INNOVATORS VS COVID 19
Babysense, a Family Business Using AI to Improve Families’ Lives
Yaniv Shtalryd, CEO of Babysense tells about developing and producing quality health monitoring solutions.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Yaniv Shtalryd: As a father of 4, I divide it into three phases. First came fear, before we understood the statistics and risks the pandemic seemed frightening. Then came optimism, once we understood the risks for kids aren’t high, we started seeing the situation of isolation and restrictions as an opportunity to get closer. Lastly, we settled into a routine that is now an integral part of our everyday life, we don’t give it too much attention beyond the following guidance. With that said we are missing the time before COVID where obviously we had more freedom to travel and experience activities.
Tell us about you, your career, how you joined Babysense.
Yaniv Shtalryd: It is really more a story about my father than about me. I was lucky enough to grow up in a home where innovation was a part of every dinner conversation. Since I can remember, my father shared his ideas with us, built prototypes at home and always got the entire family’s feedback and involvement. While innovation was always interesting to me, business was even more so. It was natural for me to want to complement my father with business development which is my real passion. After completing the army and studies, I felt the urge to scale Babysense. With existing management already in place, our family being a minority shareholding only, and maybe a glimpse of modesty on my side (not sure about this part), I started at Babysense from the bottom of the company chain. I started delivering baby monitors from the trunk of my car to Israeli baby product shops. A year later I started managing our distributors in Israel, then locating new distributors abroad. Eventually, we bought all the company’s shares at the end of 2013. This is when I took over the role of CEO. About 3 years ago, we implemented two main changes in parallel, the first is starting to add a D2C sales channel (today this is a majority of our revenue channels) and re-investing in R&D in a substantial way to regain our pioneering spirit and market leadership.
How does Babysense innovate?
Yaniv Shtalryd: Well… I think we are a family of complainers. We are very good at communicating about pain points, the origin of most innovations. I think that the main difference in the way we innovate today in comparison to the past is our understanding of the vector challenges and possible scale before we really get into a new innovation. Another big change that we have made in our innovation process is the much closer ties with the consumers today. If in the past we would have chosen to focus on the coolest idea that came to mind, these days our ideas are mostly originated by our consumers’ wishes, our ability to help them and the business model behind them. A regular innovation process at Babysense would now look like this:
– Customer complaints or wishes
– Exploring innovative options to resolve or improve
– Discussion if it can be aligned with Babysense vision
– Exploring business feasibility
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Yaniv Shtalryd: We were lucky to start the transition to a D2C (direct to consumer) business before Covid which has obviously accelerated it. I am happy to say that we have been able to grow by 50% in 2021 and 30% in 2020.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources and what are the lessons learned?
Yaniv Shtalryd: At Babysense it is very rare where we have an employee leave, as we are a family-oriented business. We ensure that they have an alternative option or do our best to help them find one. In a financially stable company, where an employee really wants to stay and be a part of a family, it is rare not to find room for them. I truly believe in people’s ability to grow and some of our employees, who have been in the company for 10 or more years in different roles have proven that. In other cases where an employee doesn’t really want to contribute as expected, I don’t find these choices/decisions so difficult.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Yaniv Shtalryd: Once transitioning to D2C, we really needed to scale and improve our customer service skills. We switched from answering emails of distributors to taking live calls with local reps, to implementing a CRM and ticketing system with multichannel support, to automation that enables resolving most of our customers’ cases within a matter of hours.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Yaniv Shtalryd: We mostly had tax relief that enabled an improved cash flow, being more risk-tolerant and reinvesting in the business growth.
Your final thoughts?
Yaniv Shtalryd: I think that the children’s product industry has finally, in the past 5 years, been receiving the VC backing and innovation it has been lacking for so long. We are lucky to be a part of its transition towards enabling tech to improve the lives of families, and we are going to be a substantial and impactful part of making it happen.
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