Australian social startup counts its beans after AU$2m funding

Australian online social network startup Tinybeans has drawn upon a strong North American customer base and a potentially broad palette of revenue models to secure AU$2 million from private investors.

A broad selection of potential revenue models and a strong customer base in the United States has helped Australian online social network startup Tinybeans raise AU$2 million from a consortium of private investors.

The niche social media platform, founded in 2012, has until now bootstrapped its way to about half a million users, but the company's founders, Eddie Geller, Stephen O'Young, and Sarah-Jane Kurtini, expect the funding boost to help bump that number to over 1 million by the end of the year.

Tinybeans founders Sarah-Jane Kurtini, Stephen O'Young, and Eddie Geller (L-R). Image: Tinybeans

Tinybeans, which is a social network built for parents to securely store and share images of their children, intends to use the funds to further its global expansion, with plans to set up operations in the US in 2015 to better service its biggest market, followed by China and India.

The funding will also be used to help build up Tinybeans' plans to provide families with useful and relevant information, and tools and products to support them through various development milestones of their child.

The company already claims about 50 percent of its user base is from the US, a factor which played well for the Sydney-based startup as it worked to raise its latest capital injection.

"We had little difficulty securing investors. Tinybeans has several revenue models to monetise our platform, with a focus on partnering with brands who share our vision," said Geller, the company's founding angel and CEO. "Plus, our strong traction to date with over 500,000 users, as well as major partnerships with global publishers and brands, validates our business model to be more than a social network.

"Partnerships have in fact been a critical part of our internationalisation strategy and have helped us to rapidly build users and gain traction in new markets without having a physical presence there. The US, for example, is our biggest market," he said.

Tinybeans' niche offering has also provided its co-founders with a strong launch pad from which to sell their idea to an international market. The idea for Tinybeans was born when O'Young, the company's head of product, couldn't find a satisfactory solution to help his eldest child overcome speech delays or easily share moments of his newborn son.

Recognising that other parents were probably also facing the same problem, O'Young, along with the other co-founders, set out to create a platform where parents could track and record the developmental milestones of their child, as well as celebrate and share the details of raising their family.

"As Tinybeans is a private social network, you can confidently share your precious moments without risking alienating friends who may not like having their feeds clogged with your baby pictures," said Geller. "Unlike other social networks, we are so much more than just sharing pictures and updates — we're a private social network focused around the well-being of a child.

"Parents are creating a keepsake journal rather than a timeline; our users own their content and we provide value beyond printing services and sharing photos through our focus on helping families raise their children and support their child’s development," he said.

At present, Tinybeans draws much of its revenue from selling keepsakes — printed baby books — that range in price from AU$50 to AU$100, but, as the company develops its product offering, the founders plan to monetise the platform in different ways.

Tinybeans' first big funding round comes as taxi app and mobile payments company Ingogo secures AU$9.1 million funding round — AU$1.2 million of which was crowd-funded through VentureCrowd — and Australian online invoicing startup Invoice2Go makes the move to California after scoring $35 million in its very first funding round.