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