Traveling with children is never easy. There’s the crying on the plane. There’s the diapers that need to be changed. There’s the ever-sounding whiny complaint: “Are we there yet?!”
Not to mention, when you do get there, there’s all the things you need but can’t bring.
Hey, parents! That’s where Babierge comes in. Think Baby + Concierge. Makes perfect sense, right?
Babierge was founded in May 2011 in New Mexico by Kerri Couillard. A computer programmer by trade, Couillard had her second baby and realized that she had “All. This. Stuff.” in the garage. Her husband naturally wanted her to sell it so he could finally have a place for the car. That’s when her computer software background really came in handy: She listed the stuff for rent on a page and quickly started getting interest.
Similar to Uber and Airbnb in that parents can travel with their children, land at their destination and have baby stuff on-demand delivered to where they are or where they’re staying. The “Trusted Partners” who provide the baby gear are typically other parents or even retirees and grandparents. About 80 percent of the transaction goes to the “Trusted Partners.”
To date, more than 800 transactions have occurred with the 25 “Trusted Partners” across the U.S., with some interest from other countries.
Recently, Fran Maier, founder of Match.com and TRUSTe, jumped aboard as the CEO. Now, Couillard has shifted to the role of CTO, in addition to being the founder.
PYMNTS spoke with Couillard to learn more about the founding story, taking a chance out in Silicon Valley and what’s next for Babierge.
PYMNTS: Tell us about Babierge and how you came up with the idea?
KC: Babierge, which is like “Baby” plus “Concierge,” is a baby care rental platform. It’s a two-sided marketplace, and we’re really trying to go in and consolidate all over the country.
We have an Uber-like model where moms and dads or retirees can sign up and list their baby equipment, and then, we have customers who rent from them. We call them “Trusted Partners,” and they’re basically a contractor, but it can be pretty entrepreneurial for those looking to work in the new gig economy. They own their own equipment, they clean it, they store it, they deliver it and pick it up. So, it’s great for traveling families, and surprisingly, a lot of local grandparents love the customer service of the business model.
I have my masters in computer science, and I was working in the software industry. I was working long hours, and when I got pregnant with my first baby, I realized that I wanted some more flexibility. So, I started to freelance, but when I had my second baby, we realized we had all this stuff, and it was just accumulating. Two cribs, two of this, two of that item. So, we were just putting it into the garage, not knowing what we were going to do with it. My husband wanted me to sell it so he could park the car in the garage. So, I was looking at this pile of stuff, and this idea came to me that I can either sell it or I can rent it. So, I set up a one-page website that said “We Rent Baby Equipment,” and in less than three days, I had my first $300 order. So, I had customer validation from the very beginning. So, it grew. I built a new website with a checkout, and I always had the idea that I could scale it, which I wanted to do. I did for close to four years on my own. So, then, we built a platform that could handle any number of users, with any number of items, with their own prices. The platform was working, and I had five “Trusted Partners.”
So, then, I decided to validate the idea and see if the idea held up in Silicon Valley. And it did. I met Fran Maier, who also happens to be from New Mexico. She’s the cofounder of Match.com. I never dreamed that I would bring on another cofounder, but she wanted to work with us. So, starting May 1, we became a team of two. She’s the CEO now, and things have really exploded.
PYMNTS: The phrase “Uber of X,” what does it mean to you?
KC: You know, Uber has introduced this new business model that folks can pick and choose and have more flexibility in their schedule. It really encourages entrepreneurship and learning how to do things on your own. And to customize your business. For example, Uber drivers can offer bottles of water for their customers. So, it’s asking, “How can I personalize this service?” and “How can I make this better?” And people are making money doing this because the demand is there.
PYMNTS: How does Babierge work? How do these users connect?
KC: Some of our customers may book airline reservations and then realize you can’t bring everything you need. So, you go to the site, go online and choose the items that you need. You also select the time that you would like those items delivered. Then, the “Trusted Partners” know how to prepare for that order. We also operate on-demand. So, I get a lot of calls from moms that have already landed, are already at the hotel, and what they really need is a full-sized crib. So, that’s how the demand comes in.
Our Trusted Partners sign up on our site. Our sign-up page asks about what they have, such as a mobile phone or an SUV. There are certain things about this business that are easier to run. We get that information, and we schedule an interview. We speak for about 30 minutes. If we feel like it’s a match, we invite you to set up the account further — how you’re going to deliver the stuff, what the cost will be and other things. You don’t always have to have all the gear when you start, which is great because you can start without a ton of investment.
There is a 5 percent service fee for the customer to help with the platform. Babierge takes 20 percent of the rental fee.
PYMNTS: What cities is Babierge in now?
KC: We are in 15 markets and have 25 “Trusted Partners.” We are all over in the San Francisco Bay Area. We have about five to seven “Trusted Partners” serving the area. We also have Los Angeles, Orange County, Phoenix, Fort Collins, Santa Fe, Austin, Albuquerque, San Antonio, Memphis, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Chicago and Washington, D.C.
PYMNTS: All startups have bumps. Can you tell us about one you’ve endured?
KC: For me, it was a big choice to bring on a CEO. I had many differing opinions. And it really came down to knowing who I am. What am I good at? What do I enjoy doing? Once I made that decision, being able to move forward with it. At first, the feedback I received as a woman who was willing to give up, analyzing what that meant. I’m so glad I did in the end.
PYMNTS: What kind of funding have you received and are you looking for?
KC: So, once Fran joined, she has been putting in money for us to get to our next step. We’ve been accepted in the Stanford accelerator program. We’re meeting with investors for a seed round. We haven’t had any outside funding. We’ve just kind of put some money and a lot of time. And we’re seeing good results. We’re subsidizing an insurance program for our Trusted Partners. We’re putting money in so the protections are in place. So, we are looking for a small bit of funding, $1 million–$2 million.