MEET THE COMPANY: coparenter
By Renato Pagnani
When Jonathan Verk was going through a difficult divorce 6 years ago, he also realized his situation was no different from that of any family’s going through the separation process in the sense that as hard as it was for the parents involved, it was even more difficult for the children. He knew there had to be a better way to resolve disputes.
After conversations with judicial officers to get their feedback on how the co-parenting process could be improved, Verk connected with Sherrill Ellsworth, past presiding judge of Riverside County in California, who offered an experienced judicial perspective. Together with Eric Weiss, co-founder and coParenter COO, they set out to create a tool to help parents save time, save money, and stay out of court.
The result was coParenter, a co-parenting management and mediation platform that helps separating, divorced, and never-married parents manage and organize their co-parenting responsibilities.
“There’s really a systemic problem with how the separation and divorce process is treated. Running it through the court system does damage to the concept of ‘the family,’” explains Eric Weiss. “A set of parents might be separating, but they have kids together, so they’re still a ‘family’ in a very real way. And they’re going to have obligations for, on average, the next nine years. It’s tragic when kids see their parents pitted against each other.”
One of the biggest ways coParenter aims to reduce squabbles between parents is by connecting parents with an on-demand co-parenting professional who can help mediate disagreements, help co-parents reach agreements, document those agreements, and then synchronize the details of those agreements to each of their phones.
coParenter’s engineering team has been based out of Edmonton for a little over a year now. Originally a team of two, the engineering team has now grown to seven, including Niels Hansen, coParenter’s Chief Technology Officer, who was brought into the fold early in the company’s development.
It was his idea to set up shop at Startup Edmonton.
“We wanted to take advantage of the talent here, especially from the University of Alberta and their computer sciences program,” says Hansen. “I think it’s been one of our better decisions so far. We have such a great resource pool here in Edmonton, and we’re trying to retain some of that talent so that we don’t lose it to Toronto or Vancouver. There are a lot of perks that come with being able to collaborate in person and surrounded by likeminded individuals.”
Response to the first version of the app has been stronger than the team anticipated. “When we launched our first consumer marketing efforts in December of last year, our goal was to get 5000 downloads by the end of March,” explains Weiss. “We hit that in five weeks.”
For all its benefits for the parents involved in a child’s life, coParenter hopes to help ease the stress, ultimately, on the children themselves. After all, their motto is “Kids at the center, not in the middle.” If coParenter can help parents keep their focus on their children, the team will feel like they’ve made a real difference.