By Lynn Perkins (Co-Founder & CEO, UrbanSitter)
UrbanSitter launched in San Francisco recently, giving moms and dads throughout the Bay Area the ability to book a qualified babysitter with the click of a mouse. By leveraging members’ trusted networks to match families with caregivers, UrbanSitter delivers on the Bay Aarea founders’ mission to use technology to power a faster, more personal babysitting service.

Unlike with other national childcare websites, parents can view sitters they know — as well as sitters their friends know — and book them in real-time. Operating in beta since July, the site has already acquired more than 400 sitters. What’s more, 60% of parents who have used the site have already booked a second sitter, proving it is a valuable tool to parents.

With $10 billion spent on babysitters last year and 300 million sitter bookings occurring each year in the U.S., there is clearly an enormous business opportunity here. But more importantly, we are making parents’ lives easier because until now, there hasn’t been an easy way to find and book a trusted sitter. We think that UrbanSitter is to babysitting what OpenTable is to restaurant reservations.

For Parents

Parents sign up for UrbanSitter using Facebook Connect and can view sitters known through friends or affiliations — including schools, sports teams and parents groups — and can view each sitter’s availability in order to select a sitter for a specific date and time, or plan an outing when they know their favorite sitter is available. Jobs or interviews can be booked in minutes and parents can contribute written reviews, ratings and Facebook “Likes” to sitter profiles.

“Reviews and recommendations from friends are a must when it comes to booking a sitter for my kids,” said Matt Koidin, parent member.

“UrbanSitter has not only expanded our network of babysitters, it has given us peace of mind. Knowing that a friend who shares my values has hired and liked a particular sitter speaks volumes. Plus, it no longer takes me days to identify and book a sitter I feel completely confident in, allowing my wife and me to enjoy more nights out without having to plan so far in advance.”

For Sitters

UrbanSitter babysitters post their credentials, as well as availability, hourly rates and location preferences. The ability to see who parents are connected to fosters trust and familiarity and helps sitters decide which jobs to accept. To protect privacy, contact information is exchanged only after the booking is confirmed. Unlike other childcare agencies, which require a percentage of wages, sitters keep all the money they earn and positive reviews posted to the site help them gain more work.

“I have tried several services to find babysitting jobs in the Bay Area. I found the national childcare websites to be static and impersonal and nanny agencies claimed up to 15 percent of my wages,” said Kate Jensen, sitter member.

“With UrbanSitter, I can see what personal connections I have with prospective families and can update my availability and rates on the fly. And, I keep every dollar I make, which as a college student is particularly important to me.”

Available now to parents and sitters in San Francisco and the Peninsula, UrbanSitter will extend to additional Bay regions including Marin and the East Bay in the coming weeks. The service will also expand to additional U.S. cities like Los Angeles and New York City over the next 12 months.

While membership is currently free to both parents and sitters, as the company grows UrbanSitter will explore additional revenue opportunities, including parent subscriptions and transaction fees, sitter fees and promotions, as well as  corporate and affiliate programs.

For more information, or to sign up, visit UrbanSitter — a community match service for parents and babysitters who connect online through Facebook and their existing networks. The site enables parents to search, book and review trusted sitters within minutes. Headquartered in San Francisco, UrbanSitter was founded by a group of Internet veterans who wanted to use technology to power a faster, more personal babysitting service.

Editor’s note: Got a question for our guest blogger? Leave a message in the comments below.
About the guest blogger: Lynn Perkins is Co-Founder and CEO of UrbanSitter, a service that enables parents and babysitters to connect online through Facebook and their existing networks. A startup veteran, Lynn offers more than 15 years of experience marketing and selling to Gen X and Gen Y. Prior to founding to UrbanSitter, Lynn served as founder and CEO of Xuny, and VP of Business Development at Bridgepath. Follow her on Twitter at @UrbanSitter.