Babysitters on demand

“Unbelievably, many parents end up simply not going out alone as couples for months at a time, just because they haven’t found a babysitter they can trust their kids with.”

The Popinz team (right to left): Eugenia Shraga, Alan Lo, Ya’ara Cohen, Nir Gottlieb and Judith Goldberg (photo credit: VLADIMIR SHRAGA)
The Popinz team (right to left): Eugenia Shraga, Alan Lo, Ya’ara Cohen, Nir Gottlieb and Judith Goldberg
(photo credit: VLADIMIR SHRAGA)
‘It takes a village to raise a child,’ the old saying goes. However, in an era when most people no longer live across the street from family and lifelong friends, young couples starting out their lives in the city must carry the full weight of their children’s upbringing squarely on their own shoulders. And that, while establishing a successful career, has never been more demanding than today. The nuclear family has effectively become an autonomous unit, transplanted to an unfamiliar urban landscape, devoid of the traditional ties of kinship and wider network of social support that it once relied upon.
In this context, the concept of a babysitter should be viewed as a new and indispensable tool developed by modern society to cope with these unprecedented burdens; more specifically, to afford parents the freedom and confidence to leave their children at home in the care of a reliable figure for a small fee. To find such a person, however, not as easy as one might think.
Although they are surrounded by neighbors who would make excellent babysitters – conscientious, responsible teenagers or young adults willing to watch over children for a few hours – the relative detachment of modern families from their immediate social surroundings also means a dissolution of the word-of-mouth networks by which news of a trustworthy babysitter living nearby could potentially reach parents. So it happens that in any given neighborhood around Jerusalem, among scores of parents yearning for a babysitter, unbeknown to them live even more scores of young men and women who would happily oblige.
“When you think about it, there is no real reason for young parents to know anyone who fits the profile of a babysitter. Their friends are roughly the same age group and most likely have children of about the same age, as opposed to a teenager who could watch over theirs,” explains Ya’ara Cohen, a philosophy, economics and political science student at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
“Unbelievably, many parents end up simply not going out alone as couples for months at a time, just because they haven’t found a babysitter they can trust their kids with.”
Cohen realized that the scale of this phenomenon had to be taken seriously.
More importantly, while modernity had created this problem in our society to begin with, it has also equipped us with a new technological toolbox with which to find the appropriate solutions. Thus within a few short months of brainstorming, Cohen’s idea sprang into life as one of Jerusalem’s hottest start-ups.
Popinz was created, first and foremost, as a web-based platform designed to make a bridge between parents and potential babysitters living nearby. A growing directory of babysitters, each with his or her own profile, will enable parents to seek out the right one, based on any relevant set of parameters, such as proximity, age, experience and hours of availability. Ultimately, with a large pool of babysitters to choose from, parents will effectively be able to find a last-minute babysitter with minimum effort.
The obstacle that remains, however, is the perceived reliability of the babysitter in whose hands they consider leaving their children. The task taken up by the Popinz team is therefore far more complex than simply designing a user-friendly website for parents’ convenience, and is rather the challenge of establishing the credibility of the platform in providing truly trustworthy babysitters.
“Parents will not hand their kids over to a complete stranger unless someone they trust vouches for their character and experience. But a firsthand recommendation from a parent whom they know and have already hired that particular babysitter before is becoming harder and harder to come by,” explains Cohen.
“The Popinz network changes that completely by creating an online community where parents can pick a babysitter on demand with confidence in his/her dependability based on reviews and mutual connections as a way of verification. Basically, we are mimicking the way parents currently pick a babysitter – the way our consumers already conduct themselves on the open market – and making it easier and more efficient,” she says.
Trust is the name of the game, something built over time alongside a hardearned reputation that Cohen and her team have labored to establish from an early stage. Already 500 users, of whom more than 300 are active babysitters and the rest parents, have signed up for the early pilot version of the Popinz network, itself a powerful testament to the high demand for such a service. Having demonstrated an unmistakable proof of concept, the official Popinz website will be launching an early sign-up next week and is poised to begin operating within two months, with the hundreds of users who have already signed up constituting the first mantle of this new online community.
A deeper look at the Popinz platform reveals a potential to offer parents a much wider array of services in the long term. As its community continues to grow, rendering the website a virtual hub of parents of young children, it may very well become their go-to place to search for holiday activities, afternoon programs, toys, parenting advice and many other complementary products or services that parents may require for their kids, tailored to their age and the family’s place of residence. The site already offers a summer-camp directory and is the only online Hebrew resource offering tips and ideas for babysitters.
The possibilities for expansion are essentially limitless.
By any standard, the sheer scale of this ambitious project against the backdrop of its humble beginnings is remarkable.
Having started as a young student with no previous entrepreneurial experience, CEO Ya’ara Cohen had set out a little over a year ago to put her idea into practice out of a genuine belief in its capacity to transform modern society for the better by “making parenting fun once more,” as she puts it. Of the Popinz team, co-founder and CTO Alan Lo and programmer Eugenia Shraga are themselves parents eager to see their product spread its wings and become an invaluable tool at the disposal of all parents.
“We are all driven by a deep-seated enthusiasm for this project,” Cohen says. “We are building a service that is much more personal than other solutions and is based on community collaboration, building networks of mutual trust between neighbors. Needless to say, our dream is to see Popinz fundamentally improving the lives of parents in the long run.”