When Josh Milstein ’10CC founded Mommy Nearest in 2013, it was just an app that made it easier for new parents in New York City to pick and choose family-friendly destinations. It’s since grown exponentially in size and scope, becoming a highly successful media technology company that spans eight cities across the country.
It may be hard to believe that one of the fastest growing, most parent-centric digital services on the market was dreamed up by a young History major from Columbia College. But that’s exactly what happened. Following graduation, Josh spent a little over a year working in the hospitality industry at the Loews Regency Hotel, where the idea for Mommy Nearest took root.
“I spent a lot of my days trying to help parents navigate NYC with kids in tow,” Josh says. “At the time there were no mobile apps that catered to parents, despite the fact that they spend more time on their phones than any other demographic, and that first-time parents are constantly looking for information online.” And so Mommy Nearest was born, “a mobile app that helps geo-locate a parent or person, and then shows them the 50 closest kid-friendly places broken down by categories.”
From the start, the app experienced tremendous organic growth through crowdsourced ratings and reviews of restaurants, museums, and attractions across the country. “We then wanted to layer in an editorial component, so we brought Rory Halperin, the former editor of Time Out New York Kids. Then we started producing localized content in key strategic cities.”
The content you’ll find on the Mommy Nearest site today highlights top local spots that can also be found on the app, including neighborhood guides, best-of lists, and monthly calendars. That means vacationing families and natives alike can make the most of the service — and their time spent in any of the featured cities.
Today, the company operates in eight metro areas across the U.S. — San Francisco, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, and Washington D.C. — with plans to expand to South Florida and Atlanta in the next few months. It’s also broadened the scope of its offerings.
Mommy Nearest for Business offers software-building services for family-friendly businesses, creating a dashboard that makes it easy to control marketing and messaging tailored to “a highly targeted group of people.” Already, the company has established over 450 business partnerships nationwide.
Of his plans for the future, Josh says, “We’ve always taken a philosophical approach to scale based on demand. We’re looking to continue to scale nationally in terms of places on the app, and we’re working on some big national partnerships as well.”
Josh cites the academic rigor and the liberal arts education provided by Columbia as a major reason for his success. “One of the best outcomes of going to a place like Columbia is the fact that certain required classes facilitate freedom of thought, where you can approach things with more of an open mind,” he says. “You’re not funneled into a certain kind of thinking.” Instead, the type of thinking that Columbia instills in its students “will help any CEO, especially of a startup where you’re faced with unforeseen challenges every single day, where each day is different in and of itself.”
Josh concludes, “Without Columbia, I don’t think I would have had the robust understanding of the world that I do today.”