[MUSIC] Hello. I've just been surfing the web because many startups are actually web based. I've come across a really interesting website called baby.croinc. It's started by a married couple, Eli and Ayelet Ben-Sasson. We're going to chat with them to find out how they got the idea. We'll learn that the idea came from something they themselves needed. They're parents of four, including a young daughter, age three. And we'll ask them how they got the business going, how they started the website, how they worked together, how they began in one direction and actually ended up going in a completely different direction. Let's meet the Ben-Sasson couple. We're speaking with Professor Eli Ben-Sasson, professor of computer science here at the Technion. And Professor Ayelet Ben-Sasson who's in the occupational therapy department at the Haifa University and of course they are a married couple. The interview is part of our Coursera course on delivering ideas, how to implement an idea. So Eli and Ayelet, first of all thanks a lot for coming to be interviewed. >> Thank you for having us. >> One of the key points that we make in this Coursera course is that one of the best ways to do market research is to use a market survey of one and that is yourself. What do we need, what do I need? What do I want that doesn't exist out there? And then if I need it, if we need it, maybe many other people do also. And then most important, make it happen. So you have four children and the youngest is three, I believe. Tell us about how you got the idea for your product. And the product, we should say, is a mobile adaptable website, not an application, website. We'll give the URL on the screen for our viewers, for our students. It's called baby.croinc, it stands for baby crowd-based interactive clustering. Tell us about how you got the idea and how you implemented it. >> You want to go first? >> Okay. So, it has two parts to it. One is the personal aspect, like you said, there is a market need for a website that would give parents a 24/7 support for their concern for their children. Parents are raising their children in communities, isolated from their family and neighbors. What was more common in a past times now, is more rare. And then parents find themselves wondering, this is the first time I see a newborn, what is are the newborn supposed to do? Is my newborn okay, is my one year old doing things on time? And you see online parents searching for this information in sort of an anonymous and a nonprofessional communities. And we thought to provide to some answer to this great need of parents for a more evidence based, crowd based sort of information that is available freely, and based on their own description, their own narratives, to their child's most important milestone. >> You know Ayelet, to become a computer scientist, you study for many years. To become an economist, you study for many years. What do you study to become a parent? Where do you get that information, right? It's a very lonely business sometimes, and scary, with these little creatures. Definitely there seems to be a clear need out there. >> Mm-hm. >> Mm-hm, so lots of people have ideas, but actually you made it happen. How did that work? >> So, we have this idea and also there was this scientific motivation which is we want to use this new tool of the web and crowd wisdom to take a different look at various social and psychological phenomena like child development. So that's another thing we wanted to explore. We started by basically getting really excellent programmers to start working on it. >> So I think we should explain something about the idea of crowdsourcing or wisdom of crowds. So, the original book by James Surowiecki appeared in 2004, called The Wisdom of Crowds. There's an example in there, going back a century to Francis Galton, who did an experiment, he asked people to guess the weight of an ox, and people had no idea about what the weight of an ox could be, and he asked experts to guess as well. And the average of 800 people turned out to be almost exactly right. So he uses that to show that take a lot of people and sort of aggregate all of the wisdom, and you get something really clever. And that's the basis of your, sort of- >> Right, so we start with that and that's what's currently implemented. The statistics that we have already computed and shown are based in things like average and standard deviation median. So taking the average of many wise people. But we want to take is a step further in the future since this average is actually combined of very different unique developmental paths. We would like to use crowd wisdom and supply it with algorithms and mechanisms, for sifting out those different paths and finding the different trajectories of child development. And that's something that we want to do in the future. It's in the process of being built. >> How does one deal with these huge variances when concerned parents wonder, how come my child isn't talking yet? >> So I mean, there's two aspects to it. One is the fact that we have big data. Allows us to capture children who have this sort of path, and sort of crawl in a certain backwards instead of forward, and children who develop in a different way. So our system actually can group kids based on these variable profiles. The other part of it is yes, you will see that your child is different by the statistics. But in some way we don't leave you alone with that because we have the future zone in this website in which you could see parenting tips from other parents of how they got to different milestones, and you could see which milestones are sort of coming up ahead, and you can prepare your house for it, you prepare your schedule for it, and so forth. >> Got it. So in our earlier chat before this interview, I learned something really interesting and this is related to a tool that we're teaching in this course called real options. And the idea is that when you start something, often it leads you in directions that you didn't expect. And you have a similar story here, because Baby Cro Inc began as something quite different. Tell us about that. >> So at first we wanted to tackle the variability of people of all ages with autism spectrum disorders, and we actually built a site that is still functional, it's called asd.croinc.org, and what happened was no one signed up. And we tried, you know, there were not that many people with ASD, with autism spectrum disorder, and it was hard to reach them, and a lot of them didn't reply, and didn't respond, and didn't log in, and we were at this conundrum where we didn't even know what's wrong. You know, is the product, you know, not well-designed? Maybe- >> There's no need for it, maybe. >> Yeah, so then- >> Sorry to interrupt you but, this happens so often. You have a great idea, and you think there's a clear need out there, but innovation and entrepreneurship, it's not physics, it's not even computer science. And you never know until you get it out there, and sometimes it just doesn't fly. One of the values of your initiative, your website, is the data that you're going to generate, which is data on child development globally in many countries. And that this is another example, I think, of option value. That probably wasn't your original intention, but it's becoming clear. You now have 800 people on the website. That in itself is a lot of data, and hopefully that's going to grow a lot in the future. So this could be a unique source of valuable data, cross cultural data. Tell us a bit about how you conceive your website as linking parents with crowdsourcing and wisdom of the crowds across countries. What's the value proposition? >> Yeah, so, definitely, there's going to be, I mean, right now, you can see averages and see what typical children are doing without, you know, knowing whether they're from your country or other places. But, one of the things we will develop in the future is the ability, if both sides agree to it, of sharing information and getting more tips and more, sending messages and learning from others based on specific concerns or uniqueness items that your child has. And that's something that often you cannot find in the park where your child is. So it doesn't replace it with a compliment. >> I want to say two points about that. First of all, that we're going to have an option of filtering, by country, so you will actually be able to see statistics by, more like people you more associate yourself with. And the other thing is, there are things that you won't tell in the park to other people. Like, you might be concerned and leave it to yourself. And you might be more confident to do it on the Internet. >> Let's talk about the business. So, you started a website. One of the principles of entrepreneurship that we teach is called, make meaning not money. If you create value for people, the business eventually will take care of itself. If you start something to just try to make money without creating real value for people, probably not going to work. Do you have any business sense about your website? See, because, you have 800 people using it now, that's a big number, it creates valuable data, but you'd like to have 8,000, 80,000, but you don't have money to invest in marketing. And a lot of people would like to use your website, but they don't know about it, and how do we, how do we reach them? >> So til I heard this fabulous sentence, you know, I would say we don't have a business, or plan, or, you know, but now that you say that, you know, it's, you need to have a meaning, so I think we have a whole lot of meaning. I mean, the only thing we care about, and we discuss it in our meetings all the time, is, you know, how we have, I think, a very clear view of what we think this should be. And it's about science, and development, and understanding on a scientific basis, you know, the variance and variability in child development. And that's, I think, a very important meaning, and one that we strongly believe in. Now, I think, you know, hearing your sentence, if this meaning actually resonates with others, then down the line, we could worry or think about, you know, monetizing it, or how this value may be applicable to other things. But frankly, right now, we're not there. >> So there are many possible models you could have, an advertising model, that would be a little tricky, but if a lot of parents do your site, parents buy an awful lot of things for children. But right now, at this stage, it's probably not relevant. And I can tell you briefly the story of one of the world's biggest websites, Ali Baba, which is a Chinese e-commerce site. And Jack Ma, who started it, had a principle of giving it away for free. And he did that for several years and was mocked widely because free is not a business model, but free actually is a powerful business model. Because on the web, he would attract eyeballs and people, and if you get enough of them, usually they tell you how to monetize your business, if you want to monetize it at all. But the key is, of course, creating value. >> So I must say we do advertise in some way, like, we have a collaboration with this Israeli Portal, which is a website for Israeli moms. And we have there like sort of a banner, so. >> Wait, no, we have used advertisement for increasing the exposure of our website. We are not, and do not have any form of advertising on the site for any other sort of monetary issue affecting it on the site. And it's not going to happen any time soon. >> And of course, one of the most useful websites is Wikipedia. And the founder of Wikipedia refuses, despite the enticement of billions of dollars, refuses to have any sort of advertising, which would corrupt the whole idea. >> Yes. I think, yeah, there you go, like, meaning is so important to him, and, you know, we can all thank him for that >> Mm-hm, so what is your vision for the future for Baby Cro Inc? >> Your vision, and I'll say mine. >> So, I mean, in terms of the product that we offer the parents, I see in the future a website that can actually provide you reports. At different time points you could actually get some output from it, and not only see it like sort of as a static thing through your interaction. I see many more people using it as a social network, and we might be able to connect it to other social networks, and make it like more integrated into them, so it's actually like, because we call, they use a timeline in there and they put things. And they might have other timelines for their albums and for other things that they track about their family or their child that they might be able to integrate it with that. >> Yes, good point. I think integrating with Facebook is a possible direction that you could consider, and there may be another point here. Another piece of your vision. In many countries, people have stopped having babies. And I visited such countries. And it's really awful, it's like being in an old folks' home. Maybe if you reduce the anxiety of parenthood, maybe this can help in some small way to increase. >> That's a big vision. I'm not sure if our website is going to help there. I wanted to say that one of the things that we would like to push forward is, which is bigger than just child development, is that currently, a lot of the study and complex social and psychological phenomena is based on an expert writing down a certain test. And then measuring a sample of the population, and then analyzing the data. Whereas, what we hope to have at some point, is a process in which you go out there, you don't know what the data is, you ask the experts, which are in our case each and every parent. But tomorrow it could be each and every person with a certain disorder, or discomfort, or a social phenomena. You as an expert, what do you think are the important aspects and this is already what Baby allows you to do. You're going to say what you think is important. So, what Baby already allows you to do is, it collects the important and significant data from the various experts. In the case of Baby these are parents, and then has algorithms behind it, that we will increase and enhance, that allow the crowd as a whole to understand the variance and variability, and this interesting and important phenomena. So we hope that we'll have some better understanding of how to use crowd wisdom, and siphon it, and harness it to understand complex phenomenon. >> This is really a new approach to psychology. Psychology is based on many different psychological tests. The tests are based on samples. And the sample creates a norm. But really, what we'd like to do, is have a population rather than a sample. And this possibly will make that happen. Our usual last question for entrepreneurs. Do you have any insights or wisdom, that you want to share with our future entrepreneurs who want to do a startup? >> I would offer two that jump to my head. One is get really, really excellent people on your team, and again, I just want to emphasize that we have these amazing programmers, really brilliant. These are really an excellent team, that's tip number one. And don't compromise on that. The second tip is that it's really easy to build things on the web and on the Internet, and on computers today, because of open source code- >> Sharing, yeah. >> And everything is just out there, so you don't need a whole lot to get something up and running. So just try it. >> And you can bootstrap it, you can just do it, rather than wait for some investor to come along, give you a big check. >> Hopefully, one has to also thank and acknowledge the scientifics for it, the research grants that we have. I'm not sure, okay, I'm sure if it- >> We couldn't have done it without that funding. >> Yeah, if we had a day job this wouldn't have happened. So I mean, that's- >> I mean, this is months of work, it's not a week and this website is up. So it's a lot of work. I don't know what, how long has this, like over? >> Been going for- >> Almost two years? >> Over a year with the program was working. So I mean, it's not as easy, okay, I mean, if you can go for a few months with your buddies without salary. Yeah, then it's easy, but we're not the right ones to, I mean, okay, we had it easy in the sense that we have grants funding it. So I don't think we're in the position to say, yeah, it's easy, just drop everything and start something. I mean, maybe others would be in a position to say that. >> And thank you very much for the interview. >> Thank you. >> Thank you.