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2houses helps divorced parents communicate

by Megan Roelofs
Posted on June 28, 2019

Divorce is already painful enough as it is. However, when children are involved, it is often even more difficult, as parenting schedules, separate holidays and new ways of communication need to be created by two former partners. When going through his own divorce, Gill Ruidant experienced this difficulty of planning and communicating with his former spouse while they were still amidst a whirlwind of emotions. After a fruitless search for tools that would help them communicate, he decided to create his own: 2houses.

“2houses is basically an application that helps separated parents to better communicate and get organized for the most important thing in their life: their children. It is a collection of online tools that helps the parents manage their parental calendar, keep track of shared expenses and share medical and educational information.” These practical applications are all focused on one aim: “the system helps to remove the negative part of the emotion to enable better communication.” Instead of directly messaging the other parent, the app enables the parents to communicate indirectly: “If I would like to have my son with me for the next weekend, the interface allows me to easily move these two days to me and the system will send a pre-formatted notification to the parent. So, it is not me typing the message that contains my emotion. My former spouse will be able to accept the change, reject or propose an alternative.”

“We had a product, we had traction, users, and demand. We saw that 2houses was helping fix a pain point in society, but how do we make money with that?”

From theory to practice
Although the initial idea started as an innocent brainstorm session, Ruidant quickly decided to seriously participate in an accelerator to further develop his idea: “We started with around 35 ideas, we ended with eight startups, and I won the programme.” This victory and positive feedback throughout the programme convinced him to resign from his job and take the leap. It was only a year later, in 2012, that the beta version with three features got launched. This launch kicked off a period of testing various of business models: “That was a very difficult period part in the company's life. We had a product, we had traction, users, and demand. We saw that 2houses was helping fix a pain point in society, but how do we make money with that?”

Business models
Instead of getting stuck in a conference room brainstorming on what business model to apply, they started testing: “We tested several business models in real life. In the end, the users decide if they are willing to pay for it or not, and how much.” 2houses’ quest for the best business model started with a so-called freemium business model, in which several features are free, but if someone wants to use the entire app you need to pay. The business model worked, but generated not enough to truly lift off. Afterwards, they started to bring their customers in contact with professionals: “We thought it would be a good idea to put users in contact with lawyers and psychologists for specialist advice. It worked, but not enough. The return on investment was low, as signing a partnership contract with such professionals turned out to be very time-consuming.”

“What price to ask for a subscription? It is a new product, similar products in Europe didn’t exist at the time. Is it 2 euros per month, is it 5, is it 10?”

The lift off
They have now found a combination of two business models that has helped them to become a profitable business. First through selling paid subscriptions for independent consumers. They also signed a white label contract with La Ligue des Familles, a Belgian organization that helps parents with their parenting responsibilities. 2houses succeeded in this after they fully developed their application: “At the end of 2015, we got our products really aligned with our user needs, both on the website and on the mobile application. I think user feedback is really important, it was therefore part of my plans from the beginning. ” User feedback also played a large role in determining other marketing elements: “What price to ask for a subscription? It is a new product, similar products in Europe didn’t exist at the time. Is it 2 euros per month, is it 5, is it 10?” After Ruidant set up an experiment with three prices, tests with their users showed that the higher price would be the best option: “If I have to compare the price of a normal app, we ask a higher price. It is a bit more expensive, but that allowed us to continue our development, support our users and bring a real solution.”

“We have seen that in some countries people have very specific co-parenting schedules. We had to adapt our app to make sure that these parents can design their own schedule in the app.”

Cultural sensitivities
Ever since this decision, 2houses has been growing significantly: “Today, the app is operational in five languages and we have users in more than 160 countries.” However, as divorce can carry various cultural sensitivities, the outreach to those countries demanded more than just a simple translation of the app: “We have seen that in some countries people have very specific co-parenting schedules. We had to adapt our app to make sure that these parents can design their own schedule in the app. Besides that, we noticed that in countries like Spain and Italy, divorce is a sensitive topic, even more than in other European countries. That is why in Spain and in Italy we are working with a local partner, as they know much better how to communicate about divorce and separation in a sensitive way.”

TFI Growth Track
Thanks to joining in the TFI Growth Track, Ruidant could count on a lot of support both from the coaches as the other participating start-ups: “Sometimes, when you are going through a challenge, you take the issue with you or you discuss it internally. What I learned is that it is good to do that, but on the other hand, let’s ask someone who did it and succeeded. For instance, during the last workshop about operational scaling, Friedhelm Schmitt from Fincite, gave a presentation about how he built his business. By just explaining what he has done, I heard some solutions to challenges we were going through at that moment.” Ruidant also learned a lot from other start-ups: “We have been thinking about mid-shoring part of our development. I had lunch with a peer, Søren from Ernit, he did it previously and I learned from his experience.”

The future
Ruidant’s ambition for the near future is a 30% increase of their natural sign-ups: “I am not talking about paid marketing campaigns here. With every month, we naturally have users downloading our app or coming on our website. We have done a lot of work already there, but I would like to be able to achieve 30% more than today.” His ambition reaches further, however. Although 2houses is already available in five languages, Ruidant wants to add at least one extra language: “We are checking different regions at the moment. It is not only about translating the app, but also having the organization in place to attract users in this region and being able to support them.”

Want to know more about 2houses? Check our selected start-ups or their LinkedIn or Facebook!