They’re starting to crop up here and there, new startups that have appropriated the monthly class-pass model and are focused on children’s activities. Last month, a New York-based startup called KidPass announced $325,000 in seed funding, including from serial entrepreneur Kevin Ryan. Meanwhile, Brooklyn-based The Kids Passport, which caters to local families and launched in October, has raised an undisclosed amount of seed funding from Notation Capital and Collaborative Fund.
Now, there’s a new entrant. A Chicago-based startup that’s similarly focused on helping parents and other caregivers find affordable and varied things to do with young children, is launching this coming Monday.
Called Pearachute, it’s just six weeks old, yet investors love the idea so much that the company has already raised $1.2 million in seed funding, including from former Match.com CEO (and now vice chairman) Sam Yagan, Techstars cofounder David Cohen, Chicago Ventures, Hyde Park Venture Partners, HotelTonight CEO Sam Shank, SitterCity cofounder Genevieve Thiers, and various other angel investors.
Yagan has even signed on as chairman.
The company was founded by Desiree Vargas Wrigley, who’d previously cofounded GiveForward, an eight-year-old, online fundraising platform for medical expenses from which she stepped down in December.
“It was one of the first crowdfunding sites, and eight years in, I realized I wasn’t having as much fun as I used to,” says Wrigley.
In fact, she intended to take some time off but was encouraged by former investors and mentors to jump straight into Pearachute, an idea she says “couldn’t stop thinking about.”
Given the similar startups beginning to sprout up, her timing looks good.
Pearachute has two subscription models. Customers can either sign up for five classes a month for $79 — a subscription that can be shared between siblings and family friends — or they can also pay $99 for an unlimited number of classes per child.
The five-person company, which is focused exclusively on Chicago for now, is launching with 35 child-related activity centers and 1,200 parents. Wrigley says there’s demand from many more parents already, however. (“We posted one thing about Pearachute on a private mom group [email] list, and a day later, 1,200 people had signed up.”)
Pearachute is focused on children ages zero to five for the time being, but it may well evolve into a platform where people can also subscribe to summer camps and classes for older children. Says Wrigley: “Parents are looking for varied and affordable entertainment, but it’s a big deal when you sign up your kids for something. It’s a risk. This [model] eliminates it.”
The big question, for Pearachute and other class-pass businesses, is whether the economics are sustainable. Wrigley declined to talk about how Pearachute will split its revenue with the activities centers with which it’s working, saying each relationship is different.
She does say that Pearachute plans to focus heavily on data analytics, endearing itself to its clients by providing them big-picture information that they might not have otherwise, such as what days and times families might be inclined to sign up for a music class.
Wrigley and her investors are also anticipating sufficiently healthy margins that they’ll be be able to expand into at least two other cities by later this year.
Asked whether she’s concerned about how quickly she can reach them, with other upstarts gravitating to the same idea, Wrigley says she’s not. “This is such a broken and fragmented industry,” she notes. “It’s reminiscent of the early days of food delivery, even before Seamless and GrubHub, and you see how many companies that industry has supported.”
Photo: Shutterstock/Kuttelvaserova Stuchelova