Start ups

Post image for Nicki Boyd explains why talking to babies matters – and how the product Starling can help parents

Nicki Boyd, co-founder with two others of Menlo Park start-up VersaMe, admits they came up with the name for the company’s first product, Starling, without knowing the bird of the same name is studied for its advanced linguistic capability. “It was chosen more because a star has a positive connotation across cultures,” she says.

After a decade in London working in finance and private equity, British-born Nicki came to the states as a Sloan Fellow at Stanford. “I was a 30-something trying to figure out if a career change was in order. And as a triathlete, I wanted a place with good weather, unlike England!”

She met her two co-founders, brothers Jon and Chris Boggiano, through the Sloan program. The duo had already started and sold companies in the education field and were actively thinking about what they wanted to do next.

Meeting Dr. Anne Fernald at Stanford’s Center for Infant Studies led them to zero in on a product that would help parents talk more to their children. The reason: Babies learn language by hearing it. The more they hear, the faster their brains learn.

“To simplify the research, it all boils down to one thing,” explains Nicki. “It’s all about the quantity of words, the more the better. And as the old saying goes, ‘you can’t manage if you can’t measure.’ Hence the development of  Starling, which monitors the words spoken throughout the day.”

Launched last fall, the product clips onto a baby or child’s clothing. Right now, it’s mostly being marketed through word of mouth, partnering with parent classes, and some online parenting sites. A trial with Barnes and Noble starts soon, and Nicki says they plan to work with bookstores and libraries, too.

“It’s a new product concept that requires a little explaining,” she says. “We know from the research that words are equal, no matter what language. The earlier you teach, the easier the learning is. Our goal is to help a child fulfill his or her maximum potential.”

Photo by Robb Most (c) 2017

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From interior design to furniture – a journey that leads to Moxiemade

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For the past seven years, Nancy Evars and Dimitra Anderson have offered interior design services, bringing, as they say, “a bit of moxie” to their work. “We are driven women, both from New Jersey,” said Dimitra. Added Nancy: “We love to work, we love to be creative.” Today they’re launching a new business called, fittingly enough, Moxiemade, offering a […]

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Ashley Hunter will help you get your [you-know-what] together

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We need to get one thing out in the open straight away. When Ashley Hunter told us her latest endeavor involved offering project management services, we could only chuckle. The reason: Ashley is a super multi-tasker. We first met the Menlo Park mother of four, who’s children range in age from six to 14, when she founded The […]

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Patrina Mack develops K’Bro app for tweens and teens – and their parents

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Menlo Park resident Patrina Mack has been involved with product development and marketing her entire career, but the latest product she’s launching is one that’s very personal to her. “For 17 years I’ve had a consulting practice out of my home, but I got to the point of yearning for something different,” she explained. “Someone […]

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Picket Fence is new social network in Menlo Park for older adults

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Sure, Menlo Park is headquarters to the largest social network company in the world, but now there’s also a new, smaller one with the goal of building face-to-face relationships among older adults. Picket Fence was started by Noopur Pandey, who lives in the Linfield Oaks neighborhood, and a colleage she had worked with at Yahoo!, Chung-Man Tam. […]

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Skin care products that promise organic and natural are “brewed” by start up, Fresh+You

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We first encountered “the soap ladies” at Cafe Zoe and were surprised to learn they were making soap just a few doors down at Studio Cake. That seemed strange to us, but we discovered it’s only so on the surface. “Well, you’ve heard of soap cakes!” quipped Fiona Plows, founder of the just-launched skincare products […]

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Closetclicks joins accelerator program to boost growth for its fashion platform

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Last year, InMenlo featured Closetclicks, a fashion startup founded by M-A graduates Rich Branning (right) and Greg Kalin. Over the past year, Closetclicks’ presence as a fashion platform has grown, and will continue to grow, through the help of an accelerator program. In late spring, Closetclicks, along with several other startups, was chosen from about […]

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Sight and Sound concert aims to blend music, technology – and emotion

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Combine a pianist with a violinist playing music by English “Impressionist” composer John Ireland in concert with active participation by the audience using Sensemo and you get the world’s first experiment in live music, art and hi-tech. That’s the promise of Sight and Sound, which will be performed June 18 at 7:30 pm at the Community […]

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John Thibault lays out a road map to empower citizens to change laws – and offers free book to tell you how

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Frustrated by politics and politicians? Wish you could make, change or repeal a law? John Thibault wants to empower you to do just that. He started his Menlo Park-based company iLobby a few years back and has just written a companion book, How to Change a Law. “The focus is on issues and policy, not candidates and […]

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Brian Tetrud draws on family granola recipe when founding Ladera Foods

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Brian Tetrud is a Ladera born and raised guy who grew up eating his mother’s homemade granola. So it’s no surprise that he’s named his company Ladera Foods and the first product was granola based on her recipe, now called Almond Pecan Granola. “She still bakes her own granola,” he says. “I made it for roommates […]

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Menlo Park start up Lumos Tech develops sleep mask to “cure” jet lag and other sleep disruptions

Thumbnail image for Menlo Park start up Lumos Tech develops sleep mask to “cure” jet lag and other sleep disruptions

Jet lag. The scourge of multiple time zone flying. Can it be tamed? That’s the promise of the Smart Sleep Mask being developed by Menlo Park startup LumosTech. The mask’s technology can shift circadian rhythm up to three hours in one night using millisecond pulses of light that activate the same neural systems as natural sunlight. The mask is based […]

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