Tucked away in a bright, busy office off Cochran Road in Mt. Lebanon, a half dozen creative types hammer away on their computers, working on two screens each.
“This is the ‘magic room,’” says David Radin, founder, president and CEO of Just Between Friends, an online social network, which aims to make life easier for moms.
“Everybody here has two screens,” Radin said. “It’s more productive.”
And maximum productivity is key to Radin, as Just Between Friends may be poised to be, well, the next big thing.
It is within the “magic room” that software developers are designing new and better ways of managing the means that organizations use to communicate with their members, as well as the ways those charged with running a household manage their day-to-day lives.
Just Between Friends may not be the next Facebook, but it may not be far off. While Facebook is based on “voyeurism,” and connecting with people, Radin said, “Just Between Friends is about simplifying what you do now in your household.” “We may not be of Facebook proportions,” he added, “but we’re certainly in the strata right below that. We expect to be big.”
And the 2007 start-up is well on its way.
What began as a two-person operation, based in literally a closet, has morphed into a 16-person, state-of-the-art, high-tech company.
And what began as an idea to stream- line communications for Mt. Lebanon’s Lincoln Elementary School, has grown into a network promoted by National PTA, and used by more that 7,000 schools across the country, as well as by Scout troops, synagogues, churches and sports groups. Radin’s goal is to be in 25,000 schools within the next two or three years.
JBF currently has a reach of more than 3 million users.
“Just Between Friends was built from the idea that it is something parents could use to simplify their daily lives,” Radin said. “If PTAs and sports groups and theater groups all picked it up, it could make parents’ lives easier.”
The network coordinates events and calendars pertinent to each family member, streamlines directories, and facili- tates the dissemination of group notices, events and deadlines. Information is color-coded by family member.
Users also can add personal “circles,” helping to simplify communication with their other associations, such as book clubs or exercise groups.
There is even a mobile phone version of the network, making all information portable.
“The idea is that mom usually has to deal with getting kids to the right place at the right time,” Radin said. “We are heavily skewed toward moms.” In fact, because mothers shoulder much of the scheduling responsibility in households with children, JBF employs a behaviorist and specialist in gender differences as its director of marketing. Radin worked for years as a consultant to companies such as Apple, Motorola and Verizon, but long had the concept for JBF in the back of his mind. In 2007, he received $175,000 in seed funding from an organization called Idea Foundry, as well as backing from indi- vidual investors, and was able to get JBF off the ground.
It has come a long way in a few short years.
Last week, JBF played host to PTA leaders from throughout the country for a roundtable conference in Pittsburgh.
“The cool thing about the conference,” Radin said, “is we’re not PTA, but, by virtue of our goodwill, we were able to get people to come here for a conference. People wanted to come to Pitts- burgh to participate.”
Sally Boske, executive director of Connecticut’s PTSA, has been using JBF for the last two years, and in that time, has seen a noticeable increase in response to her organization’s e-mails.
“We know people are reading the e-mails because they are then doing what we are asking them to do, like register- ing for events,” Boske said. “With the Just Between Friends templates, we can custom-make e-mails that are very visu- ally appealing, and it makes people want to open and read the e-mails.”
“As far as I can tell right now,” Boske continued, “we’ll be with Just Between Friends until either we’re gone, or they’re gone.”
Already used in 49 states, JBF is looking toward its next level of growth, Radin said, and talking to new investors about expansion.
“In just a few years, we’ve grown,” he said, “but we have a big way to go.”
(Toby Tabachnick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)