Mei Lin Ng: Simplifying Family Organization Through Technology
Spiffy here! I’m back with the scoop on the entrepreneurial leaders of Planet Earth. As the only interplanetary journalist stationed on this blue planet, I’m thrilled to present this galactic exclusive with Mei Lin Ng, the CEO of Hearth Display. Let’s see what she is doing to make a positive impact in the world.
Spiffy: Welcome to Spiffy’s Blog, Mei Lin! Glad to have you with us today. Let’s jump in. What challenge is Hearth Display addressing?
Mei Lin: Thanks so much for having me, Spiffy! Did you know that family organization is time-consuming and eight times more likely to fall on women? On average, US women spend 4.4 hours on unpaid household work per day (compared to the 2.8 hours spent by men), and this unacknowledged work makes women three times more likely to exit the workforce than men. At Hearth Display, our mission is to make life easier for families (specifically for moms!) by using technology to lighten the mental load. Hearth replaces the analog bulletin board typically found in families' kitchens with a beautiful, aesthetically pleasing display—think of the 'Frame TV' but for family organization.
Spiffy: Wow, that sounds amazing! Can you elaborate on your motivations to do it?
Mei Lin: Well, Spiffy, I’m a second-generation immigrant and daughter to an incredible mom, who is a “working mom”. While I grew up, my mom was, and is, a project management master—she had to be, with four kids and a full-time job! It’s incredible how she kept so much in her head without any tools or systems. She used disaggregated systems that remain largely unchanged today: whiteboards, notebooks, chore charts, post-it notes, you name it. I’m not a mom (yet!), and before I become one, I want to see a solution come to life that makes this process easier. Not only so that things are easier for me and the women in my life, but so that, as a society, we can see a behavioral and systemic change in the distribution of labor.
Spiffy: How would you say you and Hearth Display are working towards a more equitable world?
Mei Lin: Our product uses a framework created by Diane Elson of Essex University called “The Three R’s” to address the mental load. First, we Reduce the mental load through our artificial intelligence. Our software helps parents manage their chaotic schedules, tasks, and logistics with predictive automation. Second, we Redistribute the work across the household through family-wide participation, and finally , we Recognize the work through visual communication.
Spiffy: I’d love to know about a recent company milestone and the impact it makes?
Mei Lin: It’s well known that the gender gap does not exist just inside of the home. It also exists in the workforce and, egregiously, in the venture capital world. Our company was recently accepted into the inaugural cohort of Visible Hands, an investment firm that supports underrepresented talent in building technology startups. With the vision of narrowing the VC funding gap, Visible Hands aims to help create hundreds of companies led by underrepresented founders. By participating in this program, we’re proud to be one of the very few women-led companies that got funded by venture capital this year, and we’re extremely proud to be a part of an investment firm that is addressing the inequality problem head-on.
Spiffy: Congratulations! What about failure? I’m always curious about how different entrepreneurs handle it and what they take away moving forward.
Mei Lin: When we first went out to find investors for Hearth Display, we ended up pitching to around 60 investors and only got one yes. The investment we received was only 10% of the initial amount we were seeking, so we asked ourselves how far we could stretch those dollars. With that investment, we built two prototypes and launched a pre-order campaign that sold out in three weeks—with revenue valued at four times our initial investment! As women-founded companies receive only 2.5% of venture capital funding, it’s that much more important for us to be resilient, resourceful, and creative as we build. We could have viewed the fundraising experience as a failure, but instead, we achieved our desired business outcomes despite the lack of funding.
Spiffy: Is there anything else you would love to tell our audience?
Mei Lin: To all you moms and future moms out there—after watching my mother “do it all” and hearing the old adage of moms as “superheroes”, I realized something. Moms shouldn’t have to do it all. Moms shouldn’t have to be superheroes. My dream is to build something to make family life easier so I can pursue purposeful work and meaningful family life too.
Spiffy: What a powerful message to end this interview on, Mei Lin. Thank you so much for your time and insights today, it’s been an honor!
Mei Lin Ng, CEO of Hearth Display, is a startup veteran and general athlete with two exits, multiple product launches, and a broad set of operational experience under her belt including supply chain and go to market (GTM). Most recently, during her time at Knotel, Mei Lin launched Geometry—a modular workplace system with modular wall systems, phone booths, and modular conference rooms—in just 18 months. She's now working on making life easier for parents at Hearth Display. (Nominated by Visible Hands. First published on the Ladderworks website on November 19, 2021)
© 2021 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by Anushree Nande. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. Follow Spiffy’s interviews of founders building a more equitable world here.