Cozi Inks Deals with AOL, Intel, to Reach More Families Trying to Manage Chaos of Daily Life
Big partnerships are often a key to success for startups. Especially one that plays in a crowded consumer tech sector like Cozi, which makes software for helping busy families manage their daily schedules, chores, and activities.
The Seattle-based company is announcing some new deals today, ones that could have a substantial impact on its business. Cozi has formed strategic partnerships with AOL, Intel, Working Mother, FlyLady, and Punchbowl. Financial details weren’t given, but I got the gist of how the partnerships work from Cozi CEO and co-founder Robbie Cape.
For AOL, Cape says, Cozi has created a family organizer for MyDaily.com, a news and information portal aimed at women. For Intel, Cozi has developed an online calendar and to-do list platform optimized for netbooks. For WorkingMother.com and FlyLady.net—news and mentoring sites for busy moms—the company provides access to co-branded versions of its family calendar and other tools. (That means the Cozi brand appears together with the individual site’s brand.) Lastly, Punchbowl, a Boston-area party-planning startup, has integrated Cozi into its online event-organizing software, and Cozi links to Punchbowl whenever people enter a party or event on their Cozi calendar.
The basic agreement is that these other companies use their big distribution channels to get more customers to use Cozi’s free tools, while Cozi drives advertising sales for those impressions—and shares the revenue from those ads with its partners. It’s a similar arrangement to Cozi’s existing partnerships with companies like Dell, Nestle, Gannett, MeadWestvaco, and Meredith Corporation.
“Cozi continues to establish itself as the way to help families manage the chaos of family life,” Cape says.
Indeed, the company has taken an interesting road to the present. Cozi was formed in 2005 by Cape and Jan Miksovsky, both ex-Microsofties. It moved its software from PCs to the Web—and more recently to mobile devices like the iPhone and Android phones—all the while chasing families as its main customers. It has weathered the current recession and now has some 3 million registered members, and 30 employees—up from 23 in March of this year.
Still, the company has a long way to go; it’s not profitable yet, and it has raised about $21 million from angel investors and strategic partners. But Cape says its revenue has more than doubled over last year, and is expected to “significantly increase” next year. Being focused on families has its advantages, but it also has a smaller overall market than a more general-purpose app. Online organizers like Springpad and Evernote, while quite different from Cozi, share some of its challenges.
The biggest hurdle for Cozi, as with most consumer tech startups, is getting more people to use its tools. That’s why the company needs to keep signing on prominent partners that have massive distribution. “These types of moves and developments are ultimately going to drive the most important thing for the company, which is adoption. Our biggest challenge right now is getting the word out,” Cape says. “Spreading the word to this very busy demographic [families] is our number-one priority in the coming year—making sure we’re available to them across every dimension of their life.”
There are a few other developments to watch in the coming year. One will be the “phenomenally explosive” adoption of smartphones by women—especially busy moms, Cape says. (There are roughly 80 million mothers in the U.S.; and the total number of U.S. women with smartphones increased from about 10 million in 2008 to 26 million in 2009.) So Cozi needs to position itself as the best family organizer out there on smartphones, as well as other devices, he says.
Another trend will be the increasing use of tablets and other devices in the home; it seems pretty clear that the iPad is not the only answer here. And lastly, Cozi is looking to make some announcements around its international expansion in the next few months.
“We have all we need to get to profitability,” Cape says.
Still, he says, he’ll be out talking to investors next year, looking to raise “a little bit of a buffer” for that next big step in the journey.