With online marketplaces facilitating transactions as niche as allowing stay-and-home mothers to hire each other’s services, it would appear that no product or service is exempt from online trading.
Whether its job finding or car hire, more and more traditionally offline services are shifting online. Of late in Australia there has been a particular rise in the number of tutoring startups, which each look to digitise the fun game of hiring and engaging with a tutor.
Also seeing a growth spurt in the online marketplace space is the babysitting space, with a number of platforms emerging to allow parents to easily search for and hire a qualified carer.
One of the startups taking on this space is Sittr, which has developed an app that allows busy parents to discover, book, and pay for verified babysitters and nannies.
To ensure both security and a high quality of service, carers on the platform undergo a strict vetting process, involving a full criminal history check, Working with Children check, and the verifying of qualifications.
The result, according to the startup’s cofounder, Samantha McKinnon, is a quality of employee that matches that of a traditional bricks-and-mortar agency or child care centre.
“But by using technology through that whole process, we are able to offer this to parents for a fraction of the price,” she said.
With three young children of her own, McKinnon had been looking for a babysitter while travelling in Japan back in 2014, so her and her husband, James, go could out to a birthday dinner together.
Unable to connect with any babysitters locally, the couple approached the hotel for assistance and were quoted a price of $400 to have a babysitter watch their children for one night.
“We just looked at each other and said, this isn’t right. At the time we had used platforms like Uber and Airbnb before and had this seamless and consistent service no matter where we were and so we thought, we should be able to do this for childcare as well,” she said.
“So, we started working on a solution together. James has invested in a number of startups including Expert360, TokenOne, and Airly and has a software development background, and [I have] a background in digital marketing so we thought that our complementary skills would make a good team.”
Launching in 2015, the startup kicked off with its first booking in Sydney before expanding nationwide. Now, the startup serves customers across all of Australia’s major cities and a handful of regional areas, including Ballarat, Bendigo, and Newcastle.
Sittr currently has roughly 500 active and verified carers on the platform, a number which McKinnon said was small in comparison to the amount of applications the startup receives.
Thanks to the strict vetting process, only a select number of babysitters are accepted.
“[That number] equates to an acceptance rate of about five percent. So only five percent of the carers that sign up to Sittr actually get approved,” she explained.
Parents using the Sittr app are able to view a carer’s profile to see their qualifications and experience. The profile page also lists the average score of the carer, as well as reviews written by previous customers.
If a parent is having trouble searching, they are able to list a babysitting “job” on the app, which will then be used to match them with a list of potential matches.
“Then at the end of the job there’s no need for the parents to have cash on them, they just say goodbye to the carer and we take care of charging the parents and transferring the carer’s earnings directly into their bank account,” McKinnon said.
To protect babysitters and nannies using Sittr, the startup automatically covers its carers’ insurance each time they accept a job on the platform, which is typically not something babysitting marketplaces offer to its carers, according to Samantha.
“Before Sittr, babysitters and nannies that wanted to protect themselves with insurance had to take out their own costly policies,” she said.
“If there is an accident and if the carer doesn’t have public liability insurance, parents are left to either cover these medical expenses or sue the carer. If the carer doesn’t have the financial resources to cover these expenses, or the legal expenses to defend a lawsuit, they could be left in significant debt – at least thousands or potentially millions of dollars – depending on what the court awards.”
Balancing the marketplace, Sittr offers its babysitting services at a flat cost of $27/hr, with the startup taking a 15 percent cut.
With the aim of becoming a global brand, the startup will be working on spreading its presence across the Australian market, as it works on a “couple of opportunities” to launch the app internationally.
Had enough of all the startup buzzwords? So are we. That’s why we’re asking the startups we chat to to send us a video where they pitch their business in a way that’s easy enough for even the most technophobic of grandparents to understand. Here’s Sittr’s: