Care.com, the service that helps American families find and connect with carers, is launching in the UK today. This is the first venture outside of the US for the Boston-based company which was founded in 2006.
Already, there are thousands of carers registered on the UK site and to celebrate the launch, full access to the service is free until June 1st.
Care.com in the US has millions of care providers offering services and the site receives an average of six million visits every month. The company, which has raised more than $60 million in funding from investors, including LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman, is now expanding internationally with the UK as its first step.
The new UK base has a trained team in place to review carer profiles for suspicious or inappropriate content. On site, the firm provides secure messaging, reference checking services, and a growing collection of articles and resources on the interviewing and hiring process.
Sheila Mercelo, Founder and CEO of Care.com says that technology is driving a better way of finding reliable support for families, “People will either use their local library, churches or neighbour to find a nanny or carer and because it is local, it feels safe but there are no checks. One of the key things we advise is that there are proper checks and interviews.”
Care.com is working with UK care experts to help develop its UK service and additional educational content. In particular, the firm has teamed up with Bestbear.co.uk to offer an experienced reference screening service and will soon include checks with the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB).
With the current economic climate playing a significant role in families’ care budgets, Care.com wants to help carers looking for work find families who are hiring. Sarah Dyer, a Cambridgeshire-based Norland nanny with nine years of experience, said, “My experience caring for both children in my professional life and my elderly grandparents in my personal life means I’ve got a huge amount of expertise to offer others. Now I have an online forum where I can promote my services. The Care.com website will make it easy for families who need care to find me.”
Initial access for the next few weeks is free in the UK. Following this there will be no fee for carers to sign up, while families are charged a small tariff.
Marcelo says that opening up for free helps the company learn and tailor its service to a new audience, something that has worked well for it in the past, “One of our early learning examples was to ask our US users what they wanted to see on the site. Overwhelmingly they were looking for housekeepers. We added that option and it is now one of the most popular services now.”
Marcelo’s inspiration for Care.com came from her personal experience as a working mum coordinating childcare for her two sons, respite care for her ageing father, and pet care for her family dog.
“Traditionally it would be wonderful if we had the time and space to look after parents and grandparents but in societies like the US and the UK there was a trend for finding a home nearby,” says Marcelo. “We are now seeing a wave of people going for what we call ‘care in place’, so elderly people can age in their home and could do with some additional help checking in on them.”
Since founding Care.com, Marcelo has become an active representative and proponent of female entrepreneurship worldwide. In the past year Marcelo has been awarded a Marshall Memorial Fellowship, named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum, and awarded a Henry Crown Fellowship by the Aspen Institute.
To increase awareness and access, Care.com is also on Facebook where there is a lively community and plenty of supplementary information. Finding a carer, nanny or housekeeper can be time consuming and unreliable. Many people across the UK are a part of a two income family or actively looking for work with little time to ask around the neighbourhood. It will be interesting to see how the British audience takes to this new offering.