The Pocket Concierge

Josh Milstein; photo by Andrew Schwartz
Josh Milstein; photo by Andrew Schwartz

Josh Milstein—the 26-year-old co-founder and CEO of the locator app Mommy Nearest—may be, by his own admission, a somewhat unlikely champion of busy local parents. “I’ll go into a restaurant and be like: ‘Hey, do you guys have a changing table in the bathroom?’ And I’ll get these weird looks because I don’t have a child, like: ‘Why is this 26-year-old guy asking me about changing tables?’ So in that sense it can be kind of funny,” Milstein explains. “It definitely creates a few laughs here and there…but I think that if you provide enough divergent opinions, eventually the best comes to the top. At least you create that conversation.”

All jokes aside, the success of the locator function and digital magazine that make up Milstein’s Mommy Nearest app is anything but laughable. The company’s expanding reach and growing popularity serve as clear benchmarks of Milstein’s understanding of what parents on the go crave, all under the umbrella of a “mobile first” approach.

At present, the Yelp-like service for parents has 100,000 users and 60,000 family-friendly places in all 50 states, with city-specific content available in four major cities. And while the app’s foundation is rooted in convenience, it’s also about families connecting and sharing with each other.

“Mommy Nearest is a mobile resource guide, for parents, for places on the go. And it ranges from kid-friendly restaurants to certain amenities, like changing tables in bathrooms,” Milstein explains. “Whether it’s an attraction, museum, park, playground, indoor play space, or a place that has drop-ins—it really is a locator. And from that, we’re trying to build community.”

An interest in community-building is actually part and parcel of how Milstein—a Columbia grad from Scarsdale with family ties to NYC’s real estate world—came to create Mommy Nearest. Initially, he had tested the start-up waters by developing a service called Doormates (“a hyper-local social network for high-rise buildings”) but had trouble gaining traction. However, in the process, Milstein—who had hotel concierge experience at the Loews Regency in Manhattan—learned something essential about the desire for community growth among families.

“I wanted to intersect my passion for product and technology with the real estate my family is involved in,” he says of Doormates. “The whole follow is that we make this network for neighbors so that they can communicate with one another. Turns out that most New Yorkers don’t really want to know their neighbors…but the people that did were parents of young children that didn’t necessarily want to travel across the city to see their best friends and wanted to have those more local connections.”

Milstein and his team (he says that he shares the title of co-founder with his whole team of engineers and editors) began developing Mommy Nearest, and by the spring of 2013 had released versions for iPhone and Android. Soon enough, the locator function, which is the app’s “bread and butter,” was providing a solution to a problem that Milstein had seen constantly during his time as a hotel concierge.

“The whole focus of this locator, [which] is for parents to see the 50 closest restaurants, parks, playgrounds, and attractions, really came from my concierge days where I was focused on trying to plan days for families,” Milstein says. “[Families] would call me frantic in the hotel, and say: ‘Where is X and how do I get there?’ And I would say: ‘Alright, pull out your map, and make a right there, two lefts, and you’ll get to whatever you’re looking for.’ To me, that seemed really antiquated.”

In the same vein of keeping Mommy Nearest forward-thinking, in December 2013 the app began offering a fun and informative magazine as part of the package. Alongside Milstein on the editorial side of the business is editor-in-chief Rory Halperin, who came to the company after 7.5 years at Time Out New York Kids and a stint in publicity at the Children’s Museum of Manhattan. She works closely with Mommy Nearest writers around the country who weigh in on a range of parenting topics from “Ask a Lactation Consultant” to school lunch ideas.

“Our app does a dual function—it has the utilitarian aspect in terms of locating where you are…then we have the different articles on it that run across all of our platforms,” Halperin explains. “Our whole thought was, because we’re mobile first, [the articles] are very short and bite-sized…and a lot of our local content ties back into the venues that we list.”

So, when offering users location-specific content, like an article about a local restaurant, Mommy Nearest also includes in-article links to the venue in question, which in turn offer up in-app reviews written by fellow parents in the area. This added level of depth certainly hasn’t been lost on savvy parents who turn to their mobile devices for everything, from breaking news to social media and basic communication.

“Parents have referred to [the magazine] as like their BuzzFeed or Pinterest. It’s a constant stream of content that’s meant to be entertaining, humorous, utility-based, helpful, and opinionated—a mix,” Milstein adds. “We’re trying to bring in a lot of opinions…we’re a New York-based company, but parenting is different here than in other cities; it’s not one-size-fits-all, so it’s important to have various voices to create that dialogue.”

The spirit of celebrating diversity in the parenting realm also goes hand-in-hand with Mommy Nearest’s enthusiastic expansion into more and more cities. At the moment, urban moms and dads can access content specific to their city through Mommy Nearest in NYC, Chicago, Boston, and San Francisco and the Bay Area. Milstein is determined to launch city-specific content in ten cities total (including Los Angeles, Washington DC, Houston, and Atlanta) by the end of 2014. Los Angeles, a city where the app already has significant usage, is next on the list to get a team of dedicated writers.

“I think LA, like New York, is a city where a lot of parents are out and about doing so many types of activities and using their phones a lot,” Halperin says. “So I have no doubt that LA, as our next city, will be a big hit.”

And finally, on top of their ambitious expansion goals, thriving app and magazine, and their recent venture of offering Mommy Nearest for businesses (which allows businesses in the family realm to directly market to users on their mobile devices), Milstein hopes to have a Mommy Nearest for schools—primarily for parents of kids ages 2-4—up and running by the start of 2015.

“If you drop your child off at Kindergarten, most times you’re wondering what they’re doing all day…but we think that there’s an opportunity to engage further with teachers on mobile,” he explains. “It seems that there’s a lot of conversation around students and what’s going on during the day, so we see an opportunity to create more of a conversation.”

Given that Milstein seems to have an innate instinct for starting conversations that urban parents want to be a part of—be it through contributing magazine articles or posting venue reviews—we have a feeling that moms and dads (both near and far) will be ready to tune in, log on, and keep sharing.

For the Mommy Nearest Team’s top picks for family fun in NYC, click here.

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font-variant-numeric: normal; font-variant-east-asian: normal; font-stretch: normal; font-size: 11px; line-height: normal; font-family: Helvetica;"><span style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: 'trebuchet ms', geneva, sans-serif;"><strong>REAL-LIFE PRACTICE<span class="Apple-converted-space"> </span></strong></span></p> <p class="p2" style="margin: 0px; font-variant-numeric: normal; font-variant-east-asian: normal; font-stretch: normal; font-size: 11px; line-height: normal; font-family: Helvetica; padding-left: 40px;"><span style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: 'trebuchet ms', geneva, sans-serif;">• Communication skills<span class="Apple-converted-space"> </span></span></p> <p class="p2" style="margin: 0px; font-variant-numeric: normal; font-variant-east-asian: normal; font-stretch: normal; font-size: 11px; line-height: normal; font-family: Helvetica; padding-left: 40px;"><span style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: 'trebuchet ms', geneva, sans-serif;">• Speaking practice<span class="Apple-converted-space"> </span></span></p> <p class="p2" style="margin: 0px; font-variant-numeric: normal; font-variant-east-asian: normal; font-stretch: normal; font-size: 11px; line-height: normal; font-family: Helvetica; padding-left: 40px;"><span style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: 'trebuchet ms', geneva, sans-serif;">• Real-life situations<span class="Apple-converted-space"> </span></span></p> <p class="p2" style="margin: 0px; font-variant-numeric: normal; font-variant-east-asian: normal; font-stretch: normal; font-size: 11px; line-height: normal; font-family: Helvetica; padding-left: 40px;"><span style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: 'trebuchet ms', geneva, sans-serif;">• Modern Chinese expressions<span class="Apple-converted-space"> </span></span></p> <p class="p4" style="margin: 0px; font-variant-numeric: normal; font-variant-east-asian: normal; font-stretch: normal; font-size: 11px; line-height: normal; font-family: Helvetica; min-height: 13px;"> </p> <p class="p2" style="margin: 0px; font-variant-numeric: normal; font-variant-east-asian: normal; font-stretch: normal; 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font-variant-east-asian: normal; font-stretch: normal; font-size: 11px; line-height: normal; font-family: Helvetica; padding-left: 40px;"><span style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: 'trebuchet ms', geneva, sans-serif;">• Useful Grammar<span class="Apple-converted-space"> </span></span></p> <p class="p2" style="margin: 0px; font-variant-numeric: normal; font-variant-east-asian: normal; font-stretch: normal; font-size: 11px; line-height: normal; font-family: Helvetica; padding-left: 40px;"><span style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: 'trebuchet ms', geneva, sans-serif;">• Set Phrases<span class="Apple-converted-space"> </span></span></p> <p class="p2" style="margin: 0px; font-variant-numeric: normal; font-variant-east-asian: normal; font-stretch: normal; font-size: 11px; line-height: normal; font-family: Helvetica; padding-left: 40px;"><span style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: 'trebuchet ms', geneva, sans-serif;">• Slang & Idioms<span class="Apple-converted-space"> </span></span></p> <p class="p4" style="margin: 0px; font-variant-numeric: normal; font-variant-east-asian: normal; font-stretch: normal; font-size: 11px; line-height: normal; font-family: Helvetica; min-height: 13px;"> </p> <p class="p2" style="margin: 0px; font-variant-numeric: normal; font-variant-east-asian: normal; font-stretch: normal; font-size: 11px; line-height: normal; font-family: Helvetica;"><span style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: 'trebuchet ms', geneva, sans-serif;"><strong>CULTURAL ELEMENTS<span class="Apple-converted-space"> </span></strong></span></p> <p class="p2" style="margin: 0px; font-variant-numeric: normal; font-variant-east-asian: normal; font-stretch: normal; font-size: 11px; line-height: normal; font-family: Helvetica; padding-left: 40px;"><span style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: 'trebuchet ms', geneva, sans-serif;">• Chinese culture<span class="Apple-converted-space"> </span></span></p> <p class="p2" style="margin: 0px; font-variant-numeric: normal; font-variant-east-asian: normal; font-stretch: normal; font-size: 11px; line-height: normal; font-family: Helvetica; padding-left: 40px;"><span style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: 'trebuchet ms', geneva, sans-serif;">• Natural wonders<span class="Apple-converted-space"> </span></span></p> <p class="p2" style="margin: 0px; font-variant-numeric: normal; font-variant-east-asian: normal; font-stretch: normal; font-size: 11px; line-height: normal; font-family: Helvetica; padding-left: 40px;"><span style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: 'trebuchet ms', geneva, sans-serif;">• Famous sights<span class="Apple-converted-space"> </span></span></p> <p class="p2" style="margin: 0px; font-variant-numeric: normal; font-variant-east-asian: normal; font-stretch: normal; font-size: 11px; line-height: normal; font-family: Helvetica; padding-left: 40px;"><span style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: 'trebuchet ms', geneva, sans-serif;">• Festivals & traditions<span class="Apple-converted-space"> </span></span></p> <p class="p2" style="margin: 0px; font-variant-numeric: normal; font-variant-east-asian: normal; font-stretch: normal; font-size: 11px; line-height: normal; font-family: Helvetica; padding-left: 40px;"><span style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: 'trebuchet ms', geneva, sans-serif;">• Classic literature, opera & art<span class="Apple-converted-space"> </span></span></p> <p class="p4" style="margin: 0px; font-variant-numeric: normal; font-variant-east-asian: normal; font-stretch: normal; font-size: 11px; line-height: normal; font-family: Helvetica; min-height: 13px;"> </p> <p class="p2" style="margin: 0px; font-variant-numeric: normal; font-variant-east-asian: normal; font-stretch: normal; font-size: 11px; line-height: normal; font-family: Helvetica;"><span style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: 'trebuchet ms', geneva, sans-serif;"><strong>HEATED DISCUSSIONS<span class="Apple-converted-space"> </span></strong></span></p> <p class="p2" style="margin: 0px; font-variant-numeric: normal; font-variant-east-asian: normal; font-stretch: normal; font-size: 11px; line-height: normal; font-family: Helvetica; padding-left: 40px;"><span style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: 'trebuchet ms', geneva, sans-serif;">• Discovering interesting topics<span class="Apple-converted-space"> </span></span></p> <p class="p2" style="margin: 0px; font-variant-numeric: normal; font-variant-east-asian: normal; font-stretch: normal; font-size: 11px; line-height: normal; font-family: Helvetica; padding-left: 40px;"><span style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: 'trebuchet ms', geneva, sans-serif;">• Discussing global topics<span class="Apple-converted-space"> </span></span></p> <p class="p2" style="margin: 0px; font-variant-numeric: normal; font-variant-east-asian: normal; font-stretch: normal; font-size: 11px; line-height: normal; font-family: Helvetica; padding-left: 40px;"><span style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: 'trebuchet ms', geneva, sans-serif;">• Social phenomena<span class="Apple-converted-space"> </span></span></p> <p class="p2" style="margin: 0px; font-variant-numeric: normal; font-variant-east-asian: normal; font-stretch: normal; font-size: 11px; line-height: normal; font-family: Helvetica; padding-left: 40px;"><span style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: 'trebuchet ms', geneva, sans-serif;">• Cultural differences<span class="Apple-converted-space"> </span></span></p> <p class="p2" style="margin: 0px; font-variant-numeric: normal; font-variant-east-asian: normal; font-stretch: normal; font-size: 11px; line-height: normal; font-family: Helvetica;"> </p> <p class="p2" style="margin: 0px; font-variant-numeric: normal; font-variant-east-asian: normal; font-stretch: normal; font-size: 11px; line-height: normal; font-family: Helvetica;"><span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: 'trebuchet ms', geneva, sans-serif;"><strong><span class="Apple-converted-space">How</span></strong><span class="Apple-converted-space"> <strong>much? </strong></span></span></p> <p class="p2" style="margin: 0px; font-variant-numeric: normal; font-variant-east-asian: normal; font-stretch: normal; font-size: 11px; line-height: normal; font-family: Helvetica;"><span class="Apple-converted-space" style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: 'trebuchet ms', geneva, sans-serif;">The price starts at $24.</span></p> <p class="p2" style="margin: 0px; font-variant-numeric: normal; font-variant-east-asian: normal; font-stretch: normal; font-size: 11px; line-height: normal; font-family: Helvetica;"> </p> <p class="p1" style="margin: 0px; font-variant-numeric: normal; font-variant-east-asian: normal; font-stretch: normal; font-size: 11px; line-height: normal; font-family: Helvetica;"><span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: 'trebuchet ms', geneva, sans-serif;"><strong>When?<span class="Apple-converted-space"> </span></strong></span></p> <p class="p1" style="margin: 0px; font-variant-numeric: normal; font-variant-east-asian: normal; font-stretch: normal; font-size: 11px; line-height: normal; font-family: Helvetica;"><span style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: 'trebuchet ms', geneva, sans-serif;">The schedule depends on your availability as the course is fully customized.<span class="Apple-converted-space"> </span></span></p> <p class="p1" style="margin: 0px; font-variant-numeric: normal; font-variant-east-asian: normal; font-stretch: normal; font-size: 11px; line-height: normal; font-family: Helvetica;"> </p> <p class="p1" style="margin: 0px; font-variant-numeric: normal; font-variant-east-asian: normal; font-stretch: normal; font-size: 11px; line-height: normal; font-family: Helvetica;"><span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: 'trebuchet ms', geneva, sans-serif;"><strong>Where?<span class="Apple-converted-space"> </span></strong></span></p> <p class="p1" style="margin: 0px; font-variant-numeric: normal; font-variant-east-asian: normal; font-stretch: normal; font-size: 11px; line-height: normal; font-family: Helvetica;"><span style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: 'trebuchet ms', geneva, sans-serif;">We use our in-house <strong>digital platform NihaoCafe </strong>to help you connect with your teacher, review class notes, and schedule classes.<span class="Apple-converted-space"> </span></span></p> <p class="p1" style="margin: 0px; font-variant-numeric: normal; font-variant-east-asian: normal; font-stretch: normal; font-size: 11px; line-height: normal; font-family: Helvetica; padding-left: 40px;"><span style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: 'trebuchet ms', geneva, sans-serif;">• Online Chinese Class content and teacher’s notes automatically get recorded into the system, so it’s easy to <strong>review your classes<span class="Apple-converted-space"> </span></strong></span></p> <p class="p1" style="margin: 0px; font-variant-numeric: normal; font-variant-east-asian: normal; font-stretch: normal; font-size: 11px; line-height: normal; font-family: Helvetica; padding-left: 40px;"><span style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: 'trebuchet ms', geneva, sans-serif;">• There’s a huge teaching <strong>resource database</strong>, so you can prepare for your future online Chinese classes in advance<span class="Apple-converted-space"> </span></span></p> <p class="p1" style="margin: 0px; font-variant-numeric: normal; font-variant-east-asian: normal; font-stretch: normal; font-size: 11px; line-height: normal; font-family: Helvetica; padding-left: 40px;"><span style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: 'trebuchet ms', geneva, sans-serif;">• There is an online course <strong>arrangement system </strong>that manages your booked Chinese classes – to guarantee that wherever you are, you and your teachers can stay informed about the online Mandarin class schedule and changes<span class="Apple-converted-space"> </span></span></p> <p class="p1" style="margin: 0px; font-variant-numeric: normal; font-variant-east-asian: normal; font-stretch: normal; font-size: 11px; line-height: normal; font-family: Helvetica; padding-left: 40px;"><span style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: 'trebuchet ms', geneva, sans-serif;">• Teachers can also add their <strong>own courseware </strong>including webpages, PowerPoint presentations, videos, etc. into the system anytime<span class="Apple-converted-space"> </span></span></p> <p class="p2" style="margin: 0px; font-variant-numeric: normal; font-variant-east-asian: normal; font-stretch: normal; font-size: 11px; line-height: normal; font-family: Helvetica; padding-left: 40px;"> </p> <p class="p1" style="margin: 0px; font-variant-numeric: normal; font-variant-east-asian: normal; font-stretch: normal; font-size: 11px; line-height: normal; font-family: Helvetica; padding-left: 40px;"><span style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: 'trebuchet ms', geneva, sans-serif;">• Our professional <strong>IT team </strong>is online 24 hours a day, ready to solve any unexpected issues<span class="Apple-converted-space"> </span></span></p> <p class="p1" style="margin: 0px; font-variant-numeric: normal; font-variant-east-asian: normal; font-stretch: normal; font-size: 11px; line-height: normal; font-family: Helvetica; padding-left: 40px;"> </p> <p class="p1" style="margin: 0px; font-variant-numeric: normal; font-variant-east-asian: normal; font-stretch: normal; font-size: 11px; line-height: normal; font-family: Helvetica; padding-left: 40px;"> </p> <p class="p1" style="margin: 0px; font-variant-numeric: normal; font-variant-east-asian: normal; font-stretch: normal; font-size: 11px; line-height: normal; font-family: Helvetica;"><span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: 'trebuchet ms', geneva, sans-serif;"><span class="Apple-converted-space"><strong>CONTACT</strong>:</span></span></p> <p class="p1" style="margin: 0px; font-variant-numeric: normal; font-variant-east-asian: normal; font-stretch: normal; font-size: 11px; line-height: normal; font-family: Helvetica;"> </p> <p class="p1" style="margin: 0px; font-variant-numeric: normal; font-variant-east-asian: normal; font-stretch: normal; font-size: 11px; line-height: normal; font-family: Helvetica;"><span style="font-family: 'trebuchet ms', geneva, sans-serif; font-size: 10pt;">Website: https://www.thatsmandarin.com<span class="Apple-converted-space"> </span></span></p> <p class="p1" style="margin: 0px; font-variant-numeric: normal; font-variant-east-asian: normal; font-stretch: normal; font-size: 11px; line-height: normal; font-family: Helvetica;"><span style="font-family: 'trebuchet ms', geneva, sans-serif; font-size: 10pt;">Email: [email protected]<span class="Apple-converted-space"> </span></span></p> <p class="p1" style="margin: 0px; font-variant-numeric: normal; font-variant-east-asian: normal; font-stretch: normal; font-size: 11px; line-height: normal; font-family: Helvetica;"> </p> <p class="p1" style="margin: 0px; font-variant-numeric: normal; font-variant-east-asian: normal; font-stretch: normal; font-size: 11px; line-height: normal; font-family: Helvetica;"><span style="font-family: 'trebuchet ms', geneva, sans-serif; font-size: 10pt;">Phone: +86 10 8448 9799<span class="Apple-converted-space"> </span></span></p>