Interview with Hugh Molotsi
Ujama alleviates the burden of challenges like transporting your kids and finding them enriching activities. It takes a village to raise a child.
Hi Hugh! What was it like transitioning from your 22 year career at Intuit to founding Ujama? What made you decide to take the leap and branch out on your own entrepreneurial venture?
I was very blessed to have a wonderful career into it, 22 years, but 22 years was much longer than I ever thought I would stay at one company. And while Linqto continues to be a wonderful company I had other things I had in mind that I wanted to do with the rest of my time on this planet. And so due to a bunch of factors 2015 just seemed like the right time to make a move that I wanted to do to make eventually and in particular, I was pretty excited about working with entrepreneurs helping them, especially social entrepreneurs who are making a positive social impact while they build their businesses. And in fact, that led me eventually to decide to do my own startup Ujama which is a platform to help parents find other parents so they can help each other with their kids. And so this idea of importing and solving a real important social problem while building something of value is something that I feel very passionate about. And you know in many ways I miss Linqto but in many ways, I'm very excited every day to be doing what I'm doing.
How is Ujama Inc. unique from other parenting platforms? What unique services do you offer your users?
Ujama is unique in two really important ways. The first is Ujama is really about building community. If you think back through previous generations children are always brought up in communities. Hence the expression It takes a village to raise a child. But in modern times it's not unusual to find a family that lives very far away from where they grew up in far away from friends that they know and because of that they have to shoulder a lot of the burdens of being a parent by themselves. And we think the missed opportunity is these families could be forming communities where we call trusted pools with other families in their neighborhood who are in similar situations and a Ujama is really just trying to make that much easier. The other thing I'll say about Ujama that's different than a lot of services you see that are out there trying to make life easier for parents is that a lot of these services that are that come out of Silicon Valley, you know say that I'll say the critique I have of them, is that they are really designed to solve the needs of the affluent. And of course the problems of parenting are not just an issue of for people who have who have money. In fact, I would argue that you know somebody who is working an hourly job or maybe working couple hourly jobs and has a child that children that they're trying to raise probably has even more severe problems. And you know Ujama is really attempting to be a solution for all parents, not just the parents who have a lot of money.
From idea to launch, how long did it take to develop and establish Ujama?
So Ujama it took a lot longer than I thought it would take to launch. I incorporated the company in April of 2016 and initially you know as we were bootstrapping I was I recruited a bunch of former colleagues who had day jobs to help me build a service. So they worked as moonlighters in their nights and weekends. And I myself was quite busy at the time writing a book with one of my former colleagues so l splitting time between the book and getting Ujama the ground. And so for those reasons the first year we didn't really make as much progress as I thought we were going to make but we got done with our manuscript in November of 2016. And I even though I hadn't coded hadn't been an everyday developer in over a decade I decided I was going to dust off my coding skills and get back into it. And so I'm basically the primary developer of Ujama now and we launched our pilot in the spring of 2017 and we launched our first apps to the App Store in the summer in July of 2017. So we've been basically in production for a little over a year now.
What has been the feedback from users and partners of Ujama? Have you seen the platform used in your own community in the Bay Area?
When I talk to parents about Ujama I would say almost to a person the problem that we're solving is validated because every parent you talk to can tell you their own anecdotes about some of the challenges that they've experienced whether it's trying to get their child from school to basketball afterwords or whether it's getting somebody to watch the kid when they run an errand. And so I feel like we're solving a really important problem and we hear that everyday. And I think in terms of the product that we've built I think we've also gotten some very positive validation about the approach. I think the challenge still remains for us is how do we get enough parents on the platform so that job number one of a Ujama is helping connect parents with other parents. And because we are a network effect platform meaning parents are not just users they are also the product. We have to get a critical mass for Ujama to really fly. And that's really what we're actively working on at this time.
Since Ujama was founded in 2016, what have been the biggest benchmarks and growth milestones you've reached with the company?
For Ujama, I'd say you know our biggest accomplishment really has been the product that we have built to date. We have an app that runs on IOS and runs on Android, most devices including tablets and we also have a web interface which makes it easy for people to sign up. It also makes it easy for organizations to use us as the apparent directory. So quite a lot of product progress we have about 400 parents have signed up on the platform and were in the process of getting many more. And for us I'd say we still are trying to get to a critical mass of users mainly focused today on the bay area and specifically the south bay and peninsula. But eventually, you know this is a product that today will work anywhere in the world certainly anywhere in the United States. And our goal is to go nationwide and eventually global.