As a mother of three with one on the way, i know the importance of babysitters. Even though I have one nanny and one regular sitter, every so often it's good to have backups.
Apparently, these backups come in handy. Apparently, about 300 million sitters are booked each year in the U.S., according to UrbanSitter, which derived the figures from the Census Bureau. This figure doesn't count repeats, meaning the number of times a sitter is used is actually a lot higher, and many people are jumping around from one sitter to another.
Given the robust market for sitters, UrbanSitter, which is based in San Francisco and founded in 2010, has secured $1.75 million in Seed funding, led by First Round Capital, with participation from Rustic Canyon Partners, Menlo Ventures and several angel investors.
Since launching officially in August 2011, the service has some 2,000 sitters and roughly 3,000 moms, said Lynn Perkins, co-founder and CEO, in an interview with me.
Perkins, who is a mother of twin boys, said she started thinking of building such a sitter service when one night a friend's babysitter canceled and Perkins' own babysitter was calling around to help find a replacement. It dawned on Perkins that there wasn't really a service on the Internet that allowed people to check the availability of babysitter's friends who also babysit, let alone available babysitters. Sure there's Care.com, which raised $25 million last October, after raising $20 million a year prior, and Sittercity, which raised $22.6 million last April. But as Perkins describes it, "They're more like Craigslist and a posting service."
A big problem with these services is "you don't know a sitter's availability," said Perkins. "Our product is based on a time-specific need. The same way you search on OpenTable, that's the way you search on our site."
Additionally, UrbanSitter is trying to leverage the Facebook social graph so you can see relevant connections. So if a babysitter you like isn't available, you might see a connection to her friend, who happens to also babysit. Of course this requires that everyone on UrbanSitter signs on using Facebook. Hence the requirement that in order to use the service you must sign on using Facebook.
So how does UrbanSitter plan to get the word out? Right now, they're going after sitters (not moms), typically in college towns where students are in need of part-time jobs and are tech savvy. They then encourage the sitters to get recommendations from previous employers. Those recommendation requests then alert parents to the service.
In about six weeks, the site does plan on charging parents seeking babysitters. It's unclear what the fee will be, said Perkins.
Perkins is also not concerned so much about people who have regular babysitters like me, who don't necessarily need to find "new" babysitters. "What we found is that people who book on the site continue to book on the site," she said. "Even if I know I can book my favorite sitter, it's just as easy to book her on the site. It's an efficiecny thing and I can see which of her friends are available is she's not."