Nanny booking company UrbanSitter is nursing $6 million in its first round of funding. The service connects parents with caretakers, allowing them to search, vet, and book babysitters online.
Most parents are (or should be) extremely cautious about who they allow to watch their children. UrbanSitter uses Facebook Connect so they can see what babysitters people in their social network have booked. Parents and sitters sign up by creating accounts with their personal information, as well as preferences. Once in the community, both have the ability to post and browse for jobs. Families that want to conduct interviews before committing to a sitter have that option, and there are written reviews and ratings to create an system of accountability.
The database is searchable by time and date as well. Sitters put their schedules into the system, and parents can see the available options for a specific window and easily book. If they have a favorite sitter, parents can plan an outing when that person is available. Payments occur through the site as well.
“As a group of parents frustrated with tirelessly, and often unsuccessfully, dialing and texting to find a sitter, we founded UrbanSitter to create a community of families and sitters and to give them an efficient way to locate and communicate with each other,” said Lynn Perkins, an UrbanSitter co-founder. “We realized that we could use technology to simplify and speed up the process while still relying on our own networks to give us the trust and peace of mind we needed to leave our children in someone else’s care.”
There are many online childcare booking services, but UrbanSitter distinguishes itself by leveraging social networks to add a layer of trust into the system. It also gives sitters a platform to manage their jobs and find work when they need it. According to data from the company, 80% of job requests get filled and the average sitter response time is 3.5 hours. As the site says, parents can “say hello to your old friend spontaneity.”
Since launching about a year ago, the company has gained 22,000 users, and numbers are increasing every month. It started in San Francisco but has since expanded into a dozen markets across the country, including New York, LA, Boston, Chicago, Seattle, and Denver. The team recently launched an app for iPhones. It will use the funding to continue growth in these areas.
The investment was led by Canaan Partners, with money also coming from First Round Capital, Rustic Canyon Partners, Menlo Ventures, and angels. This round brings the total fundraising to $7.75 million, following a seed round last November.