SittingAround Launches Service To Help Parents Find & Schedule Trusted Sitters

SittingAround, a new service that allows parents to quickly and more easily find and schedule a babysitter, is launching today. The business is the creation of CEO Erica Zidel, a former management consultant in the Boston area (and mom) and CTO Ted Tieken, who, like Zidel, is a Harvard grad.  What’s unique about SittingAround is how it leverages users’ social networking connections – like those on Facebook – in order to build trusted relationships between parents and sitters.

If you’ve ever used a traditional childcare-finding service, like, for example, or even Craigslist, you know the feeling of having to wade through dozens of listings, without really knowing which caregivers are better than others. Who have your friends used? Did they like them? Traditional sites can’t tell you.

However, on SittingAround, the site pulls in data from popular social networks like Facebook and LinkedIn, to help you immediately see who your friends would use and recommend.

“Babysitting is a complex and unique problem. You have a need that is irregular, generally, but you also want a high level of trust,” explains Zidel. “What we do is we allow people to see how they’re connected to each other, including the people in their community, the sitters that they use, and how the sitters are connected to each other, to really pass trust along the social graph. You’re able to form your own network of sitters.”

SittingAround, which grew out of an earlier site that helped parents find local babysitting co-ops (parents who trade sitting duties with each other), doesn’t just help you find a sitter – it also helps you schedule them.

Using the site’s free tools, parents can send out a single message to their network of sitters when they’re in need. To reach sitters not on SittingAround, the site supports entering email addresses, to save you time.

The sitters themselves can also maintain their own schedules on the site with calendars showing their availability, allowing parents to quickly see whether their favorite sitters are free that day or not. Parents can also leave reviews and ratings for sitters, and see who in their network uses which sitters.

While those are the main points, SittingAround has many other notable features that give it a unique edge. For example, it has partnered with a service to provide free background checks to sitters and parents alike, which will help immediately weed out less desirable quotient. (After all, if it’s free, why wouldn’t someone do the background check?) They’re also working on curating daily deals for select areas, to provide a source for “date night deals,” which could help SittingAround expand from just a care-finding resource to an entire “night out” planning tool.

For now, SittingAround is a freemium service. For $15/year, you can eliminate ads and have access to priority support. But the business model is still in the experimental phase.

SittingAround’s initial product, a babysitting coop, now has 3,000 families in 6 countries trading care with each other. The sitter-finding aspect to the service, meanwhile, is launching now in New York, Boston, D.C., Philadelphia, Chicago and Seattle, where it has a waitlist in over 1,000 sitters. While not officially live in other locations yet, the Sitter Marketplace is open and available for anyone interested to sign up.

The service will launch both a mobile web version and mobile apps (Android first) in early 2012.

The company is currently in due diligence with angels in the Boston area, while raising a $600,000 round of funding with a targeted close in February.