Care.com, the site that helps parents and families find babysitters, nannies, childcare, and senior care professionals, is today releasing a new iPhone application called Karoo which is designed to connect parents with their child’s caregivers as well as record memories. Unlike some of the privacy-focused social networking apps that have launched in recent months, Karoo isn’t just about socializing the experience around a family’s shares, but also makes parent-to-caregiver communication a key aspect to what it’s offering. The app is a good fit for new parents, or those with very young children, given its emphasis on logging things like feedings and milestones. But its ability to record stories, photos and videos in an invite-only network means it can also work for any family looking for a more private way to share.
When used with a caregiver, the app allows parents to be kept up-to-date on things like nap times, what the child ate for lunch, or any of the other little life details that parents want to know about at the end of the day. It’s the same sort of content that daycares often provide parents on paper, just now digitized through a mobile application. The difference here is that the updates are posted in an app that very much resembles a private version of Facebook. Karoo even mimics the design of Facebook’s iOS app to some extent, with the one-page user interface and menu tucked off to the left for navigation. The “Add a Post” section offers similar functions to Facebook as well, including the ability to add a location to a post, share a photo, or tag a person — in this case, the child.
In addition to allowing parents and caregivers a way to communicate through mobile, Karoo offers parents a way to privately record a child’s big milestones, like their first steps, first time they roll over, first smile, etc. There’s a button on the “Add a Post” screen where you can choose from a list of milestones to add, which makes the data more structured. In the event that you want to share a given post more publicly, there’s also the option to post to Facebook and Twitter or send a text message or email.
If invited, other family members and close family friends are able to join your Karoo network, too. For those who don’t have a smartphone, there’s a web-based experience with the same functionality.
A lot of startups have emerged lately with a focus on the family-focused mobile social networking space, including things like Kidfolio, 23Snaps, Burst, and even to some extent, apps like messaging startup Tango or photo-sharing app Familiar, to name just a few. But Karoo’s is one of the more polished efforts to emerge here, probably because of how much it mimics Facebook. And thanks to Care.com’s reach – 7 million members across 15 countries – Karoo actually has a good shot at growing its install base by narrowly targeting the very audience who would be interested in trying out such a thing.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering about the name “Karoo,” it was actually the company’s first name before publicly launching as Care.com. The new iPhone app is a free download here on iTunes, and an Android version is now in the works.