Aussie Sam Mckinnon, co-founder of Sittr, discusses creating "Uber for babysitting" and how the business was born on a 12-month trip around the world.
What does your business do?
Sittr is kind of like an Uber for babysitting where caregivers can come on to our website or app to book a babysitter. All babysitters have been background checked, had their ID checked, either a police or working children check, first aid training and are also covered by our insurance policy.
Parents can choose who they want to hire, send out a job and can chat to get to know their babysitter. When the carer has completed the job they fill out hours of work in the app and the payment is then transferred to them.
What was the motivation for starting Sittr?
My husband James and I co-founded the business in 2015 and we launched it in Australia the same year but the idea was conceived in 2014 when we were travelling around the world with our three kids aged 15 months, three and five. We noticed so many times we went to book a babysitter when we were travelling and the entire process just overwhelmed us.
We we're in Japan and we'd only been on our trip for about six weeks, quite early into it, and the idea stemmed from an experience we had where we tried to use the hotel conceirge for a babysitter for my husband's birthday and were quoted an insane amount of money to watch our children sleeping in their hotel beds.
We were using Airbnb and Uber and delivery food apps, all of these other local platforms, and we both thought 'wouldn't it be amazing if we could have the same for a babysitter', so we built a one.
When will Sittr launch in New Zealand?
At the moment we're in soft launch phase in New Zealand. We have about 20 carers in Auckland and Wellington right now who are ready to go and 150 that are going through the verification stage. There's definitley demand. Every day I'm having more sitters and parents sign up. We hope to fully launch by Christmas.
How big is your team?
We have two people who work on the app full time, me, my husband and two people on our board who come from a financial background.
What are your long term plans for Sittr?
New Zealand has always been our logical first step for international expansion. A lot of Australians travel to New Zealand and vice versa, and our markets are very similar. We've also had interest from South Africa, Singapore, Canada, the UK, and the United States. We're considering countries where our insurance policy would be valid. We're adding new features to our app also and looking to voice activation bookings. We're constantly updating the app, making it as user-friendly as possible.
How long did it take to build the app from scratch?
We did recruit someone to work on the Android section of the app because my husband didn't have any experience with that but he built it for iOS which took him about six solid months. We've featured in the Apple Store several times which is a real gold sticker for James because building a reputable app is quite hard.
Talk me through the vetting process, how have you ensured the app is safe?
People need an ID or passport check, need to have child first aid certification, with that they also need a background or police check. We constantly check those so if anyone has done anything or has a mark on their police record we're notified by those agencies and delete that profile. We find because of those credentials a lot of the people coming to us work in the childcare or medical industry as they hold those credentials. We have a lot of paramedics, teachers, childcare workers, boarding house staff and uni students training in those fields.
What advice do you give to others thinking about starting their own business?
Prioritise and ask for help when you need it and surround yourself with people who are inspiring. It is good to have a mentor or someone you can turn to for real, honest advice and if you've got a really good product keep at it.