Kristen Stiles, CEO and co-founder of Sitter.me, hopes to make the act of finding caretakers easier for parents.
The app Stiles and her co-founder, Matt Stueve, developed functions by putting sitters and caretakers of any kind — think the elderly, pets — on a unified platform. Stiles attributes the success of Sitter.me to its practical application to the real world. She considers the old, phone-tag method of booking babysitters to be a point of stress for many parents.
“You call or text one [babysitter], then you wait. Working the way down your call list takes hours — and that’s if you have babysitters,” Stiles said. “If you don’t have babysitters, you ask friends. And if you don’t have friends in the area, you have to spend weeks vetting somebody that you meet online. It’s horrible.”
With Sitter.me, caretakers can cultivate a network of their own sitters, or build one through social networking. If social networking isn’t an option, the app connects caretakers with new sitters in the area.
The parents to sitter connection can be made in under three minutes and the app allows for credit card payments in as little time. Sitters determine their own rates and parents set a timer for care, similar to trips on Uber. Once the timer stops, payments are sent directly to the sitter. And parents can add tips or reimbursements, for pizza, stickers, dog treats, whatever.
The app is free, although in the future, there will be a transaction cost for caretakers.
Stiles was inspired to make the app by her own mother’s experiences.
“My mom was a single mom and growing up I remember the pain she had getting a babysitter,” she said. “I thought, there must be a better way than this, like this is ridiculous that we are still doing this the way my mom did it!”
Stiles herself is a mother of two boys. Coming from a background in corporate tech, working for Fortune 100 companies for 20 years, Stiles immediately turned to tech for a solution. In 2014, she gathered a five-person team consisting of her husband, Dan Stiles, and her long-time colleague, Stueve, and hit the ground running. The app hit the iTunes store in 2015.
As a mom in tech, Stiles’ situation is fairly rare.
In 2015, Crunchbase released one of the first reports on female founders, using their own data from 2009 to 2014. It showed that of the 14,341 US startups that they found had received funding in that time, 15.5 percent had at least one female founder.
Finding female entrepreneurs who are also mothers is even rarer — 43 percent of total female entrepreneurs have had children while running companies. Fewer yet start companies as moms — like Stiles did.
“Not only was I going into a startup world, which is a completely different than corporate culture, I was a mom,” Stiles said. “I may not look like everyone else but I can still do it.”
Stiles says reception to Sitter.me has been mostly good with the exception of a few “haters.” The company has already attracted $615,000 through two rounds of funding, and although the team refuses to release official numbers, they say that the app has tens of thousands of users in 50 states.
Stiles attributes this success, in part, to Denver.
“I think Colorado is the best place to start tech, and the reason is because of the supportive community,” she said. “When you combine that with the lower cost of living, the amazing talent and the fact that people actually want to live here, you have a winning combination for an excellent entrepreneurial community.”
The Stiles are based in Estes, but routinely come down to Denver to work out of the Commons on Champa — a free or low-cost facility for Denver entrepreneurs.
“The resources available are phenomenal, like Denver Startup Week — it’s entrepreneurs helping other entrepreneurs,” Stiles said.
Stiles said she was impressed with the diversity she saw on the panels and found the focus on women in tech inspiring. Her favorite event? “A Bigger Tent” summit on Monday, Sept. 12. It featured three powerful women, Suma Nallapati, Colorado Secretary of Technology and Chief Information Officer; Heather Terenzio, CEO and founder of Techtonic Group; and Terry Morreale, CTO of National Center for Women in Technology, engaged in a conversation about gender bias in tech and startup culture.
After the Sitter-hosted Fireside Chat on Wednesday of Denver Startup Week, Stiles said the panel shaped her perspective on the rest of the week’s events. But she also said she feels that every entrepreneur, not just minority groups, needs the same quality to survive.
“That quality is just flat out perseverance,” she said. “You have to trust in yourself and your idea and the market to really get through, but that’s the same whether you’re a minority or a man.”
And for Sitter.me, Stiles has big goals. Within the next year, the team hopes to scale and turn a revenue. Long-term, Stiles would like Sitter to be the go-to solution for parents nationwide.
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