In this episode, I talk with Carrie Griffith, Founder and CEO of Little Nugget, a baby photo app that helps moms personalize, organize, and treasure their favorite family moments. It allows parents to turn the mess of the photos they have of their kids on their camera roll into something meaningful that they can save longterm. The idea for Little Nugget came to Carrie when she tried to create a baby book for her daughter and how overwhelmed she was with the number of photos she had taken.
Carrie details the current status of the business, including the process she went through to meet Apple app store editors at the World Wide developer conference, and that it was an instrumental step in being featured as Apple’s “App of the Day” in the US. She also shares how that has impacted her business, both at the time of being featured and since. She is currently learning about fundraising and finding strategic angel investors which would accelerate the product roadmap to some milestones she would like to hit by the end of the year.
Topics in the Episode
Being featured on Apple’s “Meet the Developer”
Networking effect of marketing to moms
Benefits of joining an accelerator
Building a strategy to differentiate from direct competitors
How to obtain customer feedback
Most impactful groups she has been involved with
Transitioning from side hustle to full time
Where to find the app
Apple app store, search “Little Nugget”
For early Android access: littlenuggetco.com
Mike Kelly: Welcome to the podcast. Today we have Carrie Griffith, founder and CEO of Little Nugget. Carrie, welcome to the show.
Carrie Griffith: Thanks for having me.
Mike Kelly: Why don't we start with a quick pitch for a Little Nugget.
Carrie Griffith: Little Nugget is a baby photo app that helps moms personalize, organize and treasure their favorite family moments by turning that mess of the photos they have their kids on their camera roll into something meaningful that they can save long term.
Mike Kelly: What does that mean? And I ask that I asked that partly as a dad who doesn't keep tons of photos but then also like that sounds like that could be Instagram.
Carrie Griffith: Yeah.
Mike Kelly: So what does that mean?
Carrie Griffith: So, in my daughter's first year, I took 15,000 photos of her.
Mike Kelly: Good night.
Carrie Griffith: It sounds like a lot.
Mike Kelly: Because it is.
Carrie Griffith: It's a ton but you sit with your phone and you will rapid push and take 50 photos of one sitting and not go back and delete them.
Carrie Griffith: So when it was time for me to go and create her baby book for her first year, I was so overwhelmed with the number of photos I had to go through to the point where I just kind of gave up and walked away from it. And I knew there had to be a better way. And on a monthly basis I had created a milestone photo that I would save on Facebook that I would share with my family and friends that had how many months she was and then just specific milestones that happened. So it kind of turned into my way to digitize the baby book, because I didn't have time for that stack of baby books that was piling up on my desk. And I had a lot of great feedback from friends and family, friends who are pregnant that wanted to know what app I used.
Carrie Griffith: But I used PowerPoint. So there was that idea that there's not an app out there, and it was something that I could try and build for other parents and be a solution to this problem.
Carrie Griffith: So what Little Nugget does is you can create different albums for each of your children and as important milestone moments and photos happen, you upload them into the app, and so they're out of your camera roll, they're saved in a safe space, so then when you're ready to do something with them, they're there waiting for you.
Mike Kelly: That's a good point to transition into current traction. Any vanity metrics you can share around the business to help paint a picture for your app?
Carrie Griffith: So we have, the app will be in the app store for three years, the Apple app store for three years this May. We have 22,000 monthly active users. Over 1.3 million moments have been saved in the app and we have over 83,000 followers across our social platforms. We also were just featured last month as the Apple app of the day in the US. So there's only 365 featured per year in the United States, and Little Nugget was selected as one of them. So it was a huge accomplishment. And then Apple also did a Meet The Developer feature on me, which is more editorial on my story as a founder and as a female founder.
Mike Kelly: All right, now I have... Am I allowed to dive into that?
Carrie Griffith: Yeah, absolutely.
Mike Kelly: You're allowed to cover that?
Carrie Griffith: Yeah, I can, yeah.
Mike Kelly: All right.
Carrie Griffith: Yeah. It's already out there.
Mike Kelly: That's awesome. So do you apply to become the app of the day? Do they just pick you randomly? What's that process look like?
Carrie Griffith: I don't know how Apple chooses app of the day. They don't disclose that. But you can assume it's based on your metrics, your traction, how your app is growing. I have been trying to be the app of the day since I launched the app. But what I did was last year I went to the Worldwide Developer Conference out in San Jose, California. And during that time, the app store editors were having meetings and you could schedule a 15 minute office hours with them, as many as you wanted over the course of the conference. So I scheduled as many slots as they would allow me, and got my face in front of the app store editors.
Mike Kelly: That's amazing.
Carrie Griffith: You can't figure out who an app store editor is, because they don't advertise that information on LinkedIn or online, because they'll just be inundated with inquiries and comments. So it was my time to get in front, face to face, that there's a real person, a real mom behind this app, and I have a great story to share. So that got me on their radar. And then through participating in the accelerator gBETA, I got a lot of traction towards the end of the year as well, with increased sales and increased downloads and recognition for the app. So they reached out in January and told me about the Meet the Developer feature. App of the day is a complete surprise, you don't know that's coming until it happens.
Mike Kelly: Oh really? Wow.
Carrie Griffith: I was in my daughter's preschool drop off line in the morning when I opened the app store and saw it. So it was a total surprise.
Mike Kelly: That's really cool. So what was the impact of that? So if you looked at an average daily download rate in the three months leading up to that and then on that day or maybe even whatever the trailing impact of that is a few days after, what does that look like?
Carrie Griffith: Yeah, so the day that the future for app of the day, then also the Meet the Developer feature, because they happened a week apart, the downloads were 400% increase on that day and then it trickled off as the days went by. But that content was still live in the app store. But I'm still seeing impact from that spike in downloads, because the app has in-app purchases and other monetization that happens further down the user funnel.
Mike Kelly: And I would assume there's some network effect, right? So if my wife starts using the app and then she's potentially sharing with her friends and stuff like that, they're asking, right?
Carrie Griffith: Yes.
Mike Kelly: So you get one mom, I would assume you get a network of moms.
Carrie Griffith: Yeah.
Mike Kelly: Is that fair?
Carrie Griffith: I wish I had that statistic on, for every one mom that downloads of it, how many moms they tell that I get.
Mike Kelly: Yeah, how many you pick up.
Carrie Griffith: That would be a great metric to have, but moms talk about products and things they like, especially when it comes to making it easier to-
Mike Kelly: Yeah, the winning statistic is, I have 98% of MOPS groups in the country or something, right?
Carrie Griffith: That would be... Yeah.
Mike Kelly: Yeah. Okay. That's awesome. Then other recent things that... You just mentioned, gBETA, can you talk a little bit about what that program was like? And you mentioned you had some good numbers coming out of that from an impact perspective. Can you share that?
Carrie Griffith: So gBETA is a non equity based accelerator that's part of the generator network, and they started this time last year in Indianapolis, and they do two cohorts a year, five companies go through a seven-week program. And it really helps you focus in on your story, getting your story together for funders and also introducing you to mentors that can help bring your business forward.
Mike Kelly: So you, on paper, seem like an interesting choice for gBETA, because the product had, by that point, probably been in the app store for two years, little over two years, and then go through an accelerator. What was your thought process there? I would think conceptually you would think like, I don't need an accelerator, right?
Carrie Griffith: So when the product launched in the app store, it was a side hustle that I had. It was something... I started Little Nugget during nap times and after bedtime. So it wasn't my full time focus and it started getting traction. But what I had in the app store was an MVP, but users liked it and they really bought into it. So what I did, about a year and a half in, is I redesigned the app and started redeveloping the MVP. So the product relaunched in June of last year. So the timing for me to go into gBETA was early September. So it was a good time for me to relaunch the product.
Carrie Griffith: I pivoted the brand to differentiate Little Nugget from a lot of competitors and me too apps that have been hitting the app store. So it was a perfect time for me to one: get my story out there and be more focused on how I'm telling that story, but also kick off an effort for fundraising so I could really accelerate the growth, whereas up until that point it had just been something I was doing on the side that was fun and other moms were liking.
Mike Kelly: You said the key thing in there, which is pivot the brand to differentiate against competitors. We're definitely coming back to that. But before we do that, and one other thing I want to ask you, kind of as a clarifying question, you'd mentioned you'd seen a spike in some monetization. In the pitch, you didn't really talk about that. So how do you monetize the product? What does that look like?
Carrie Griffith: So the app right now is a $2.99 download, which gets you access to unlimited albums for your kids and there's over 600 different milestone artworks that you can put on top of the photo, that I designed. So for the in-app purchases, there's different categories-
Mike Kelly: So you design, you code, you run a business, you fundraise.
Carrie Griffith: I sell... I taught myself how to design. I taught myself Photoshop and Adobe. There was a week when I thought I could code it myself and quickly realized it wasn't my strength. So I I hired that out.
Mike Kelly: Oh, okay.
Carrie Griffith: Know your strengths.
Mike Kelly: All right.
Carrie Griffith: Coding is not one of them.
Mike Kelly: You're almost like a superhero in my mind at this point. All right.
Carrie Griffith: I wish I knew how to code, but I don't.
Mike Kelly: And you're mom. And yeah. Okay.
Carrie Griffith: So I do the design and the business side of it. And marketing. I have found somebody to execute on the development of the product.
Mike Kelly: Got It.
Carrie Griffith: Could you imagine?
Mike Kelly: I was imagining that and I'm like, wow, okay, I got to reevaluate my life choices.
Carrie Griffith: So I run the business marketing side of it. I have a developer and a half working on the development part of it.
Mike Kelly: Perfect. Sorry about that.
Carrie Griffith: That's all right.
Mike Kelly: Keep going on monetization.
Carrie Griffith: So $2.99 app download gets you unlimited albums for each of your children, or if you want multiple for your children, the artwork, 600 pieces of artwork that I designed. And then there's also an additional, so there's a total of 1600 artworks in the app to mark your child's milestones, going anywhere from first bath ranging to high school graduation day. So it runs the full gamut and you can unlock additional content for $1.99 or unlock everything for $5.99.
Mike Kelly: Got it. When you look at the market and look at competitors, who comes to mind? you don't actually have to name companies, you can talk in generalities, these types of products, or you can name competitors. I'm good either way.
Carrie Griffith: All right, so when I think about competitors, there's a couple of distinct categories that I bucket them into. One is the iCloud photos, Google photos, that's the competitors that it's already on people's phones, they're using it every day.
Mike Kelly: The places to dump files.
Carrie Griffith: Yes, so it file, iCloud, it's cloud storage. Where I differentiate myself from that is you are not making sense of your photos, you're backing them up, you're saving them. You might have a family album that you're sharing to grandparents, but you're not doing anything to take out those important moments that you want to go back to. That would be deemed, in a traditional sense, something that you would print out and put into a baby book.
Carrie Griffith: There's also Instagram and Facebook, some more of those bigger social competitors, where people are already sharing these moments. Especially what we've seen in the last year is a move to privacy, and not trusting those networks, so parents one: are looking for a way to save those photos in a safe place, in a more private way. But there's also a worry about oversharing their kids on social media, because my daughter's four today, but when she's 10 and sees that I've been posting her entire life on Facebook, she might not be super happy about that and the things that I was sharing with my larger network.
Carrie Griffith: And then the final category is what I'd see as more of those direct competitors, those other baby and family sharing apps that are focusing on taking these moments out of the camera rolls, saving them and turning them into printed products.
Mike Kelly: So then, is it that last category that you are trying to differentiate from?
Carrie Griffith: Yes.
Mike Kelly: Okay. Talk about that, what is the strategy there?
Carrie Griffith: So, when I launched, I was only one of a handful of apps that was doing this child and baby photo preservation. Since it was a category that hit pretty quickly and a lot of me too apps jumped on, a lot of those me too apps have disappeared, stopped supporting it, because they didn't do it right and they didn't do it well. They were just trying to make a buck.
Carrie Griffith: But all of us were talking about moments and milestones, capture your sweet moments and major milestones. So with so many different apps in the app store, if you search baby photo app, everybody had the same headline, everybody was talking the same way. So I wanted to, one: differentiate myself to stand out from those competitors, but also make a more immediate connection and emotional connection with parents. So then they're more inclined to download and trust Little Nugget with these moments versus some other apps. So that's when I pivoted from the moments and milestones to personalize, organize, and treasure, because it really helps distinguish the three key things that we're trying to help parents do.
Mike Kelly: Before we clicked record, you and I were talking a little bit about the difference between consumer versus B2B, which we live in a fairly B2B focused city when it comes to product, and you're not that. So I'd be interested, how do you get a feel for what your customer wants? How do you do that customer discovery today?
Carrie Griffith: Indianapolis isn't a B2B city, but there's a whole lot of parents in it. There's a whole lot of consumers in it. And I'm a parent myself. I have two daughters, one who's four, and one is two and a half. So I'm a living, breathing consumer. So I know a lot about what I want out of the app, but I don't let that blind me with what features and functionality I push out, because what I want may not be what the greater parent wants. So I do a lot of talking to current users and also other parents, especially when I was rolling out this new messaging or when I'm looking at rolling out and prioritizing new features. I get feedback from other parents and current users on what they really want out of it and where I should really prioritize that time.
Mike Kelly: How far out does that feature roadmap go today? Like do you have years worth of like, yeah, we can just keep going.
Carrie Griffith: Yeah, I do. I have features that I wanted to roll out yesterday, but development doesn't always, with B2B, B2C is the same way. It just doesn't go as fast as you want it.
Mike Kelly: Yeah, it never does.
Carrie Griffith: No.
Mike Kelly: So then, as you look at those competitors in the space or maybe I should ask it a different way. How often are you looking at competitors in the space and comparing what they're doing versus your roadmap and how you stay differentiated and ahead of them or different from them enough to remain relevant? Do you have a process for that? What does that look like?
Carrie Griffith: I'm a user of my main competitors apps. I'll use them at least on a monthly basis, some of them more frequently, just so I can understand the user experience, how they're changing things, but I'm also notified when they push updates into the app store so then I can kind of check and have a pulse on what they're doing and what's rolling out. So far I've been pretty strong on, I really believe in my product roadmap and where I'm going, so what they're doing, I don't let deter me too much, but I just kind of use that as an information seeking, so then I can make sure that I'm moving fast enough.
Mike Kelly: Yeah. You're fundraising right now, correct?
Carrie Griffith: Yes. I am doing an angel round, where I'm looking for strategic angel investors that understand the consumer business, understand what it is to manage and evolve a consumer product, where the focus may not be as much on revenue but user activation in the short term and that investment is going to go to really accelerate my product roadmap to some big milestones that I want to hit by the end of the year. So then I can do a follow on larger seed round.
Mike Kelly: How do you, and I'm happy to share some of my own limited experience in this as well, but one of the things that's really interesting when you think of strategic investors, strategic angel investors for any business, is like finding that person who is actually strategic and is not somebody who's just going to write a 20K check, right? But somebody who really either has deep background and knowledge in what you're doing or some adjacent knowledge to what you're doing. So I would... How do you do that? When you go to the market and try to find those people who might have that experience that's going to be interesting to you, that you can lean on, what are you doing to screen them or, or find them and activate them.
Carrie Griffith: So for me it's really happened organically, and I think I'm pretty fortunate at that, in the angel investors I'm talking to are professionals in the market that I have known for a couple of years now, who have been good supporters of my business, who understand my business. Some of them have also been new introductions that have done work in my category, very, very closely in my category. So I think I was, especially being the business that I am in Indianapolis, I was very fortunate to find some local angel investors that I think could really help move forward my business.
Mike Kelly: And those investors who you got introductions to, so maybe you didn't have a prior relationship with them, did those introductions come from other angels? How did you do that now? I'm specifically asking because this is the one of the hardest things for entrepreneurs.
Carrie Griffith: Yes.
Mike Kelly: How do you find these people?
Carrie Griffith: It came through, and as a part of gBETA, they do mentor swarms. So once a week you would do a power hour basically of speed dating with mentors. And I would explain what I'm looking for an investor or what problems I'm trying to save now, what problems I'm trying to solve for. And then those people would say, Hey, I think you should meet with Xyz. You should meet with this person. So in any mentor conversation I always went in with, even though it was, they may not be able to help me because they do agro Science consulting, they might know somebody. So it's always going into those conversations and laying out what you need, where your challenges are, what help you need, because people know people and can always introduce you.
Mike Kelly: Nice. Over the last three years, as you've gone on this path, you've mentioned gBETA, I think we got introduced through the startup ladies, right?
Carrie Griffith: Yes.
Mike Kelly: I'm pretty sure. Well, reintroduced, I met you at one of the gBETA program things.
Carrie Griffith: I think I met you at live beta the first time.
Mike Kelly: Yeah, yeah, live beta. Yep. So as you reflect on some of the either programs you've been involved with or groups that you've been involved with over the last three years, I would love, and maybe there if there's any others you want to name drop or give a shout out to, I would love your thoughts on which of those were most impactful at a key moment in the business and why were they impactful? What did you take away from that at that right moment?
Carrie Griffith: I think of the organizations I've been involved in, I've been fortunate to hit them at the time when I needed it most. I started the business in Chicago, so I was in 1871, which is a huge startup space and I basically threw myself, I was leaving Microsoft, starting this business and didn't know anything about starting a company. So I threw myself into all of their programming and mentor networks and basically sent myself to start up university while I was there.
Carrie Griffith: When I moved to Indiana, it took me awhile to get ingrained into the Indianapolis community and what programs and groups were available, and that's when I found the startup ladies, at a time when I really needed the extra boost in confidence and reinvesting in my business, redesigning it and pivoting it. And startup ladies is so great because it gives you the programming of how to run a business, how to overcome challenges, but also gives you a huge support network of women and men who want to see you succeed. And then gBETA, was I feel like it just kind of catapulted me into this new stage of growth and re energizing my business that I otherwise would not have had.
Mike Kelly: REtracing the conversation a little bit in my head, I think you said three years ago when you first did it, it was a side hustle. And I'm assuming you were in Chicago at that point, right?
Carrie Griffith: Yes.
Mike Kelly: At what point did it flip over to full time?
Carrie Griffith: So I was at Microsoft and I had my first baby with Microsoft and they were very generous and gave me a six month maternity leave. And when I came back there were rumors that our division would be sold, because I was in the media and advertising sales division. And about a month after I got back from maternity leave, they announced that they were selling us to AOL.
Mike Kelly: Welcome back.
Carrie Griffith: Yes. So instead of going to AOL, I knew that we had a move to Indianapolis in the future. I didn't really want to work.
Mike Kelly: How is AOL still a thing.
Carrie Griffith: It's Verizon and AOL.
Mike Kelly: I know, I get it, but still.
Carrie Griffith: I know. I wasn't excited to go work for AOL. So I decided instead, and knowing that we had to move to Indianapolis towards six months from then, that I should take this as a great opportunity to take advantage of Chicago startup ecosystem through 1871, use the severance that I could get by not taking the move. And I invested that into starting Little Nugget. And it was just all a happenstance. I had the idea, I had wire frames sketched up, I had all the ideas of the features and functionality. So it was just kind of writing on the wall just to take the leap and try it. If it doesn't work, a year down the road when I get settled in Indianapolis, I can look for something else. But it was the time just to try.
Mike Kelly: When you reflect on what you're doing today, and you can take that however you want. That could be figuring out how to do fundraising. That could be figuring out how to do marketing for a product at a different level. That could be product roadmap, interfacing with the development team. Any of those things. And you reflect on back three years ago, 1871, you're just getting started and thinking about this, obviously, startup years are like dog years, right? Like it's like seven years to every one normal human year.
Mike Kelly: What are some of the things that you look at and you're most blown away by, like, wow, this thing that I'm doing now, I never... Like one, I always would've thought I would have to outsource this to somebody else, or I never would do this, or this would be the hardest thing. Turns out this is not the hardest thing and all this things pretty easy. When you reflect back on kind of where you're at today versus when you first got started, what are some of those things that you look at and you're like, oh, I never thought I would do this and I do this all the time, or just turned out to be easier than I thought it was?
Carrie Griffith: Coming into starting a tech startup, I didn't know how to code, I didn't understand the tech speak of you have to have your product roadmap and you develop in sprints and this is an MVP, all that language was completely foreign to me and I never thought three years ago that today I would be managing that product roadmap. I would be talking to developers about native iOS versus native Android versus React native and what are we doing with our AWS, API, all of these acronyms that were completely foreign to me are now just natural language that I've just had to catch onto. One: because I didn't understand it, but two: if I wanted to be a strong CEO and run the business, I needed to be able to understand these things so I could identify and lead a strong tech team to develop a strong product.
Carrie Griffith: So that would have been the biggest surprise because I have the marketing and the business side down. It was that tech stuff that was the unknown for me.
Mike Kelly: How did you immerse yourself in that? How did you get comfortable with, particularly maybe some of the more technical stuff, like React and AWS and the different platforms that are available to you?
Carrie Griffith: I attended some meetups, which I am not the normal person to attend those kind of React, JS meetups. I also of every developer I've worked this ask an insane amount of questions. I think sometimes to the point where they're blue in the face, but if they say they're doing something, I want to know why. Like what's the background? How are you doing this? What's the implications? And I think those are some questions I didn't ask in the MVP stage and realized if you don't do something right at the stage, you acquire so much technical debt as you go on. So with the rebuild, it's something I learned that especially learning why things are built and how they're going to impact you downstream. That's just, there's no stupid question.
Mike Kelly: Yeah, I would agree. What's the biggest thing you're working on now personally from an education perspective? Like what's the thing you're most excited to get better at?
Carrie Griffith: What I am working on personally right now is this whole fundraising. It is a complete... I have bootstrapped Little Nugget to date. I own 100% of the company. So the whole fundraising world-
Mike Kelly: Congratulations, by the way.
Carrie Griffith: Thank you.
Mike Kelly: That's awesome.
Carrie Griffith: Thank you. But it's time to take on money to grow the business faster. So understanding the language and the terms and cap tables. So that is-
Mike Kelly: You just opened up a whole nother world of jargon.
Carrie Griffith: Yes. So, I'm me three years ago with technical, on fundraising.
Mike Kelly: Yeah, Awesome. All right. If people would like to find the app, what's the best way for them to do that?
Carrie Griffith: They can go to the app store on their iPhones and search for Little Nugget. They can also go to littlenuggetco.com if they're on Android and sign up for early access because we are very soon launching on Android.
Mike Kelly: All right. And if people want to get in touch with you, what's the best way for them to do that?
Carrie Griffith: I'm on Twitter. I'm personally @CarrieGriffith. Our social handles are @littlenuggetco or they can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mike Kelly: Awesome. Thank you so much.
Carrie Griffith: Thank you.