Giant Robots Smashing Into Other Giant Robots

519: Ammi's Mission to Empower Parents

April 4th, 2024

Host Will Larry is joined by Priyanka Mahajan, the founder of Ammi, a startup dedicated to supporting new and expectant parents with expertise, support, and community. The conversation highlights the challenges of parenting, the absence of a universal parenting manual, and how Ammi seeks to provide a personalized co-pilot for parents navigating the early stages of parenthood. Priyanka shares her journey from a career in strategy consulting and corporate roles across different countries to founding Ammi, driven by personal experiences and the desire to make a meaningful impact on parents' lives.

Priyanka discusses the core challenges she faced as a parent, such as dealing with the loss of control, the transition to motherhood, and the importance of acknowledging and navigating the mental and emotional shifts that come with it. She introduces the concept of "matrescence," likening it to adolescence, as a significant, yet underdiscussed, transition into parenthood. Priyanka's personal struggles with anxiety and the impact on her parenting led to the realization of the need for support and resources for parents, particularly in the areas of mental health and emotional well-being.

Ammi's mission is to fill the gaps in the current parenting support ecosystem by providing accessible expert advice and resources. Priyanka emphasizes the importance of mental health, the creation of a supportive community, and the development of a digital platform tailored to modern parents' needs. Finally, she outlines the challenges and opportunities ahead, including fundraising, product development, and establishing trust with parents.

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WILL: This is the Giant Robots Smashing Into Other Giant Robots podcast, where we explore the design, development, and business of great products. I'm your host, Will Larry. And with me today is Priyanka Mahajan, Founder of Ammi, a startup that provides expertise, support, and community to new and expectant parents. Priyanka, thank you for joining me today.

PRIYANKA: Will, thanks for having me. It's great to be here.

WILL: Yeah. I'm so excited to talk to you about parenting. Anytime I get to talk about parenting, I light up, so I can't wait to talk to you about it, pick your brain, and just hear any advice you have for me.

PRIYANKA: [laughs] That's great. It's always nice to talk to people who get the challenges, so very happy to dive into it.

WILL: Yeah, definitely. Me and my wife we always talk about we wish kids came with a manual because you just don't know what you're going to get. Out of my three kids, they're all not even close to being similar in any way.

PRIYANKA: No, that's totally right. You know, this manual that most people or most parents wish for after their kids are born doesn't quite exist. And it's also deeply personal, and that's exactly what you mentioned about your kids being different. But each parenting experience and, you know, giving birth is different. Each birth is different. Your body is different. So, all of that is quite deeply personal. And that's essentially what we want to do with Ammi is be able to provide this co-pilot to expectant and new parents to guide and help them through that early phase.

WILL: Yeah, oh, I can't wait. Before we dive in too deep, can you tell us a little bit about who you are, your background, and kind of how you got to this place?

PRIYANKA: So, first thing, I suppose, is I am Indian. I was born and raised in India, and I've lived in about four countries, including the U.S., and now live in London. I started my career in the strategy consulting area and then moved into internal strategy roles for telecoms and tech industry. And I had my children through that period of working for big corporates and essentially, you know, was busy climbing the corporate ladder or moved into different roles.

I have headed teams in marketing, in commercial, in other areas like operations. And eventually ended up being a director of strategy for the EMEA region for this large American telecoms company. And it was then that COVID struck and essentially that's basically where there were big, large life events, which I'm happy to get into later. But essentially, I resigned from my role and decided to focus on more meaningful ventures. So, here I am [laughs].

WILL: Yeah. So, were there any challenges having a career and having children? There were challenges.

PRIYANKA: That's right.

WILL: What were some of the challenges that you faced?

PRIYANKA: I had my kids really close together. I had a very difficult birth the first time around. I had a very easy pregnancy but a difficult birth. And especially for parents and, you know, women who are mothers, who are giving birth and previously have had this illusion of control, and, you know, being organized and in control and being on top of everything to suddenly not having anything in your control because that's what kids are like.

And not having that acknowledged and, you know, you still expect to do everything in a certain way, and you want to sort of do everything right. And that's just not how parenting is. There's no one right way, and it's okay to make mistakes, but also, equally, it's important to not know that you're failing. And I think that was a challenge that I had equally.

You know, I went back into work part-time. And here in the UK, I had a fairly generous maternity leave policy, which was great. But also, having to sort of think about putting my career on a bit of a back burner while my kids took priority was a transition. And just making that transition mentally, emotionally, physically in your life and making space for this new world is quite challenging as, you know, you're sort of grieving the life you had. But you're also embracing what's here and being surprised by it and figuring out who you are.

And that the term, actually, is known as matrescence, right? So, it's this process as we have adolescence. It's becoming a parent. It's, you know, its own transition. And I don't think that's been talked about enough, certainly not when I had my kids. So, I wasn't actually aware that that's what I was going through. I just kept thinking that I'm failing. And I think those memories and that experience was deeply embedded in my sort of process. And I went on to, you know, sort of do other things and go back into my career. And I never really dealt with the emotions that I felt at that stage of my early parenting journey.

And it really all came to light sort of when Ammi was born and hatched in the incubator that I did after I resigned from my corporate role at ZINC, where, you know, the focus was on children and young people's mental health. And in that, I sort of, like, started to research the space and go like, where do you actually start with children and young people? And you start with the parents at that very early stage.

So, that's sort of, like, what led me to almost kind of revisit my own experiences in that phase and think, you know, there was something there. And if we had probably done things differently, maybe the outcomes might have been different for our family, the way that we did things or the way that we dealt with each other in those early years.

Because the other thing I learned as well while I was doing my research in that space, which I didn't know at the time when I had my kids, is that children have their emotional development take place pretty much by the time from zero to three years of age. So, it's a very significant period of sort of secure attachment, as we call it, and things. So, that's, again, a lot of concepts that I wasn't familiar with, and I wish that I was kinder to myself. And that's basically what I want to do for the community that I'm supporting through Ammi.

WILL: That is such a good point because my oldest son he has a lot of tendecies that are like mine. So, we're a lot alike, and I find that mental health aspect of that, like, how can I help him the most? How can I help him to where he doesn't have the same failures I have? Like, it's not easy being a parent because it's like, do I step in? Do I not? Do I let him fail? Do I not let him fail?

So, like, and like you said, I think parenting is probably one of the most lonely things you can go through at times, depending on who's around you, if you have family around you, friends that have children, or not. So, I'm so glad that you said that you're diving into that mental health aspect also.

PRIYANKA: Yeah, that's a key pillar of what we do and what we're building essentially at Ammi. So, the mental health aspect is one that isn't really talked about, and there's a lot of stigma and shame associated with that, in that early stage especially. And the figures itself are astounding, you know, in the UK itself, it's 1 in 3 mothers experience perinatal mental health issues. In the U.S., I think it's 1 in 5. And 1 in 10 dads experience mental health issues. And there is a certain shame in addressing that. You're meant to be happy, and you're meant to be blessed. And which is true, you are blessed, and, you know, there are moments of happiness. But this is a massive transition that you're going through.

And it's an interesting word you used as well: lonely. So, in our research and interviews with the countless scores of, you know, tens of moms that we have interviewed, the most common word was isolation. It's exactly that. Like, it can feel like a very isolating experience without the village or the community that kids were meant to be raised under and parents were meant to be supported through that. But that is no longer the case in the way that we live today. And that's where there's an opportunity to provide that to parents in a way that works with our modern lives as well.

So, for example, what we're doing at Ammi with the mental health particularly is we have developed an evidence-based solution based on acceptance and commitment therapy, which is essentially an incredible sort of modality of therapy that addresses life changes in particular. It helps you figure out your values and your parenting values and helps you set goals and actions in line with those values. So, you feel like you have meaning even though your life is changing, and it still feels significant. And now, of course, you're in charge of a child. So, how do you ensure that you're not losing yourself but equally you're bringing your own values to your parenting? I just found it fascinating.

And we're doing this in a digital way. We're doing this in a way that works for the modern parent. So, it's bite-sized. It's on your phone. You can interact with it in the middle of the night when you're feeding the baby, or you're, you know, sort of up at the odd hours of the morning with your child. That's essentially, like, what we're doing with that particular mental health piece.

WILL: That is so good because I think even you said the values, like, I think we forget about that easily. And that is everything we do, like, the way we talk to our kids, the way we're raising them, the way we discipline them, what school they're going to. But I think so many times we run out of mental headspace to even talk about those things and to write them down. So, oh, that's so good that you go through that, and you help them discover what their values are because I think sometimes, as parents, you can lose that. Even if you had the values before you had kids, it's easy to lose those values and to remember why you're doing it.

PRIYANKA: That's right. And, you know, in some cases, you know, you forget, and you don't even know really what your values might be, right? Like, you're just kind of doing things because you think you should. And should is a dangerous word as well because it's sort of, how do you uncover what it is that you really want to do as well? And what's authentic to you as an individual and as a parent?

So, for example, I'll give you one, like, structure, right? Like, I, as a parent, can get so hung up on structure as a value. I forget about connection. And, actually, if I had to, like, sort of rank these, you know, connection would be higher on my list, personally. And it's like, why am I not acting on that? And so, what values essentially do is give you this compass in terms of, like, deciding what course of action to take and how you prioritize things.

And, equally, it's also important to note that, you know, values do shift and change. So, we say in this world that it's imagine that you're looking at a globe, and a globe sort of, like, spins. And there may be some values that are topical now, but others that come to fore. So, you've got to, like, hold them lightly as well and acknowledge that they do shift. And all of this may seem sort of a bit indulgent to talk and think about, but, actually, it's really relevant in your day-to-day and also in the way that you live, you work, you parent. It's all very relevant. And I think it's important to bring light to that in the parenting context as well.

WILL: That's really, really good. So, I wanted to kind of dive deeper into those pillars you're talking about. I know you said mental health was one. What are some of the other pillars that you cover?

PRIYANKA: You know, the other thing that I've lived through and I've discovered in my, you know, research with my community and with my parents is it's one thing to sort of work on yourself, right? But if the system around you is a bit broken, it's not all in your control. So, what we want to do as well is, like, fill some of those gaps that currently exist in the system.

So, for example, you know, here in the UK, since COVID especially, and for a few years before then, you know, we rely on the public healthcare system. And there have been significant challenges with funding there, which means that a lot of the support that was available to birthing parents, to birthing people are just not available anymore. There's no continuity of care, the kind of support you could expect in terms of checks and, you know, seeing the same person, for example, seeing the same midwife. That just doesn't exist anymore.

So, what you end up having is a lot of parents who are trying to do their best, but essentially scrambling around looking for solutions, whether that's, like, for sleep, or breastfeeding, or nutrition and taking care of their baby. And that is what essentially results in those feelings of failure.

So, what we want to do at Ammi is actually provide that practical expertise as well in the most accessible way. For example, here you could go private. You could see these experts privately, but that's really expensive. And there's nothing really available in the middle, I mean, apart from, like, the free Instagram reels and things. So, what we want to do is be able to provide, again, convenient formats where you can directly access these experts. And what I mean by that is, and what we already do here at Ammi, is we run online workshops with these experts, and these are currently actually free for parents to join.

So, we rope in experts who are equally passionate about this. So, they could be experts in pediatrics, or they could be experts in physical and maternal health and wellness, but also infant health and wellness. And they run these sessions for us, and parents can join and essentially interacting live. It happens usually after bedtime, so when parents can attend. And that's one format.

What we also want to build within our digital solution is a way for parents to access these experts on chat, text messaging, as well as book appointments with them, but, like, they may be shorter form appointments, so they're not as expensive. And it's virtual, which, again, cuts out the cost of actually having to see the expert in an office or in a space that is charged, so that helps with some of the cost. Equally, it helps to have experts who can do this on their downtime on chat format. So, that also helps with the cost.

So, we're trying to experiment with these different formats that also work from a parent standpoint of convenience. So, you're not taking time off work to see these experts. So, you're not doing that in, like, daytime hours or when your baby's sleeping. So, it's really about convenience and accessibility.

WILL: That sounds really good. I like the access to the people that know what they're talking about, especially late at night and things like that. That sounds so amazing because there's so many times that, like, I remember whenever, Cruz, he's my oldest, he just wasn't feeding with Katie. And we were like, we don't know why. And the first couple of weeks, I think we went into a doctor's office, like, three or four times just to make sure that he got back up to his birth weight. And it was scary. It was like, are we doing anything wrong? Like, what do we have to do to get him to this place and stuff like that?

So, I think sometimes it's just like, "Hey, you're doing the right thing." Like we had one pediatrician...we moved from North Carolina to Florida, and we kind of miss our old pediatrician. Because when we walked in, she was just like, "Hey, he's healthy. I could tell he's healthy, and you're doing all the things right." It was almost like a weight lifted off our backs just to hear like, "Hey. You're doing okay." So, that's good to hear that you're providing that to parents and stuff. You say you're based in London.


WILL: And I'm just being honest; I have no idea what the medical situation looks like there. Can you explain what that looks like? Because I know what it looks like in the U.S. But I don't want to be naive and say, "Oh, it's the same." What does it look like when you say someone can't have access to a private provider?

PRIYANKA: So, it's not that they can't have access. So, historically, in a lot of countries in Europe and here in the UK, we have what is called the National Healthcare System or the NHS. And, essentially, what that means is that your healthcare is covered by the state, which is incredible, actually that, you know, you don't really need to spend on private insurance or private healthcare.

So, for most parents, including myself, I gave birth both times through the NHS. What that means is that, you know, you sort of, like, you get into the system. You go to your GP. You don't actually get a pediatrician, which is also something that I wasn't used to in India, but there's no pediatricians. And they have a system that you go through. So, you know, you get assigned a hospital, or you can choose a hospital that's local, but generally, you get assigned to a hospital. And you sort of give birth there under their condition.

So, there's not a lot of agency and that, I guess, is the key word because you are under the healthcare system. And essentially, that is the majority. The overwhelming majority of people give birth that way in the UK. I think 12% of the UK has private insurance cover. But equally, even if you have private insurance cover, which means that you can choose your medical care or you can, you know, sort of reimburse, get reimbursed, and things, a lot of them don't actually cover giving birth because it's not a medical condition. So, you have to pay for that privately, and it does cost quite a significant sum of money if you want to go private.

And there's just a few hospitals, actually, in London. There's not that many hospitals outside of London that do this either. So, it's not a very accessible option for most people because it's expensive, and there just aren't enough places that do that. So, in terms of that continuity of care, you have your GP, but, you know, the GP, essentially, has 10 minutes per appointment. So, you don't get a lot of time with your healthcare provider.

And equally, when you have your midwife appointments to the NHS now, you don't see the same person, so, you know, through your scan. So, it's generally someone different. You might get lucky and see the same person. So, it's quite intimidating, I have to say, you know, you don't know really, like, what you can, cannot ask for. It's not very clear what your rights are, even though, you know, they do try their best. But because of the funding shortages now and the way that the system is going, people really are struggling to access care to the level.

I mean, even, you know, the midwives are leaving the NHS. There's 29 out of 30 midwives leave the NHS after two years of training, which is shocking given, you know, the investment that they make in time. So, it is getting pretty dire, and people's birth stories are just getting quite horrific. And it's become commonplace. It's not unusual anymore, where it used to be quite unusual.

You know, there's this perfect storm building right now here in the UK of people who are struggling to get the care they need. And paternity services, in particular, are also suffering quite a lot. And there's this dearth of services, right? And people are starting, like, there are a lot of, like, sort of, like, now smaller companies coming up, trying to, like, fill in this gap through employee benefits, which is one of the routes that we plan to take to market as well.

But also, birth coaches is, you have the birthing coaches and doulas. And this is a very small market here in the UK, but it's growing in, like, triple digits year on year. So, it's really interesting to see the private world is stepping up or is trying to step up to the challenges of what the public system isn't able to do anymore. Does that help, or [chuckles] does it sort of give you some context?

WILL: Yes, that helps tremendously because here, where I'm at, it's mostly employee benefits, and it's more private. We still have so many issues because I was thinking what you're doing. I was like, oh, that's so helpful, even with what we're dealing with, but it sounds like even next level.

Like, I can't imagine taking my kid to the doctor and seeing a different doctor every single time because sometimes that's part of the helpfulness is they're like, "Oh, we know your kid. We know what they're going through. And, actually, I probably treated them the last time they were in here, so I kind of know." Because even if you have notes, it's tough to understand exactly what you saw. Yeah, I could see the benefits of what you're doing. So, that's amazing.

PRIYANKA: Yeah, that's right. And equally, like, with the employee benefits now, this is one of the benefits. The top five benefits that employees want from their employers is more family support and more time around that. And we're also seeing in terms of, you know, employee retention, right? And keeping the gender pay gap at the minimum. It's about retaining also your, you know, female employees, especially mothers who tend to leave the workforce after having children, even here in the UK. I know it's actually a lot worse in the U.S., is my understanding.

But even here in the UK where you do get more benefits in terms of maternity leave, it's still the cost of childcare. And there are so many other issues about just not having that support system that completely sort of overwhelm the families for one of them to have to drop their career, which is unfortunate. So, I think there is definitely a play here for employers to step up here in the UK and in Europe to this challenge of retaining their employees through benefits such as this.

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WILL: What are some other ideas that you have? What does success look like in the next six months, five years for you? Where are y'all going?

PRIYANKA: Well, in the next six months, I think it's really about getting the product to market, like, getting our MVP and product out there. You know, we're doing things in a very scrappy way at the moment. I am, for all practical purposes, a solo founder, and I've been bootstrapping. What we have developed, you know, with my fractional team of clinicians and my CTO is we have a really high-spec figma prototype of what our solution would look like. We have our content ready and the mental health, the evidence-based mental health program ready.

It's now about getting that on a platform, and that is going to require some funding. So, I'm in the process of fundraising. So, ideally, in six months, we would have raised enough money to get that MVP out and to get this product in the hands of our customers, our customers being potentially employers. But also, you know, within the Ammi community, I've also been building a community as I've been running these online sessions and creating that side of content as well on the practical expertise side.

And we've got about 500-plus parents around London who have attended our workshops, and most of them are part of this community. And, you know, they're the ones that we've sort of tapped on for our testing. For also the content that we developed, we handed it over to them and, you know, we ran a trial and with some great results. So, that's basically the kind of work that we've done so far over the last year. And, really, in the next six months, it's about getting the product out, raising some money, and, yeah, hopefully, being revenue-generating. So [laughs], it's a lot to look forward to, a lot to do.

WILL: It sounds like that's that next heel, the next step, so...and it sounds fun. You help parents with their core values. What are some of the core values that you use and that you have that you make decisions through every day?

PRIYANKA: It's about authenticity. That's the guiding principle. It's about being authentic to our mission, being authentic to what the customer wants, you know, first and foremost, and authentic to what my vision for Ammi is, which is to be that co-pilot in those early years. And how that sort of helps me is even when I look at funding, and I look at the type of funding or who we, you know, want money from, I know that, you know, sort of, we can't really dictate that at this point. But I really don't want there to be a risk of mission drift from what we're trying to do here. I've lived that life before where I've done things to just sort of tick the boxes.

And I do genuinely think that there is a commercial opportunity here as well within the mission that we're trying to achieve because, you know, from employers to parents themselves, they're spending money on this now, and, you know, the tide is turning. So, for me, authenticity is number one. And, generally, like, you know, when I am faced with any decisions, whether that's a product-based decision, I'm like, right, like, what's more important to our community? What do they really want?

So, it's all about going back there and seeing, like, what is going to give them most value? It's about understanding when we look at the development or getting team members on board, it's, you know, who believes in the mission? So, that generally is what guides me in my day-to-day decision-making process.

WILL: Yeah, I really like that because I feel like, especially with social media, there's a lack of authenticity sometimes. Sometimes, I feel like society wants you to be this superhero as parents. And sometimes it's like, I think I have some of my best moments with my kids and some of my worst times with my kids. Just, like, I think sometimes just being honest about this is where you're at as a parent. You're doing okay. Maybe you need to tweak this, this, and this, but I think that's a good thing to go by. So, I really like that you said that.

PRIYANKA: Well, there's lots of ways to make money. Entrepreneurship that might be one of the things you do to make money, right? But it's not the easiest way. You know, I gave up my corporate career for a good reason, and I want to remember that. It was to sort of achieve big things but being authentic. So, that's really, like, where we are at.

WILL: I love it. Love it. I usually ask this question around careers, but I'm going to ask it for parenting. So, if you can go back in time and give yourself advice on your parenting, what advice would you give?

PRIYANKA: I would just say chill out [laughs]. You know, I think I was so hard on myself, right? So, for example, like, you know, when my son was born, my firstborn, I was so hell-bent on breastfeeding and, like, every bottle I had to give him a bottle day three because, you know, like you, like, my son as well he lost a lot of his weight, and we got worried. And he wasn't feeding. I didn't have a supply. So, it was so hard, and I felt like I failed. Every time he didn't sleep through the night, it felt like I failed.

So, I sort of took responsibility for all of it. Like, you know, this is, you know, that I'm failing this next project. But I wish I could just, you know, sort of go back and be like, this is all part of the journey. And this is a, you know, sort of a small person that you're trying to raise, and they have different rhythms, and it doesn't go by the book. So, those are some of the things I would tell myself is just to be kinder.

And, you know, actually, that's another thing that we do at Ammi is, like, just that self-compassion in our program about, like, just being easy on yourself for those years. I had to sort of come back and, you know, as you said, bounce back. And, again, all of that there's just incredible amounts of pressure on parents. Yeah, I think I would just tell myself to be kinder and be patient through all of that and things will work out.

WILL: I appreciate you saying that because I needed to hear that, to be honest with you. [laughter] Yeah. Just, I think, my kids are 4, 3, and almost 2, so, like, 22 months. So, "It's going to be okay, and chill out" is really good advice for me to hear at this time. So, I appreciate you saying that.

PRIYANKA: Yeah. And it will be, you know, I mean, I know it's hard. Like, it's as they say, the days are, you know, long, and the years are short. But when you're in it and when you haven't slept in a week [laughs], it can feel like it's just dragging on forever [laughter]. And that's one of the hardest challenges, right? Sleep deprivation. So, sleep workshops are the most popular, as you would expect. You know, we get sleep experts to come in and talk about it. And, generally, you know, what's really interesting is, like, through a lot of these workshops, what they all end up really saying is that everything is normal [laughs].

So, it's not like one sort of thing is normal. And just having an expert say that to you and say that to our parents who join these calls is just incredibly relieving for them that they're not, you know, in some race and competition to see whose kid has slept through the night or, like, what's, you know, what I'm doing wrong, whose kid is eating the most variety of fruit and veg, you know, that's not what it's about. It's all normal. And they just go away and sleep well that night, right? Like, after a workshop because they're like, this is great. I'm doing it okay [laughter].

WILL: Well, once again, that's good to hear because, like, last night, I think I got five hours of sleep because of my son.


WILL: Thank you for saying even that because, like, you question yourself a lot. Like, I know I do. I question myself a lot. Am I doing the right thing? Is this what I'm supposed to be doing? So yeah, that's really good to hear.

PRIYANKA: Yeah, it's a common ailment that [laughs], you know, sort of goes around the parents of our generation, I think.

WILL: Yes, definitely. What are some of the biggest hurdles you see coming up?

PRIYANKA: As a startup, there's hurdles every day. You know, there's things sort of that we're...challenges that we're facing, but really in, you know, in the current climate, I think it's about securing the right kind of funding and the amount of funding we think we need in order to get the product developed and go to market. That is a big hurdle. I have, you know, sort of some plan B set up in terms of how we could, you know, sort of test our solution in other ways and in scrappier ways. And we're kind of working on that alongside it.

But it's a difficult environment for startups right now, as you might have been aware. And especially with healthcare and wellness, in particular, it's been pretty hard over the last couple of years. The problem hasn't gone away, you know, so mental health and, you know, sort of wellness was a thing two, three years ago. And then, you know, it's all shifted to climate and sort of climate tech, which is great because that is also a problem, but equally, we haven't fixed any of this yet. And there are, I think, opportunities to do things in this area that might be missed if the funding doesn't come along. So, funding is definitely one thing.

Yeah, in terms of hurdles, if we do get the funding, it's about making sure that we get the right team together. As I said, I'm a solo founder, so that in itself is a hurdle every day as I try to sort of juggle the bootstrapping and the endless to-do list that I have with Ammi. So, I'd say, yeah, I think those are really the big things that I'm focusing on.

WILL: Yeah, I love that. And yeah, I agree. Funding is probably, yeah, that's a big hurdle. And as a parent, it's much needed just to hear those things. So, I hope it all works out and it goes well.

PRIYANKA: Yeah, no, thank you. And sort of showing that it's a need, but also, it's a commercial opportunity, right? Like, parents now in the UK, the spending that parents do in that first couple of years that their baby is born has skyrocketed. And more and more, you know, as we see, like, parents coming into sort of this journey now, are aware of the impact that poor sort of mental state can have on their children. It's not like how it was when I gave birth. Like, I think a lot of parents now are well aware, and they want to sort of be fit, not just physically, but also mentally for this journey.

So, there's a lot of trends that are in our favor. So, you know, when it comes to things like spending on services rather than goods, you know, that's going up, the awareness around mental health. Unfortunately, the incidence of poor mental health is also going up. And so, people are coming into this, and there are multiple challenges, you know, that contribute to that as well. And the risk factors, unfortunately, is another thing.

So, for example, a lot more parents are getting into parenting after having a difficult fertility journey or having experienced loss or, you know, neonatal ICU moments. So, all of that is really stressful to deal with. And then, you know, then have this child to sort of look after when you're barely healing yourself. So, I think people are recognizing the need for this, certainly, the parents are. It's about making sure that investors see that now as well as a commercial opportunity.

WILL: Yeah, I really like that. Yeah, I totally agree with that. What motivated you to start your company? Like, was it just the experience that you went through when you were raising your kids, or was there a certain thing that motivated you? Because, like you said, entrepreneurship is not easy at all. So, what motivated you to want to start your company?

PRIYANKA: You know, as I mentioned, I was, you know, sort of on that sort of corporate ladder for many years. And while I was, you know, even doing that, I think there was a certain restlessness inside of me. Am I living my most authentic life? Like, is this how I want to spend my days? You know, and I have a family now. Is this what I want to be doing when I'm not at home? And that was sort of bothering me.

And then, you know, 2020 happened, right? And I'm a statistic of the great resignation, but, like, it really was triggered by some significant life events. So, very, very early, like, almost before any of the lockdowns and start of the pandemic, in February 2020, my husband got really sick with COVID and was on a ventilator for ten days. They didn't even know really what COVID was at the time. He was one of the first, like, maybe 20, 30 patients in London in hospital. And yeah, we almost lost him. So, that was big.

And, you know, at the time, I was dealing with a high-pressure job and very young kids at home, you know, sort of at the end of my sort of mental space as well. And I took some time off and just decided then, like, I think I need to sort of pivot now. I need to, you know, life is too short. So, I resigned from my role a few months in and decided to focus on more meaningful ventures. And that's when I stumbled upon ZINC venture capital. So, ZINC venture capital is an incubator accelerator program here in the UK. And they invest in mission-based businesses, and their '21, '22 cohort was actually, as I said earlier, you know, on children and young people's mental health.

And within that, you know, while I was researching it, I think it just brought up these memories of being, like, in that early phase of parenting. And I started meeting a lot of moms who were in that phase and just realizing that these are, you know, capable women who are at their most vulnerable physically and emotionally at this time, and they're being let down. You know, these families are being let down by the system, by the environment that we live in, and, essentially, feeling like they're failing. And I recognized that in my own experiences. I had a lot of anxiety, as I, you know, sort of mentioned with my firstborn. And I think that did impact.

And, to date, we're sort of probably dealing with the impact of the way that we were as parents, you know, with him. And I just wish I had done things differently or I knew different. And that's really, like, what has motivated me. And I see, you know, these moms, like, looking for solutions and these dads as well, like, sort of more aware of these issues, but they don't have the support. So, that's really, like, where Ammi was born was, you know, during my time there.

And it was also a process of, like, finding my own personal mission, you know. And I feel deeply motivated by this, by solving the problem really. I'm not so married to the solutions. It really, for me, is about the problem and making sure that we get the right solution in people's hands.

WILL: Yeah, I really like that. I think 2020 was rough for everyone. I think it was really, really rough. It was rough for me. Like you said, it was rough for you. But I'm hoping that we're going to start seeing...because someone was telling me about trends that happen. Like, we usually go through a really rough time, but then that's usually when we get creative solutions afterwards.

And so, I'm hoping that's what we're seeing, you know, with your company and many others, which is those creative solutions from 2020. All that that happened I'm hoping that we're starting to see more and more creative solutions. So, I'm so glad that you're starting this and that you stepped out and that you're doing this because I think it's going to benefit a lot of people.

PRIYANKA: Oh, thank you. I appreciate that. It's good to hear as well [laughs].

WILL: Yeah, definitely. So, clearly, there's a need for your solution. So, what are you hearing from the investor side, and what does that look like?

PRIYANKA: It's interesting. With things that have to do with wellness or sort of parenting, and, you know, as we now call it, like, femtech, there seems to be this perception that it's a crowded space. I can see why people say that, you know, maybe there is this sort of influx of, you know, your Instagram feed full of, like, momfluencers or messages that are coming across on parenting and things.

But if you really ask parents if they feel supported and they have access to what they need, they're still struggling. And they're still finding it difficult because every parent's journey is a little different, and they need that direct access. That's still quite hard to get. Like, you could do your research, but equally, that takes up time.

So, I think what we're doing differently at Ammi and what we're really doing here is to make that access to experts as easy, convenient, and affordable as possible, and I think there's definitely a space and market for that. Making that access sort of affordable and easy but equally, like, having that support, having the coaching support and continuity of care, which doesn't exist anymore, and not a lot of people are doing that yet.

There are a few startups that are sort of entering the space. In the U.S. I think, actually, there's been more proof of this concept working with the incredible work that Maven Clinic has done, for example. But in the UK, it's still pretty niche, and in Europe. So, I think there's a potential for a big player to come in and take up that space. And that's what I'd like investors to know is that: the commercial opportunity is not to be understated here in terms of what that is.

There's, you know, 600,000 new parents in the UK every year. And if you think about it, if even 10% of those are spending what is the average on the baby's first few years of life, which is anywhere between 8,000 to 15,000 in that year, a percentage of that does go to services. That already is a huge annual market that one could be looking at entering, sorting, and de-fragmentizing or...well, that's not the word but organizing because it is a very, very fragmented space. And there is opportunity to make that a lot easier for parents. That's kind of the message I'd like to get out there.

WILL: As a parent, I'm glad you said that because one thing I keep hearing you saying is experts, experts. I like that your platform has experts, and I can trust their info. Because I get some info from social media, but sometimes I'm like, can I trust this information? Is it real? Is it AI? Whatever it is. So, I like yours that it's like, we've added these solutions, and they're experts. So, that's, yeah, I can see how that's so beneficial.

PRIYANKA: Right. And that is what most parents tell us is: trust is such a big factor. Parenting is, like, one of the biggest things that you'll do in your life, you know, and trust is essential because you don't just want to be trying things at random or, you know, sort of sometimes you do that, but it's not ideal. And most parents will pay for that, too, you know, they will pay to talk to an expert. They will pay for that. They might not pay for the free information that comes in their way.

And this is why, like, content is one part of a strategy, but it's not core to it. It really is about creating those personalized journeys. And maybe this is another conversation as well for next time, but it really is about, like, scaling that. And that's really interesting in how we plan to do that as well. How do you scale personalized solutions? And I think that could be really interesting.

WILL: Yeah. Oh, yeah. I could definitely see if you could figure that out, wow, it opens up so many avenues for you. So, that's amazing. So, with your solutions, how have you validated that this is what your users want and this is what they need so that they're successful?

PRIYANKA: We've been doing a process of validation right from the beginning. You know, I've run ideation sessions—co-creation sessions. I've done maybe 20-plus interviews with mums and run surveys with over a hundred parents to really understand what it is they need. So, we developed, like, the version one of our prototype based on the top problems that parents told us they were having, the kind of ways in which they wanted to access help.

So that's where, you know, sort of the creative ideas around text chat and workshops and ways to make it more accessible came about, even things like having all of that on your phone because most parents will be on their phone in those early years and not so much on desktop. So, that was another thing that informed all of that. So, we did two rounds of testing, and then we did another third round as well to ensure that we were, like, tweaking our prototype to really make it exciting for parents.

And once we developed our mental health or sort of a mental health coaching platform, we also ran that on a two-week trial with a bunch of Ammi sort of community members. And the results were, like, really reassuring and almost overwhelming to some extent with, you know, some moms saying that, you know, doing some of those exercises help them sleep at night. And some others said, "Oh, wow, these sections really speak to me on values and goal setting." Some others said that "You know, it really helped me provide that moment of calm and stop my ruminating thoughts." And all of this is really encouraging to hear from people directly as they've used your content and your platform.

So, that's sort of, like, the validation we've been through. And I think it's always going to be a process. You know, even when we come out with version 1, we're going to learn what people are interacting with most. And, you know, I'm really interested to see how they react and their behaviors around the text chat particularly. So yeah, it's one of the best parts about building something is that interaction with your users and community. Like I said, it's 500-plus moms who are part of this community now and who've been informing the solution at every step of the way.

WILL: I love that you took that step to validate it. Priyanka, thank you for joining me today.

You can subscribe to the show and find notes along with a complete transcript for the episode at If you have questions or comments, email us at You can find me on Twitter @will23larry.

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