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PhillyInc: Getting tech to tame households

If starting a business is hard, then imagine leaving a steady job at SAP A.G. to start one when you also are a mother to four boys under 7.

If starting a business is hard, then imagine leaving a steady job at SAP A.G. to start one when you also are a mother to four boys under 7.

That's what Joanne Lang did in July 2010, when she took the entrepreneurial plunge with her AboutOne Inc., an online organizational tool for families.

How did she possibly manage it? Lang, 41, made sure her financial situation enabled her to live without a salary for a year. Giving her nanny options in the start-up was key, she said.

But most important was a belief that with her technology background she could create a subscription-based service that would make it easier for people to organize all the paper associated with running a household, kids in school, medical histories, and more.

Malvern-based AboutOne isn't trying to replace existing electronic health records, financial-tracking tools, or contacts lists. Rather, the cloud-based service is aimed at making all that information more useful and accessible in one place, Lang said.

"As a mom, I just want to survive," she said. "I want to do the minimal amount possible to be prepared and organized. I don't want to spend hours on it."

With more than 50,000 users of the first version of its organizer, AboutOne is finding its way into the lives of other harried mothers as Lang has bootstrapped the company along. After a 17-day free trial, the service costs $30 per year to use.

Currently, AboutOne's 12 employees are evenly split between offices in Malvern and in tech-centric Thanksgiving Park in Lehi, Utah.

Earlier this month, AboutOne closed on its first outside institutional investment round. Golden Seeds, an angel investment network that focuses on investing in early-stage companies founded and run by women, led what is now a $1.7 million round of funding.

In addition, a Philadelphia angel network - the Mid-Atlantic Angel Group - has committed to investing in AboutOne through its second fund later this month.

AboutOne will use the money to add staff and develop marketing campaigns as it prepares to launch the next version of its service, which will incorporate many suggestions from its current users, Lang said.

"I'd spent years seeing how business software helps businesses make more informed decisions," she said, referring to her days in product development at SAP in Newtown Square, where she also worked on the company's original cloud-computing team. "I just wanted something similar put in the cloud that was accessible to myself."

Call it an FRM - family relationship management system - rather than the more familiar software that has "customer" in its name.

With what Lang believes is a market of 82.8 million moms, AboutOne has barely made a dent in the cluttered filing cabinets, shoeboxes, and Excel spreadsheets that make most of us feel like we're organized.

Like other entrepreneurs, Lang may have her head in the cloud these days, but she said her goal is to use technology to bring order to some of the daily disorder that reigns in many hectic households.

Note to all kids, however: You still have to make your beds.