While launching a resource for family caregivers, Andy Cohen ’90 receives overwhelming support from fellow alumni
In the midst of caring for his mother during her battle with lung cancer, Andy Cohen ’90 realized that few resources were available to adults caring for aging parents. So Cohen, a former brand manager at Johnson Wax, decided to do something about it. In 2007 he launched Caring.com, a free website that provides information, resources and support to family caregivers. It quickly became the most-visited site for adults caring for aging parents, spouses and other loved ones. Cohen recently spoke with Chris Serb ’09 about how Kellogg — and the alumni network — played a role in his business’s success.
In what ways did your Kellogg education help you create Caring.com?
The steps I took to start the business — conducting a market analysis, identifying the opportunity, writing a business plan — were based on what I learned at Kellogg and while working at other companies. My MBA gave me the confidence to start the company in the first place, and as we reached all our key milestones, there was a Kellogg connection every step of the way.
What Kellogg connections, in particular, played a role in your success?
Venture capitalists get thousands of proposals, so it’s key to get your foot in their door. Kellogg definitely helped me open those doors. Jim Simons ’89 of Split Rock Partners was an acquaintance of mine at Kellogg, and he ended up leading our Series A funding. I had met Tod Francis ’83 of Shasta Ventures at several Kellogg events in the Bay Area, and he led our Series B funding. I also got to know Bobby Kandaswamy ’98 of Intel Capital through the Kellogg network. Those three all became investors, in part because of the Kellogg connection. And Tod also introduced me to Evan Liang ’06, a former eBay product manager who’s now our vice president of product management. It’s good to have a Kellogg alum who’s a total team player on the management team.
How has the Kellogg network helped your ongoing operations?
When I was first trying to identify which companies would be interested in reaching our audience of caregivers, pharmaceutical companies made sense. Through the Kellogg alumni database I found Ruth Berkowitz ’01, a senior marketing manager at Pfizer. We had nice chat, I went out to New York to meet with her, and now Pfizer is one of our biggest advertisers. Caring.com is a good fit for Pfizer, but as a small growing site, I don’t know if we would have gotten in the door without the Kellogg connection.
I did this over and over with other potential advertisers. I’m about 9 for 10 whenever I reach out to a Kellogg graduate. They’re always really responsive and helpful.
How else has Kellogg opened doors for you?
In addition to being a great resource for consumers, Caring.com was built to be a great channel for marketers. One hundred percent of our revenue is from advertising. My Kellogg MBA really helps in a sales situation. When I go on a sales pitch and talk to marketers and brand managers, they know that I’m a Kellogg-trained marketer myself, and that I understand what they are trying to achieve with their research and advertising. That makes them a lot more comfortable advertising on Caring.com.