni Jun 24, 2013

    Hi Anne! Yes, we've used LivingTree with entire elementary schools. We've had a lot of great feedback regarding the transparency and engagement experienced due to LivingTree. We're rolling out to many, many more schools this summer and Fall...including entire districts. Let us know if you'd like to include your school and district!