New website helps refer babysitters

February 19, 2008 8:25:24 AM PST
Lots of parents have been in this bind -- they can't find a babysitter and need someone now. A new Bay Area-based website hopes to fill that void.

The idea is an online bulletin board for babysitters and parents. And, if you'd be willing to grab a sitters name off of a bulletin board at the coffee shop -- then the founders of this new website are hoping you'd also be willing to look for one online. Although some parents say - this would be quite a leap. You can see what they look like, find out how old they are, what they charge, and even if they smoke. But shopping for sitters this way feels a bit spooky to some parents.

"I think it's a pretty good idea, but I'd probably rely more on a friend that I know though then a website," said Polly St. Geme, San Francisco mom.

But the founders of Caresquare.com say the response to their idea has been so positive - they just secured their first round of funding. They are both parents - who have had their fair share of nights when they couldn't find sitters.

"It's so exciting to be involved in something where people just get it immediately and say 'god yes, this is so great. Where is this? Why has this not existed all along?'" said Ariel Ford, Caresquare.com CEO.

It didn't take Lindsey Gates too long to get over her hesitation of picking a person online.

"I actually prefer it. First of all, you get this fabulous photo and profile that the caregiver themselves gets to put up. So, without having to ask the right questions, they are giving you what information they want you to know about them," said Lindsey Gates, Caresquare.com user.

She's found four different babysitters from Caresquare and has liked every one of the. Kaim Mendelson says he's not surprised. The professor of Electronic Commerce at Stanford University's Business School says when it comes to the internet - we have come a long way.

"I remember when people were talking, in 2000, about buying a car on the web and people said you must be crazy. Who would buy a car on the web?" said Prof. Haim Mendelson, Ph.D.. Stanford Ctr. for electronic business.

Samantha Pribyl illustrates how willing parents are to try Caresquare. She got so many calls from her listing - she had to take her name off the site.

"I've referred all my friends to it and they've got hits off there too," said Samantha Pribyl, caregiver.

They call it Caresquare because they modeled it after a town square where people share referrals. This town square online includes feedback from other parents about the babysitters and parent profiles as well.

"Parents can view other parents, parents can view other caregivers, contact each other directly either through email, anonymous email on the site, or if people choose to put phone numbers up there," said Ariel Ford.

The service is free, but for a fee, you can also run a background check. It's still not the same as exchanging babysitters with the other parents at the playground. But Professor Mendelson says its close enough.

"I think that face to face, person to person reference is always the gold standard and that's never going to be replaced. But we managed to do is have the silver standard, which gives us the ability to trust people we don't know," said Prof. Haim Mendelson.

The founders are having such good luck with this website they're ready to expand into another untapped market. Soon they'll offer up people who take care of the elderly.


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