The Babysitter's Club

Park Slope, Rejoice! Online Babysitting Service UrbanSitter Expands To NYC

"It's like Open Table for babysitting!"
lynnperkins photo Park Slope, Rejoice! Online Babysitting Service UrbanSitter Expands To NYC

Ms. Perkins

College students are known for doing a lot of questionable things to help pay off their student loans, but babysitting is typically one of those wholesome gigs that can net you a ton of dough. The hard part is usually finding people willing to trust you with their kids, because how many college students actually know parents other than their own? Enter UrbanSitter, a San Francisco-based startup that simplifies the difficulties of finding and working as a responsible babysitter by streamlining the process into an online service.

The site works like this: Facebook Connect integration allows parents to view trusted sitters known through friends located near them. Sitters can list their availability and rates, and parents can book them directly through the site. “The basic idea is that it leverages the trust you get for the connection and combines that with real time booking,” UrbanSitter founder Lynn Perkins told us over the phone. Sounds like a yuppy Park Slope mama’s dream come true.

The company, which has been around since 2009 and boasts “thousands of members,” announced today that they’re expanding their services to cover the New York City area. According to the press release, the site includes sitters from NYC colleges like NYU, Columbia and Hunter. “We started recruiting sitters in New York a couple of weeks ago and we’re getting close to 1,000 now,” said Ms. Perkins.

A city overflowing with transplants and young families, New York offers UrbanSitter its own set of unique opportunities and challenges. “The challenge in expanding to New York is the size and making sure we have everything covered,” Ms. Perkins told us. “I think the one thing that’s good about New York even more so than San Francisco is that you do have more people and more sitters.”

Ms. Perkins called the service “somewhat aspirational,” as it caters to a unique breed of tech-savvy, upper-middle-class parents. “That’s why we called it UrbanSitter,” she explained. “People who have kids and decide to stay in the city are looking for a lifestyle component. You’re more likely to go out and more likely to have plans.”

The site is free for now, though if parents opt to use a credit card to pay sitters over the site–a service that will roll out to NYC in the next few weeks–UrbanSitter takes a 15 percent booking fee. This method, along with an upcoming subscription service, is how Ms. Perkins says UrbanSitter will make money as it scales to other cities.

The idea strikes us as a pretty compelling one, especially considering how many NYC moms will probably flock to the site, assuming they can operate a mouse while balancing a latte in one hand and a baby in another. Once news of this startup hits Park Slope, UrbanSitter better make sure its servers are in tip-top shape.

Follow Jessica Roy on Twitter or via RSS. jroy@observer.com