Katherine, Stephen and Shabira headed off to Sofia, Bulgaria, this week to spend several days with Despark, who developed the Baby Buddy app with us. The app was officially launched nearly two years ago and has been downloaded over 90,000 times, so the purpose of our meeting was to look back at our challenges and achievements over that time, and to plan for the future. We would love even more mums and mums-to-be to benefit from using Baby Buddy, so our discussions centred on how we could make the app better, and what we could do to reach more people.

Having worked closely with Despark for nearly three years, it was fantastic to finally meet them all in person and see how they worked together. We keep in touch through weekly video calls, email and Trello, but being able to have face-to-face conversations was so much better.

We loved the Despark office; in Soviet times passports were printed there and traces of that history have been preserved, along with interesting artefacts from when the building was used as an artists’ space, including their awesome Theo Jansen inspired coatrack. Its bright and open atmosphere made it a great place for us to get down to some hard work and creative thinking.

There were some really interesting ideas about how we could get Baby Buddy’s accessible information out to more people, and we shared what people have particularly liked about the app. The way the content is tailored to mums’ individual circumstances, such as whether she is with a partner, or is breastfeeding, is really popular with our users, so we explored how we might develop this functionality further to offer an even more personalised experience.

Stoyan Ilchev also gave us some pointers about how we should test the app with our users so that we can capture important feedback that will help us to make the app easier and more enjoyable to use. We’ll be putting this knowledge to good use next week at an event we are holding next week in Tower Hamlets.

Finally, we gathered everyone round for a Baby Buddy team photo (top of the page). It was only later that we learned that it’s traditional to say “зеле” (pronounced “zele” and meaning “cabbage”) rather than “cheese” when taking photos in Bulgaria, but still, everyone seems to be smiling!

At the end of the second day we just had time for a free walking tour of Sofia, which was a wonderful way to learn about the city’s history. We visited ancient Roman excavations, The Square of Tolerance (where an orthodox church, a mosque, a synagogue and a Catholic cathedral sit closely together), the mineral water springs and bathhouse, the former Communist Party Headquarters, and the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral.

We all really enjoyed our visit to Despark, and we know that the experience will help us to work together better in the future. We are very excited about the new places our collaboration on Baby Buddy will take us in the years to come.