On-Demand Childcare Service UrbanSitter Raises $17M Series C, With Investors Including Women Customers – Forbes
Women-led childcare booking service UrbanSitter has raised a $17 million Series C as it expands to new cities, including Atlanta, Austin and Portland.
Rather unusually for a Silicon Valley funding round, just over $1 million of this investment comes from ‘power users’ of UrbanSitter, which links families to on-demand babysitters and nannies: a dozen influential women.
“The main appeal for them was that their lives wouldn’t work without the service,” said CEO Lynn Perkins, who has now raised a total of $40 million to grow the startup, which finds childcare providers in a customer’s area in under 3 minutes.
“They love that I reached out to them,” Perkins said of the new cohort of women backers. “They’re equal contributors to their household, but people pitch their husbands on the golf course. They’re not at the table. They’re not directly approached.”
One of these investors, former Goldman Sachs managing director Linnea Roberts, has made a point of funding women founders and female-focused projects; she was one of the financiers of last year’s critically-acclaimed film ‘Equity,’ the first Wall Street movie to examine women’s experience of the banking world.
“I wanted to put my money where my mouth was,” said Roberts. “I had flexible capital and wanted to be mission-oriented.”
Perkins was a mother of twin toddlers in 2010 when she had her big idea after one too many babysitter cancellations. She had been watching companies like OpenTable crop up, and wondered why there wasn’t a similar on-demand, tech-enabled marketplace for babysitters and nannies.
“It’s a great story of moms seeing a problem and using technology to attack it,” Roberts said. “The way we’ve been hiring babysitters has been entirely pedestrian for too long.”
The Series C round was led by Advance Venture Partners (AVP), the investment vehicle of Conde Nast owners the Newhouse family, with participation from existing investors Canaan Partners, Aspect Ventures, DBL Investors, First Round Capital, Menlo Ventures and Rustic Canyon Partners.
AVP’s founding partner David IbnAle has known Perkins for twenty years; they attended Stanford University together.
“I had known what she’d been up to for a while,” he said. “It became much more interesting to me when my wife and I had our first child two and a half years ago. We’re big users of UrbanSitter.”
IbnAle described Perkins’ decision (with her board’s approval) to seek funding from a group of influential women customers as a no-brainer.
“Women who are in the business community can provide feedback tied to the business,” he said. “The secret sauce is engaging users in behaviors that get them addicted. I saw that as a user, and totally buy into her going to users to get real feedback, and in this case getting them further invested by getting them to become equity holders.”
As well as expanding into new cities, UrbanSitter’s Series C will allow the San Francisco-based startup to extend its product into what Perkins described as the recurring care space — that is, the ability to, say, book a nanny for every Tuesday and Thursday.