UrbanSitter CEO Lynn Perkins On Raising $23M To Grow ‘OpenTable For Childcare’

By Clare O'Connor
July 27, 2016

Lynn Perkins founded Urban­Sit­ter in part to solve her own prob­lem: she had twins sons and wanted a social life.


Lynn Perkins, cofounder and CEO of Urban­Sit­ter, an on-​​demand child­care app.

Lynn Perkins has worked as an invest­ment banker for a real estate firm, a dot com founder dur­ing the ’90s boom days, and a bou­tique hotel developer.

There wasn’t one sin­gle cat­a­lyst for her lat­est career change. There were two: twin sons, aged two and a half in 2010 when she had her big idea after one too many last-​​minute babysit­ter cancellations.

I had my own need to start Urban­Sit­ter,” she said. “I needed to become its biggest customer.”

Perkins had been watch­ing com­pa­nies like OpenTable OPEN +% crop up, and won­dered why there wasn’t a sim­i­lar on-​​demand, tech-​​enabled mar­ket­place for babysit­ters and nannies.

I started to see these trends emerg­ing, with peer-​​to-​​peer ser­vices, and peo­ple using trust, whether it was through Face­book FB +0.61% friends or other groups online as a way to rec­om­mend prod­ucts and services.”

A nat­ural match­maker, Perkins had been help­ing friends find babysit­ters and nan­nies for years, and noticed peo­ple placed par­tic­u­lar trust in their peer groups — par­ents from the same preschool, for instance — when it came to find­ing childcare.

I felt like, wow, this is a mas­sive mar­ket­place that is ready for trans­for­ma­tion,” she said. “Part of it was a big oppor­tu­nity and part of it was sort of self-​​fulfilling.”

For a monthly fee of $14.95, Urban­Sit­ter uses a parent’s Face­book con­nec­tions as well as infor­ma­tion on their neigh­bor­hood, their kids’ schools, and any local groups they’re part of (Big City Moms in New York, for instance) to match them with babysit­ters who’d be a good fit.

Our goal is to sur­face all that infor­ma­tion on our plat­form and make it a lot eas­ier than call­ing around and ask­ing for rec­om­men­da­tions from friends,” Perkins said.

Those need­ing child­care last minute are in good com­pany: a quar­ter of UrbanSitter’s book­ings are for ser­vices within 24 hours. And while the ‘Uber for [X]‘ con­struc­tion might elicit eye-​​rolls in the startup world, the 120,000+ babysit­ters and nan­nies in UrbanSitter’s data­base respond just as quickly as an on-​​demand driver.

The aver­age sit­ter response time is under 3 min­utes — down from 23 hours six years ago,” Perkins said. “Our busi­ness is now almost entirely on mobile. As a result, sit­ters respond really quickly.”

Perkins takes us behind the scenes of UrbanSitter’s early days as this week’s guest on Forbes’ Mil­lion$, a pod­cast hosted by yours truly. Every other Tues­day, I talk with self-​​made women entre­pre­neurs about the good, the bad, and the ugly of found­ing and fund­ing a business.

You’ll hear why Perkins and her team waited longer than usual to raise a Series A (they’ve raised $23 mil­lion to date), and how male investors in Sil­i­con Val­ley board­rooms reacted to a pitch involv­ing childcare.

Perkins also explains how UrbanSitter’s tech­nol­ogy enables col­lege kids and retirees alike to be their own bosses, whether they’re babysit­ting as a side hus­tle or in the child­care indus­try as a career.

Lis­ten to this week’s episode of Forbes Mil­lion$ with Urban­Sit­ter CEO Lynn Perkins here: