“Alexa, find me a babysitter for next Saturday at 9pm.” It may seem like something straight out of the future, but British startup Childcare.co.uk is making this a reality for busy parents today.
Richard Conway’s brainchild Childcare.co.uk is the UK’s largest online community of parents, childcare providers, schools and private tutors. Now over 1.8m people use the service that launched in 2009, and with its recent tie-up with Amazon, it aims to help parents find childminders as easy as asking Alexa through a simple voice command.
“Most parents are time poor and often have little time to sit down and search online for services they need,” he says. “Many of our members told us they had Amazon Alexa devices and would find it quicker to be able to find childcare using their voice.” And that’s exactly what he set out to do.
Here, Conway talks Real Business through his business ups and downs, and what lies ahead for Childcare.co.uk.
Founder: Richard Conway
In a sentence
The easy way to find local childcare.
Your business legacy
So far, we’ve helped nearly two million parents find childcare and childcare providers find work.
Your business model
We have a freemium model where many aspects of our service are free. It’s possible to find childcare or childcare work without paying a paying. We have a premium product called gold membership, which offers additional services and features for both parents and childcare providers.
How do you measure success?
Hearing success stories from our customers is the biggest marker for me. Every day we receive comments from customers thanking us for our service. Finding childcare for parents can be stressful and worrying but we aim to make the process a lot simpler and easier.
Currently we are focused on the UK market. We are already the number one player in the UK and like to concentrate on what we know best.
How did you fund your business?
I was fortunate enough to have had some successful exits with previous businesses and I used some of that cash to start and fund Childcare.co.uk.
What technology does your business absolutely rely?
We would consider ourselves a technology platform rather than a childcare business, so technology is one of the most important parts of our business. All of our software and mobile apps are created and maintained by our in-house software engineering and development team.
In five years
Five years is a long time in the tech business, but we have a lot of exciting plans to improve our platform and add more services and features within the next year or two.
Your highest point
In 2015 we won a Department for Education competition for innovation in childcare and worked with the DfE to develop some new features on our platform. I was particularly proud of this achievement as we were competing amongst hundreds of other entrants, some of which were much larger organisations than us.
Your lowest point
The journey for a startup is always bumpy and full of obstacles but I always try to turn something that at first appears negative into a positive. I wouldn’t think of anything as a mistake but more of a learning exercise that enables us to improve.
What would tell your younger self
Be confident and ignore negativity. I was never the smartest guy at school or the most popular, but I am probably the most successful out of my school peers today.
Your policy wish list
I would like to see more help and support for entrepreneurs and businesses who risk everything to try and make the world a better place.
Your biggest piece of advice to other entrepreneurs
Go for it! So many people have great ideas but never do anything to try and realise them. Don’t sit back and wait for someone else to build your dream.
I enjoy playing the piano and composing my own songs. I also enjoy eating sushi. I’ve never really liked cooked fish, but sushi is my favourite food!
What would make you a better leader?
I’m fortunate to have a great team of people working with me who all share a similar vision. You’d have to ask them how I could improve by leadership!
The one app you use the most
When my wife and I need childcare, we of course turn to the Childcare.co.uk app! On a day-to-day basis I probably use Slack the most. All of our team work from their homes all over the UK, so it’s a great way for us all to stay connected and keep a close eye on what’s happening. Virtually every aspect of our business is integrated with Slack.
A day in your life
I’m up at 6am, checking emails and generally staying updated on what’s happened overnight. Three days a week I drive my kids to school. Most mornings, my wife and I go coffee and breakfast after the school run and then I’m either in my home office working or out at meetings. Most days both my wife and I collect the children from school and then I’m working again until around 8pm.
On your reading list right now
I really should read more! My wife can get through several books a week but I prefer catching up on the newspapers!
On your watch list right now
Currently I’m catching up on the earlier seasons of Million Dollar Listing Los Angeles. I’ve always been interested in property and inspired by the homes of successful people.
There are many successful people in the world and whilst entertaining, this show demonstrates the can-do attitude of the American people and gives us all something to aim for.