CareLulu — one of our finalists in our 8th PITCH competition at our 2013 Vegas Conference — just secured $1.7 million in seed funding.

By Betsy Mikel (Editor, Women 2.0)

What’s one of the most challenging things about being a parent? We’d be willing to bet that for many, finding childcare is high up there on the list.

When Patrick Matos and Evgeniya Usmanov were looking for a daycare for their daughters — and after visiting 16 different facilities to find one they liked — they thought there had to be a better way. And what parent of young children has time to take tours of 16 different childcare facilities? Shouldn’t there be an easier way to narrow down the options online?

Their startup idea was born.

The couple got to work on building an online directory of local daycares that would help parents narrow down their options by budget, reviews, photos and other criteria. Right now, the service is most robust in Washington D.C., where CareLulu is based. But with their recent $1.7 million in seed funding, that will hopefully change. Co-founder and CMO Evgeniya Usmanov told us CareLuLu plans to use the funding to expand their service to more cities as well as fine-tune their product.

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“The funding will also be used for continuing with product development,” Evgeniya told us. “Full service includes things like a personalized child care/preschool search for parents, and detailed information on child care programs including photos and tuition rates.” CareLuLu also looks forward to making a few key hires to grow their team and help them test more customer acquisition strategies and scale faster.

At our Las Vegas conference in 2013, CareLulu was one of 10 PITCH finalists, pitching alongside other early-stage female-founded startups in front of our panel of VC judges. Less than a year later, they landed in 500 Startups. Not long after graduating from Batch 10 of the accelerator, CareLuLu landed the $1.7 million.

Through the wild ride of launching a startup and growing their product, CareLulu has kept razor-sharp focus on their mission: Help parents find the right childcare and preschool program, while helping childcare providers grow their business. “The vision for CareLuLu is now broader than it was initially,” Evgeniya said. “As we spend more time speaking to our customers and learning about the childcare industry, we realize there’s so much more that we can do to help both parents and child care providers; connecting them is just the first step.”

We’re not surprised that CareLuLu is picking up steam so quickly. While there are plenty of online services where parents can connect with local babysitters or nannies, this is the first service that focuses solely on helping parents find the right daycare. We can’t wait to see where they go next!

Would you use a service like CareLuLu to find a daycare or preschool for your kids?