Tech Entrepreneur Raises $2M To Expand In-Home Preschool Platform In 15 Cities

Written by Staff

In the U.S., childcare presents a nerve-wracking quagmire for parents. It’s expensive—almost a fifth of American families spend more than a quarter of their income on childcare—but that doesn’t mean it’s a lucrative business.

In fact, many caregivers make so little that they can’t afford childcare for their own kids and drop out of the workforce.

Chris Bennett wants to solve the problem. He’s the CEO and co-founder of Wonderschool, which just raised $2 million in seed funding led by First Round Capital.

Wonderschool wants to be a platform for qualified child care providers to make a better income by opening their own in-home daycares or preschools.

From Tech Crunch, Story by Catherine Shu.

Other participants in Wonderschool’s seed round include Cross Culture Ventures, SoftTech VC, Lerer Ventures, FundersClub, and Edelweiss. The funding will be used to expand Wonderschool into 15 new cities over the next year and a half (its platform currently has about 50 in-home daycares and preschools in California).

Wonderschool’s two co-founders, CEO Bennett and CTO Arrel Gray, previously launched Soldsie, an e-commerce company that enables businesses to sell products through their social media profiles. The two made the leap from e-commerce to childcare after Gray had trouble finding a good daycare for his toddler near his home.

in-home preschool
Chris Bennett (center), founder of Wonderschool, with Brian Brackeen (right), founder of Miami-based startup Kairos, and Marlon Nichols (left), co-founder of Cross Culture Ventures, talk about startup life at a VC in Residence fireside chat at WeWork. Photo: Miami Herald

“We saw too many parents who were anxious and scared about finding childcare, as well as educators who couldn’t afford care for their own children while they were at work,” says Bennett. “We knew that there had to be a better way to address this issue for families and teachers alike.”

Caregivers are picked based on their credentials, experience, education, and location. All need to have a state license, maintain liability insurance (that Wonderschool pays for), meet health and safety standards, and follow a daily routine. Bennett says that 76 percent of Wonderschool’s partners have a bachelor’s degree, while 32 percent have also completed graduate school.

A third of Wonderschool’s directors were stay-at-home parents before they joined the platform. In many cities, parents join waitlists before their children are even born in order to ensure they get a spot in a good program. The average income of Wonderschool providers (many of whom live in expensive areas like the Bay Area and Los Angeles) before joining the program was less than $38,000 before taxes. The company claims that most make around double that average after joining the platform.

In-home preschool

Bennet says that the benefits of in-home daycares or preschools versus traditional centers often include smaller group sizes, lower child-to-teacher ratios, and mixed-age groups that allow younger kids to observe and learn from older children.

One of the main drawbacks of in-home daycares or preschools is that if the provider needs to take time off, parents are often left scrambling to find other childcare arrangements. Wonderschool’s network means it is able to help parents find backup care among its other providers.

Parents can book a tour, sign up for waiting lists, and enroll through the site. If issues arise once they do find a daycare, Wonderschool serves as an intermediary between them and their providers. The startup helps providers set a tuition rate, manage discounts, and accept government subsidies from parents who qualify. Its platform also takes care of the administrative tasks that can bog down in-home daycare providers, like marketing and payments, and helps them meet state healthy and safety standards.

The company’s goal is to give more children the same opportunities Bennett had when he was young.

“My appreciation for education goes back to my parents, working class, Honduran immigrants who did whatever they could to ensure that my sister and I had access to excellent education, from attending quality preschool to graduating from Penn,” Bennett says. “I want to ensure other children have the same opportunities to reach their full potential.”

Read more at Tech Crunch.

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