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San Francisco Moms’ new service is helping working parents find stay-at-home childcare parents

A new platform that provides instant, reliable child care at the touch of a button and matches children of working parents to stay-at-home parents is attracting millions in funding.

San Francisco mom Helen Mayer, 26, came up with the idea after the pandemic forced her to shut down her college-focused business and join the thousands of other women who lost their jobs, some of whom became parents because they stayed at home for many , it was their only option.

As Mayer looked for a new job, she became increasingly frustrated with the lack of affordable and quality childcare options. She even had to turn down jobs because there was no childcare allowance.

And she wasn’t alone. In September 2020 alone, more than 130,000 women lost their jobs. And many of them eventually took on the role of housewives. Mayer was one of them.

“It shattered the anchors I had as a woman going through college believing that if I ever decided to start a family I would have a level playing field,” Mayer told the New York Times.

As the pandemic spread, Mayer began dreaming of a community-based solution that would help parents find care for their children — and the idea came to her: “What if stay-at-home parents looked at the children of Pay attention to parents who have to work?”

The idea started with child swaps via Facebook mom groups and eventually evolved into Service Otter – an Uber-like childcare concept.

“When I was interviewing my nanny, I didn’t know what to ask,” Jess Lee, a partner at Sequoia Capital, one of the platform’s investors, told The Times.

“Like we can call an Uber now — what if I could do that and get childcare right away from someone in my neighborhood I trust?”

Lee said one goal of the platform is to “relieve the burden for caregivers of navigating their state regulations and for parents to seek, review, survey and plan for their own help.”

Helen Mayer, 26, developed the childcare service after the pandemic forced her to shut down her business and join the thousands of other women who became stay-at-home parents

Helen Mayer, 26, developed the childcare service after the pandemic forced her to shut down her business and join the thousands of other women who became stay-at-home parents

Forced to shut down her business early in the pandemic, Mayer became a stay-at-home parent to twins Arthur and Andrew - where she learned firsthand how much work it was

Forced to shut down her business early in the pandemic, Mayer became a stay-at-home parent to twins Arthur and Andrew – where she learned firsthand how much work it was

By the end of 2020, Mayer had brought together 400 families with housewives and parents who could care for children with her childcare platform Otter, named after her mother’s favorite animal.

Mayer told The Times that potential clients and investors were somewhat hesitant.

“A lot of people, when they first hear about this, will be like, ‘Wait, hasn’t this been done before?’ Mayer said – referring to the age-old premise of leaving the kids with neighbors. “To me that’s an indicator that they’re excited – it’s so obvious that it’s exciting.”

Mayer also pointed out that the service varies by state. In New York, childcare swaps of one or two children are not subject to the same educational requirements or caregiver-to-child ratio as daycares.

But in Massachusetts, a parent would need a permit to get paid for even one child in their home.

At Otto, which makes money from 15 percent service fees, a caregiver is a contractor who can dictate how much to charge by the hour.

Mayer said her company also put in place carer protections when a parent canceled, including carer payouts and other tools to “help carers get paid in a predictable way.”

Claudia Goldin, a Harvard labor economist whose research inspired Mayer, told the New York Times that part of Otter’s “genius” was that it created a new population of workers — stay-at-home parents — for the “revival.” ‘ value of their unpaid and undervalued caring work.’

A goal of the platform is to relieve caregivers from navigating their state's regulations and parents to find, review, interview and plan for their own help

A goal of the platform is to relieve caregivers from navigating their state’s regulations and parents to find, review, interview and plan for their own help

Childcare platform Otter prides itself on being a childcare service that feels like family

Childcare platform Otter prides itself on being a childcare service that feels like family

OTTER SAFETY POLICY

To sign up for Otter’s service, parents must:

  • Create a profile. This profile contains information about your children, your schedule, and your parenting style.
  • Pass a background check. Otter uses third parties to conduct vendor background checks and conducts home security checks.
  • find matches. Once the providers have passed a background check, working parents can connect with them on the platform.
  • Book care. Parents can arrange scheduling, payment, drop-off and pickup with Otter.

An initial group of investors launched the company with $300,000, followed by a more than $4 million investment from Andreessen Horowitz, known for backing tech giants like Facebook and Airbnb.

Sequoia Capital then raised $23 million in July 2021, and that year the company expanded into two cities.

When the company was formed, neither parent was paid in the swaps. But once compensation was built in, the number of hours working parents left their children with stay-at-home parents skyrocketed, she told the Times.

Stay-at-home parents who sign up to care for the children of working parents earn an average of more than $600 a week, according to the website.

The number of families participating in the swap meet grew through word of mouth. When Mayer moved to New York from Boston in January 2021, she had made 1,000 matches.

The company took a brief hiatus in the summer of 2021, but relaunched in May in San Francisco — where Mayer and her family now live — and Santa Clarita. The company has 15 employees and approximately $27 million in total venture capital.

Since the May restart, about 250 parents have signed up for the service and about 12,000 people have asked to be notified when Otter is featured in their area.

To find a caregiver or become a caregiver, it is possible with a few clicks on their website. Users are asked to take a parenting style quiz and questions that collect medical information from children and verify users by scanning a government-issued ID.

Possible matches are then selected by an algorithm, but all final matches are made by humans, Mayer said. A third party company is used to conduct background checks on all families.

Since the May restart, about 250 parents have signed up for the service and about 12,000 people have asked to be notified when Otter is featured in their area

Since the May restart, about 250 parents have signed up for the service and about 12,000 people have asked to be notified when Otter is featured in their area

The service has been compared to Uber for childcare – since “Uber for X” is now a well-known pitch for startups, which is music to the ears of Silicon Valley investors, said Alexandrea Ravenelle, a sociology professor at the University of North Carolina. Chapel Hill, and author of Hustle and Gig: Struggling and Surviving in the Sharing Economy.

“Uber was a unicorn, so now when investors hear ‘Uber for empty,’ it’s like dollar signs,” Ravenelle said.

“I come from the generation where there was a house in the neighborhood where a stay-at-home mom and that’s where all the kids would gather in the summer because there were homemade cookies and fun activities in the afternoons,” Ravenelle said.

“But there’s a big difference between parents who swap childcare back and forth and one parent who is essentially someone else’s employee.”

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-11164733/San-Francisco-moms-new-service-helps-working-parents-stay-home-parents-childcare.html?ns_mchannel=rss&ns_campaign=1490&ito=1490 San Francisco Moms’ new service is helping working parents find stay-at-home childcare parents

Emma Colton

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