I’m convinced that the only reason UrbanSitter doesn’t get more tech press is because most tech bloggers don’t have kids. That means they don’t understand the hell of trying to find sitters, particularly if you live in a transplant-heavy city like New York or San Francisco without much family around.
Here’s the problem: You don’t want finding a sitter to be too easy. Most of the things you do to make sure a sitter isn’t, say, crazy, add in points of friction. But UrbanSitter leverages Facebook Connect to use personal recommendations and give you a list of suggested sitters based on availability. It allows you to do background checks, communicate, and pay, all online. It does a good job of making easy not feel so scary. And unlike Care.com, it doesn’t have a pricey fee. It describes itself as an OpenTable for babysitters — although I assume sitters don’t install proprietary software.
And today, it’s just launched a new iOS App to make its product even better. It enables parents to search for sitters by date and time, review profiles, and book with just a few clicks. The app then turns into a slick messaging tool between the sitters and the parents.
For the sitters, it’s great, because they can get instant notifications on upcoming jobs, easily connect to maps, call the parents at the click of a button, and confirm hours for payment. The site has already allowed parents the ease of paying electronically but with a mobile app that actually becomes an Uber-like convenience for both parties.
This is a no-brainer for reaching the kind of urban mom demographic the company targets. For single people, being “on the go” means you’re drinking bottomless mimosas in some sidewalk cafe. For a mom, it means chasing your kid through the house trying to wrestle that paint chip out of his mouth. Where does he keep finding those? I go whole weekends where I don’t once open my laptop — everything is done on the iPhone in spare, stolen moments.
So few parenting Web applications are built from a modern Valley sensibility. UrbanSitter is one to keep an eye on. And yes, it’s run by female entrepreneurs. I was on a panel recently with co-founder Lynn Perkins and was delighted that she too said she had no trouble raising money as a woman, particularly one with small kids. Sooner or later that whiney meme will die.
[Image courtesy emmoff]