This online reservation service for local babysitters recently attracted $1.75 million from investors.
In the fall of 2011, UrbanSitter launched in San Francisco CA, giving moms and dads throughout the Bay Area the ability to book a qualified babysitter by leveraging members’ trusted networks to match families with caregivers.
Unlike other quality childcare services available online (I introduced you to NannyPro.com recently), UrbanSitter lets parents view sitters they know -as well as sitters their friends know- and book them in real-time.
We think that UrbanSitter is to babysitting what OpenTable is to restaurant reservations.
-co-founder Lynn Perkins
UrbanSitter was founded by a group of Internet veterans who wanted to use technology to power a faster, more personal babysitting service. Lynn Perkins, mother of twin boys, used her background running online clothing retailer Xuny.com, and convinced her three friends (Daisy Downs, an interactive media producer at ad agency Goodby, Silverstein and Partners; Andrea Barrett, a product manager at travel site TripIt; and Hadar Wissotzky, CEO of interactive digital agency Streamline Social) to help her come up with an answer for her outrageous question: Why is it that I could book an online restaurant reservation in minutes, yet had to spend hours calling and e-mailing around to find a babysitter?” Good question.
Social Yellow Pages. Parents sign up for UrbanSitter using Facebook Connect and can view sitters known through friends or affiliations -including schools, sports teams and parents groups- and can view each sitter’s availability in order to select a sitter for a specific date and time, or plan an outing when they know their favorite sitter is available. Jobs or interviews can be booked in minutes and parents can contribute written reviews, ratings and Facebook Likes to sitter profiles.
Babysitters who sign up with UrbanSitter can post their credentials, as well as availability, hourly rates and location preferences. The ability to see who parents are connected to fosters trust and familiarity and helps sitters decide which jobs to accept. To protect privacy, contact information is exchanged only after the booking is confirmed. And sitters keep all the money they earn and positive reviews posted to the site help them gain more work.
Parents have always found and booked babysitters through friends. UrbanSitter genuinely leverages the social graph to replicate the physical word-of-mouth experience online, and in the process, turns a formerly cumbersome process into just a few easy clicks.
Because UrbanSitter’s success is built on trust, the business took off. Within six months of its launch, San Francisco-based UrbanSitter expanded to New York City, Chicago, Denver, and more, according to Entrepreneur.com.
In January, the company –with 2,000 bookings per month, 2,500 registered babysitters- secured $1.75 million in seed funding. Led by First Round Capital, with participation from Rustic Canyon Partners, Menlo Ventures and several angel investors, the funds have furthered UrbanSitter’s mission, allowing another expansion to San Diego, Napa Valley and Sonoma, Seattle, Boulder, St. Louis and Lake Tahoe. UrbanSitter is also considering its model for use with other types of services, such as tutors and pet-sitters.
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