Lauren Mansell doesn’t like the Uber-for-X terminology, but her on-demand babysitting app is already drawing those comparisons.
Mansell on Wednesday (June 23) launched Hello Sitter, a platform that promises to provide parents with “fully vetted, carefully curated, and highly experienced sitters in a quick and stress-free way.” It’s privately funded (at an undisclosed amount) and, for now, only in Manhattan.
“I think Uber gets bad connotations, and we’re very different,” she says. “We’re on-demand, but just because we’re on-demand doesn’t mean we’re like Uber.”
Hello Sitter is trying to set itself apart through its hiring process. Mansell, the company’s CEO, says sitters “can’t even apply through the website.” Instead, they need to get a referral from someone already on the platform, go through an in-person interview, submit references, and pass a series of background checks handled by GoodHire.
At launch, Hello Sitter had about 25 families and 200 sitters, all from its closed-beta testing period. Parents can book up to seven days in advance, but also day-of, which Mansell said they tend to do more as they become comfortable using the app. Families pay $21 an hour for one child, $23 for two, and $26 for three or four (the maximum). Sitters earn $15 an hour (for one kid), $17 (for two), and $20 (for three or four), leaving Hello Sitter with a flat hourly cut of $6.
A competing babysitter finder, UrbanSitter, was founded in 2010 and has raised about $23 million in funding. UrbanSitter lets parents search, book, and review sitters in its network, a sort of Yelp for babysitting. Another competitor is SitterCity, which was started in 2001 and has some $43 million in financing.
In the Hello Sitter app, parents can pick from a menu of “qualities” that they are looking for in a sitter (options include “patient,” “playful,” “active,” and “disciplined”), make notes about their children, and select their desired booking date and time. The algorithm then spits out three matches, and parents can select which sitter they want.
Mansell thinks the system isn’t that different from how people have traditionally found babysitters. ”The old-school way is a referral from a friend, but they haven’t vetted them necessarily,” she says. ”They’ve used them so can say they were great, but you haven’t used them.”
That said, a lot of people might not be so keen on handing their children off to vetted but algorithmically surfaced caretakers. As one Quartz colleague with kids put it, “I’m so old school. I want someone in my neighborhood to recommend someone, and then I want to interview them before.”