By ERIKA MARTIN | Reporter
A reliable babysitter can make or break parents’ social lives, and various mobile apps and websites have sprouted up to connect parents and sitters.
But sifting through swaths of referrals made by strangers can be a nerve-wracking and time-consuming process, and Palisadian Sean Greene thinks there is a better way.
Greene has developed an app called Bambino with the goal of connecting parents with babysitters recommended by neighbors and friends.
The company will officially launch the app June 10 with a party at Pacific Palisades Recreation Center from 4-7:30 p.m. The event, which will also celebrate the end of school and the last day of T-ball, will feature food trucks, activities like an inflatable obstacle course and the chance for parents to meet Bambino sitters in person.
So far, a pilot version of the app has been released to a group of 35 Palisadian families and 69 local babysitters.
Greene began working on the program about a year ago, when after a long day at the office the Alphabet Streets resident wanted to go out with his partner, Katie.
“After thinking about it for a moment, the thought of having to find a babysitter and going through the rigmarole of calling friends to see if they knew anybody” was more stress than it was worth, he said.
That night, the couple ended up staying in and ordering take-out.
The Bambino app was born of a desire to connect “neighborhood sitters with neighborhood families,” Greene said, to provide a network that is tight in both proximity and social familiarity.
Among the company’s three full-time employees, a second —Director of Community Engagement and Communications Carolyn Rodeno—is also an Alphabet Streets resident. Greene has also enlisted a number of Palisadian brand ambassadors.
“The excitement level is through the roof,” Greene said of those who have used the pilot version of the app. “People just really like the ability to be able to access a sitter who they know is trusted by those close to them.”
Greene acknowledged that existing web-based services like Care.com, Sittercity.com and UrbanSitter also use reviews or recommendations, but said the satisfaction with all three is overwhelmingly low as someone can pass a background check but still not be the right fit for your family.
Bambino doesn’t use background checks but relies on its status as a community-based, invite-only network to ensure security. Sitters must receive at least two recommendations before getting a job and users must log in with their Facebook account, allowing the app to contextualize them with their social graph.
“What we’re trying to do is establish trust through the community,” Greene said.
He sees the service as modernizing the way parents find, book and pay the neighborhood sitter, and every step of the process happens through the app.
Parents initiate a request by entering out their number of kids, the start and end time, date, location and noting any other special needs. The app then populates a list of sitters who can meet those needs, organized with anyone the user has already listed as a favorite appearing first, followed by those who friends have recommended and ones recommended by the general network of neighbors around them.
The request is distributed to those the user selects, and each has 15 minutes to confirm whether he or she is available. Once that time is up, parents can review all available sitters’ profiles to make their choice.
Greene said Bambino also seeks to remove “all the awkward rate negotiations” involved in babysitting. The app charges between $12.50 and $18 per hour according to three tiers of sitters—junior, standard and advanced—plus a surcharge of 10 percent per child under 13. Sitters make slightly less than that as Bambino keeps a portion of the proceeds.
For now the product will be a Palisades exclusive, but Greene said he expects the company will expand to Santa Monica and Brentwood in the near future.
But for now, the app will be right at home in the tight-knit Palisades community.
“The level of community that we have in the Palisades is unique. I think it’s a perfect community for it,” he said. “But what’s nice about using it in areas like Santa Monica is that even if it’s not your immediate neighbors [in your network], it’s your friends.”