A Smarter Way to (Baby)Sit: Peter Helms ’01 MBA (Executive) and Josh Benveniste ’02 MBA (Executive)
March 13, 2019
Peter Helms and Josh Benveniste are changing the face of babysitting, making finding, scheduling and paying sitters easier than ever. It’s all happening through ZipSit, an app the friends created to connect parents and babysitters via their smartphones quickly, efficiently and with zero negotiations required.
The two-time University of Arizona alums are no strangers to breaking boundaries. They were among the first to participate in the Eller College of Management's Executive MBA program in Santa Clara, California—which connected them remotely to classrooms in Tucson—and have both launched prior successful businesses.
“My understanding is the University of Arizona and Eller were pretty entrepreneurial with using videoconferencing when we went through the program,” says Benveniste, ZipSit co-founder and CMO. “It was cool to be on the front lines of that.”
Now, the duo is on the front lines of something new. The pair formally launched its ZipSit app in February 2018; the concept was born in March 2015.
“My wife and I wanted to go out to dinner, and we couldn’t get a sitter in the traditional way of texting,” recalls Helms, ZipSit founder and CEO, who has three daughters. “We didn’t end up going that night, and I thought, ‘There has to be a better way to do this with today’s technology.’”
Helms reached out to Benveniste—and ZipSit was formed. Today, the app has about 2,000 users from 42 states, nearly 80 percent of whom reside in the Phoenix area where the company is based. It’s remarkably reliable—sit requests are filled almost 100 percent of the time, and fast.
“I’d say 90 percent or more of our sits are accepted within three minutes or less,” Helms says.
To get started, parents create a profile, including a family photo and their children’s special needs or allergies, and begin selecting their “favorite” sitters. All parent users can view sitters within a 30-mile radius of their address and, by connecting in-app, can also view friends’ favorites, broadening their trusted sitter pool.
While the app does verify users’ identities, it does not provide formal background checks. “We feel parents are the best people to vet their sitters,” explains Benveniste, a father of two.
Parents can vet unknown sitters by contacting them through an in-app messaging feature or by reviewing their SitScore. The unique ranking incorporates feedback from parents who have used the sitter previously and data obtained within the app, including the sitter’s reliability.
Parents also decide how much they want to pay a sitter before submitting a request, link their bank or Venmo account information, and process payment directly through the app.
Nearly 90 percent of first-time users have submitted repeat sit requests. Helms and Benveniste aren’t surprised—they’re confident in their purpose to fulfill a market need.
“In the U.S., this is about a $15 billion market,” Helms says, noting 95 percent of that market is open. “It’s a big opportunity financially, but it’s also going to help a lot of people in different ways. There is a lot of space in elderly care and helping special needs’ parents find sitters.”
Adds Benveniste: “Pete and I are both wired with the entrepreneurial spirit—creating companies is in our blood. This particular endeavor is special because we’re solving a need both he and I have, as well as all of our friends. It feels awesome.”