A startup that's modeled after Airbnb, Instacart, and Lyft and funded by one of their investors is taking its first leap to conquer the $59 billion day care industry
- Wonderschool, a startup that helps parents find day care, is expanding to four new markets next year.
- The company helps childcare providers fill capacity by listing their centers on its website and mobile app, letting prospective parents book tours, and posting reviews.
- Wonderschool has raised $24 million in funding from Andreessen Horowitz, Lerer Hippeau, and First Round Capital, among others.
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Wonderschool, a startup whose service helps parents find day care, has revealed plans for expansion in four new markets: Boston, Chicago, Houston, and the Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas, metro area. The company helps childcare providers fill capacity by listing their centers on its website and mobile app, letting prospective parents book tours, and posting reviews.
The nation's childcare market created $59 billion in revenue last year, although the number of businesses fell as the costs of running a program steepen, according to a recent report in IBISWorld. Wonderschool wants to support these "micro-entrepreneurs" so they stay in business and parents have more vetted options to choose from. It takes a cut on every tuition payment.
Founded in 2016, Wonderschool has worked with hundreds of childcare providers and thousands of families in California, New York, and Colorado. It's also starting a program in Omaha, Nebraska, next year that's focused on recruiting caregivers to start centers out of their homes, giving families better access to quality, affordable programs.
The startup has raised $24 million in funding from Andreessen Horowitz, Lerer Hippeau, and First Round Capital, among others. Last year's cash infusion, a round led by Andreessen Horowitz, gave it the ability to hire more engineers and build new products, like a mobile app, a feature that lets parents monitor when their kids are checked in and out of day care from their phone, and the ability to share photos with parents.
The first time tech investor Jeff Jordan heard about Wonderschool, he had, not an "ah-ha" moment, but a feeling of "ugh." He had a similar reaction hearing a pitch from Airbnb's founder in 2011.
"Sleep on a stranger's bed? Send my kid to a stranger?" said Jordan, a managing partner at Andreessen Horowitz. Those ideas both seemed bizarre at the start.
Andreessen Horowitz would end up putting $60 million into Airbnb, a stake that has grown 30 times at the startup's last valuation, according to Fortune.
Jordan said he realized quickly that Wonderschool was built on the same business model as Airbnb, as well as other marketplace investments like Lyft and Instacart. The company married supply and demand, matching childcare providers with space to fill and families looking for quality care.
Quality is the startup's biggest priority, said Chris Bennett, a cofounder and chief executive of Wonderschool. The company surveys parents, inspects the facilities, and provides feedback to the childcare providers on a regular basis.
"I think childcare is different than eating at a restaurant," Bennett said in response to a question that described Wonderschool as "Yelp for childcare."
"Parents are really happy to know that there's someone monitoring the experience that they're having," he said.
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