Elevator Pitch: Sittr

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Elevator Pitch is a regular feature on Lifehacker where we profile startups and new companies and pick their brains for entrepreneurial advice. This week, we're talking with James McKinnon, founder at Sittr.

In 128 words or less, explain your business idea.

Sittr is a unique solution to the age old problem of finding quality childcare. Our online platform is not only Australia's largest curated marketplace for babysitters and nannies but also the highest rated childcare app in the App Store.

All carers are screened, qualified and covered by public liability insurance. Moreover, they are accessible either on-demand or on recurring schedules through the Sittr App or Website.

We only accept 5% of carer applicants, so parents can rest assured that when they post a job, they will only receive the highest quality candidates.

What strategies are you using to grow and finance your idea?

There’s no better way to finance your idea in the early stages than with customer revenue. To this, you need to be creative with how you attract users, convert them to paying customers and then encourage them to come back and pay again, and again.

The user experience is critical to achieving this so we’ve spent a lot of time over the past few years ensuring that we have a beautiful, well designed app that makes life easier for parents - not harder. This has paid off as we now have a large number of dedicated, repeat customers, exceptional app store reviews and have been featured by Apple a few times as well.

What’s the biggest challenge facing your business?

The biggest challenge facing any business in childcare is trust.

We’re not talking about cleaners or food delivery. People are entrusting Sittr to care for their children. This is why we have an unrelenting focus on screening carers – ensuring they have senior first aid credentials and working with children checks - and why only 5% of carers are accepted.

We also ensure that the Sittr Team is easily contactable and on hand to deal with any queries or issues. This gives parents the peace of mind that we’re not just some app - there are real people behind the app that care about customer service.

How do you differentiate your business from your competitors?

Trust and price are the big ones.

Before Sittr, parents had to pay expensive upfront fees to access a database full of unqualified and unverified sitters. After posting a job, they would need to spend hours filtering out all the unqualified and illegible applicants and verifying and interviewing one or two applicants. We know because we have 3 young children and we've felt that pain personally.

Since launching Sittr, we've saved parents thousands of hours by screening carers for them. They don't need to pay for access upfront, they just pay the hourly rate when they make a booking. Overall the experience of finding a carer through Sittr is many times better than using an online directory or an agency - parents have expressed this to us over and over.

The most rewarding jobs are for parents that have NEVER left their children with a babysitter before and then send us a thank you for giving them some freedom back in their lives. Sittr is not just tapping into a large market for babysitters and nannies, we're expanding the market by giving first time users a trusted and reliable platform to use.

What one phone, tablet or PC application could you not live without?

Besides Sittr (yes, we use it extensively ourselves as well), my next two most used apps are Slack, which we use for Sittr Team communications and Intercom, which we use for customer support.

What’s the best piece of business advice you’ve ever received?

Hire people that are smarter than you.

As the CEO or the head of a division it is not your job to be the smartest person in the room. It is your job to hire the smartest people and then provide them the tools and environment they need to thrive.


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