No matter how hands on you are as a parent, everyone needs date night or a trip to the spa or some other outing sans bambinos. But then the challenge is how to find a trusted babysitter. In fact we are on the cusp of one of the most popular days to request a babysitter -- Valentine's Day.
While most big cities have several nanny or babysitting services, a lot of people like to lean on their social circles and recommendations from friends -- but now there is a site that merges the convenience of a sizable agency and friend recommendations.
UrbanSitter has built a platform to help parents in the big city find a sitter just as easily as a reservation for dinner. Launched in August, UrbanSitter uses the Facebook platform to merge together sitters and parents in a city and allows people to see recommendations, common connections and book directly with a sitter that fits their needs.
Owner and founder, Lynn Perkins spoke with me about just what type of babysitter service she wanted to create and how UrbanSitters empowers the sitters as much as the parents involved.
"We found that a lot of parents spent hours, and sometimes days calling their friends and agencies in order to find a sitter for one evening," Perkins told me. "So by using Facebook, UrbanSitter aims to easily connect parents and sitters will common connections as in an instant."
The San Francisco-based company has opened up bases in other urban cities such as Seattle, St. Louis, Denver, and New York City.
How does it work for parents
Parents simply sign up to the service using their Facebook profile and input the family details. Then they see if any of their common friends are on the service as a sitter or a parent. Then when they pick a time to book a sitter, they are first suggested friends and sitters that their friends have used in the past, after those first suggestions are other sitters that fit their needs.
Parents then are able to read sitter history, see common connections and written recommendations.
They also place a credit card and come to a price agreement before the booking is complete that way they don't need to worry about payment on the day of the arrangement.
How it works for sitters
Sitters sign up by connecting the service to their Facebook account and can set up their profile presences (from pricing requirements, age and address locations and any additional services they offer (from tutoring to grocery shopping.)
Sitters get the added benefit of getting paid directly online to their checking account (while other services take cut from their hourly fees or invoice after the fact) and they can connect with other friends to suggest and share certain families that book through the service.
And if a sitter has to cancel a booking made, they can first see if any of their friends might be available and suggest those sitters to the family so that the re-booking process is easier and includes that level of educated recommendations that UrbanSitter is focused on.
On-demand services are booming
Last month, UrbanSitter snagged $1.75 million in seed funding from First Round Capital, with participation from Rustic Canyon Partners, Menlo Ventures and several angel investors in order to grow their service to double the number of cities in the U.S. this year.
"People are interested in quick convenience and suggestions of friends to get everything they can," said Perkins.
The UrbanSitter revenue model is currently in beta and will be more like a booking fee that is added to the reservation but hasn't been firmed up yet. What companies like Uber and UrbanSitter are finding is that people are happy to add that booking fee as long as the service is premium and convenient.
What started as a platform with 40 sitters and 40 parents, has grown in six months to more than 4,000 users on each side of the service.
Coming soon, UrbanSitter would like to add more features so that sitters can speak on an exclusive forum about tips and techniques and share with the company feedback on the families they have worked for so that better matches can be made in the future.
So, if you are managed to nab a last-minute reservation for a hot little restaurant to celebrate your love, then you might want to take a few minutes and see if any of your friends' sitters are available to watch the kids while you enjoy culinary crafts and candlelight.