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Anke Odrig, founder of Little Bird

A little bird learns to fly

Anke Odrig likes to use a holiday analogy to illustrate the absurd situation many parents face when searching for a nursery place: “Imagine you wanted to go on holiday in a world with no Internet or travel agents. You would have to notify all the airlines of your holiday requirements and would only find out an hour before departure whether you can travel, and with which airline.” That may sound crazy, but in 2007, when the software consultant was looking for a nursery place for her son, that was exactly how the experience seemed to her: “I had ten applications on the go right across town without knowing whether or where I would succeed.”

The solution is all about data

The question as to why there was no centralised online solution to deal with this issue eventually gave rise to the idea for Little Bird. In Heidenau, a small town near Dresden, Anke Odrig found people who were receptive to her idea, as well as the ideal testing ground for starting her company. “Our objective was to develop a software product which would simplify demand planning for councils while at the same time taking the pressure off parents,” explains the 39-year-old. In Heidenau, she scrutinised the entire process from the application stage through to entering into a contract with a nursery, as well as interviewing parents and visiting nurseries. Everywhere she looked, she found major issues with collection and processing of the various sets of data. “Previously, it was simply not possible to identify multiple applications submitted to nurseries run by different providers,” explains Odrig. “Many councils had no idea how many places were actually required or how many staff were needed.”

All nurseries at a glance

Anke Odrig’s son has long since started school, and her company now employs 20 people in Dresden and Berlin. Her Little Bird software is deployed by dozens of German councils and the figure is rising rapidly. “It’s often local parents who are keen to adopt a transparent and reliable system,” says the company founder, clearly delighted by the product’s popularity. This success is rooted in a process-driven infrastructure which handles all relevant data in a single system. Each child is entered just once, irrespective of which nurseries his or her parents have applied to for a place. At the same time, the product integrates additional functions which save both nurseries and councils a huge amount of work. In addition to managing applications, reservations and the allocation of places, the central database enables the production of reliable statistics in real time, standardised contract management and robust personnel planning for councils and nurseries – none of which was possible before. In Saxony, the family-friendly towns of Bischofswerda and Görlitz have joined Heidenau in using Little Bird and making life easier for parents, who can now plan ahead with greater certainty.

The trademark of Little Bird, a blue birdhouse that could be found around many nursery places in Germany