Alt12 is tackling digital health, pregnancy and parenthood one comment at a time

What can a smartphone owner expect when she’s expecting? We’re starting to see more and more apps that could change how we consider digital health and social interaction on mobile.

When Jennifer Wong was five months pregnant in 2009, she went searching for a mobile app that would give her more information on her pregnancy. Wong didn’t find what she was looking for — instead, she found a business idea. Along with her husband Casey Sackett, Wong founded Alt12, a company that aims to provide women with information and a social community built around the iPhone for three topics: fertility, pregnancy, and motherhood.

“I realized that mobile was a platform for where things were going, and there was a lot of focus on mobile,” Wong said in an interview recently in San Francisco. “But there were a lot of male developers out there, and we thought women’s health and women’s lifestyle was a really great place to go.”

With initial seed funding, Wong started out with the company’s first mobile app called Baby Bump, hiring writers to research and produce educational information about the different stages of pregnancy, developers to build the network to support a strong social community, and eventually adding e-commerce features to sell some of the kid-related products the editors were recommending. With this three-pronged approach to content, social and commerce, Baby Bump just hit 8 million downloads recently, with 1.5 million of those users spending at least an hour a day on the app. The company just released an iPad edition of Baby Bump, which is among the top pregnancy apps for the iPhone in Apple’s App Store this week.

“We look at this as sort of a new approach for women on mobile,” Wong said.

The trio of apps highlight some of the recent trends in digital health, where people are looking for mobile-friendly specific information and support around conditions like pregnancy, and online communities have cropped up as a result.

After the release of Baby Bump, the company expanded to produce Pink Pad (they found a good number of users on Baby Bump weren’t even pregnant yet, just searching for information on fertility), and Kidfolio, which provides parenting advice for the users who graduate from Baby Bump. The company raised a $1.26 million seed round in 2012 led by Felicis Ventures with participation from InterWest Partners, Social+Capital Partnership and a few angel investors.

While Wong initially set out to answer questions about pregnancy and give mothers a way to connect via mobile, she was somewhat unprepared for the strong response from users within the social groups section. She thinks that because the apps started on mobile, they encouraged constant commenting, and comment moderation became a huge part of the business.

“In a sense, I was very open-minded about it,” she said. “I had used online groups before, so I had some idea of what we were getting into. But what we had done was something slightly diferent because it was mobile, which people just use differently. We were treading in new territory.”

Wong said that comment moderators will check particular threads where there are concerns of threats like domestic violence or self-harm, and will make sure that moderators in following shifts continue to monitor those discussions, sometimes suggesting a user seek medical advice if necessary. They have worked to carefully dissuade comments that promote self-harm, such as teenagers on the Pink Pad app talking about “pro-ana,” the controversial pro-anorexia trend that’s cropped up online recently.