Zachary is joined by Olivia Weinstock, CEO and Co-Founder of Tandem, Inc., the only free marketplace for care services that is revolutionizing the way that providers get paid.
Olivia began her entrepreneurship journey as a teen, running a kid's summer camp in her backyard. Since then, she has continued to build her strong network of parents that trust her to provide and recommend care services for their children. In 2019, she founded Tandem, a first-of-its-kind mobile connection platform for nannies, sitters, and tutors.
Highlights of their discussion include:
Be sure to join us next week for part 2 of this discussion, where Zachary and Olivia review the impact of COVID-19 on the gig economy.
Visit our website for information about our legal services related to emerging technologies.
Welcome to this special edition of the Reminger Report Podcast on emerging technologies. Today we are joined by a special guest Olivia Weinstock who is CEO and Co-Founder of Tandem. Now Olivia, first, thank you for joining us here this morning, on our podcast. I know that you are the CEO and Co-Founder of Tandem. For our listeners who may not have used Tandem services before, could you tell us a little bit about the company?
Yeah, of course. So first off, thanks for having me. Tandem is a completely free connection platform for childcare and what that means is that local families can easily connect with nannies, sitters and tutors for free and form relationships outside of us that are long-lasting.
When you say, kind of form those relationships – you know – that are long-lasting that are outside of Tandem meaning that it’s a possibility for these families and the care providers essentially to maintain or create a relationship long term.
Exactly, so our goal has always been to not make the decisions for both parties but allow them to connect based on matched preferences and qualities; and then decide on the different factors of the job. So, that can be how repetitive it is, the rate, kind of how they communicate. The payment all stays inside of us and because we’re fee-free that is never really a point of friction.
Now, I’ve read your story just a little bit upon what I’ve seen, and in kind of a back story and I think you and I’ve talked about this before, but, you kind of have a unique story about how you got into childcare. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
Yeah, so, I always loved kids from an early age. I had three younger siblings; the youngest was 9 years younger than me so when she was 2 and I was 11 I decided to start a smer camp for her friends, essentially, her pre-school classmates, in my backyard, and that was a really, it was a makeshift camp. It was me and my friends kind of running it and over the years it grew a lot and by high school there were a hundred kids coming from the neighborhood to my backyard to kind of participate in this camp and what that did was really created a strong network in my community. So I knew tons of families who trusted me inside of the camp and then also throughout the year to watch their kids and also to connect them with other people who may be a good match for their family as well.
Now I have to ask, how big was your backyard that you were hosting a hundred kids in it?
Yeah, probably not big enough. But it worked.
You know, I think about, one of the things that you said , about building that strong connection, and I, you know, even when you were talking about building a strong connection between those members of the community, , when you started you know this, this smer camp activity and about how you related that to building the connection between the parents and the providers before, it seems to me that might be a theme as we kind of delve into this topic.
And we can talk about it more, is that something that drives Tandem, is building those connections?
Exactly. So, over time I just saw how intuitive it was for families to reach out to someone they knew and trusted to make that kind of word of mouth connection with someone else when I was unavailable to watch their kids. And, there was a very clear gap in the industry in terms of finding a resource that could do that at large. So, beyond just myself and the people I knew personally, there wasn’t a place where people could go to find that free reliable connection that they knew understood their family dynamic and kind of their preferences as well for their kids.
You know we always, so I, I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned this on the podcast before but I have two children and it’s funny, I always joke with my wife that when we find a good sitter I’m like don’t tell anybody that we have this sitter.
I’m like because I don’t want her to become, I don’t want, and we’ve had some really wonderful ones over the years but I’ve always said I don’t want to share them because I want to make sure that we keep them available but one of the things that we’ve relied upon too, I mean, you know, pre all of these services coming about has been word of mouth.
So we’ve had to know and rely upon other parents in our community to say, do you have a good sitter? Do you have somebody, but it’s sometimes hard because sometimes people don’t and they’re in between sitters because one, or one is unavailable because it’s a sports season or their family is going on vacation or what have you so, it has been a challenge at times when you, so I understand the struggle I think that Tandem is working to try to solve.
Tell me a little bit, how did you come up with the idea for Tandem? I mean for the actual service, kind of where did that come from, and kind of what need I guess specifically did you see being unmet?
Yeah. That’s a really good question. I always joke that the company was kind of started accidentally. It just kind of came about and spiraled really quickly. But essentially, I went away to college and people would still text me from my neighborhood here in Columbus asking if I could babysit on a Saturday night, or I would be out of town and people would be like, I know you’re out of town, but do you have a connection? And it kind of just got to this point where I was like this is such a demand that I should make it more official. And so, I basically sent out a message to all of my network and said I am now making these connections more officially; know that you can text me and I will be that word of mouth connection for you. , and the problem, like you kind of mentioned is, you kind of, eventually form that network of friends and sitters and people you can kind of use to make more connections with other people who can watch your kids but, we see a lot of people who are new to the community, people who moved here and don’t have family, people with really young kids who don’t yet have those people to rely on and so we’re helping them form that network. , but, back to your original question essentially I started making those connections more officially and I, I actually connected with , a venture capital firm who gave me some advice around, you know, keeping this a free model and how we can do that by using fintech aspects and functionality for users , and so the goal was to be the first free connection platform. We knew other ones existed but we wanted to be that, that neighborhood connection platform that was also free, like a word of mouth connection is.
I think that’s really neat. that’s a great story. I mean, I think it goes, I think it’s funny that you were connecting people even when you knew you were unavailable because, I mean, I think it shows how big that need is.
I mean because how much parents sometimes struggle to find you know, reliable and I’ve been there. When you were talking about having the young kids where you haven’t yet met connections with other parents, and I don’t. I have family but none of them live in the Columbus metropolitan area so as you’re describing this, I’m thinking to myself, man, I wish this would have been available years ago when my kids were younger because I was totally in those shoes before.
Right. And what we’ve found is once people use Tandem for the first time, like I said, we’re not blocking them from using those same providers again; what we’re doing is giving them kind of a list of people so it’s like you’re, you’re requesting that person you formed a relationship with over and over again but then you’re playing off of their network and their people they know on Tandem and you’re finding other providers through this site when your person isn’t available.
Right. Now how did you, where did the name Tandem come from? How did you come up with it or, I mean, how did you land on that? I’m always curious how people choose a name for their entity.
Yeah. So Tandem has been through three names. When we pitched to our VC for our seed round they said, we’re going to give you the money but you got to change the name. So I had come up with the first name, it was Sitting Secured and it wasn’t the best, it wasn’t the best choice. We shortened that down to Sitti. It was S-I-T-T-I and for a while that was our name but we realized as we moved further and further in the direction of becoming a mobile banking app and giving all of that financial functionality to our users, we were worried about the aspect of CitiBank. , and kind of interfering with that already borne company. , and so Tandem was a name that we took a big risk on just because there are a lot of other companies named Tandem but we thought it was a really good fit just because of what we’re trying to create right now with childcare and eventually at large, in other hourly paid worker industries in two parties working together and forming a relationship that is co-dependent essentially.
Now I think you mentioned this earlier but there are other services that are at least similar in the marketplace, , that seek to match you know, parents with childcare providers and I think you already eluded this a little bit but how do you see Tandem differentiating itself in the marketplace from those other entities that are working to match the parents and the providers.
Yeah. So I would say the most obvious and biggest differentiator is that aspect that we’re one hundred percent free. So there isn’t another platform where the family is not paying a subscription or a monthly fee to the site to use it and the sitter is not doing the same or the sitter is not losing a percentage of their earnings when the family pays them which eventually leads to the two parties going outside of the platform for payment once they kind of realize what’s happening. So the lack of fees and subscriptions is definitely our biggest differentiator. We actually struggle with that at times because it’s, it’s a trust-based kind of message that you’re going to get on our site and you’re going to pay your provider and they’re going to keep one hundred percent and you’re not going to see any fees. It’s a very new kind of idea in this industry. Another one of our goals and big differentiators is we want to be highly accurate and we want to match people. So we don’t want to limit people’s options but we use a backend algorithm that is continuously growing as we learn more and more about our users that matches jobs with providers who we predict will be a good fit and predict will be successful with that family instead of just providing a search engine which of course takes up more time on both sides.
Now, and I think you alluded to this at least a little bit but earlier, but you’re taking, you’re also kind of taking the fintech aspects of some of the payment providing services and combining it with you know, the actual services that you’re providing. How does that, I mean, if you could can you tell me how that works? How you would break that down, or, kind of what aspects of the fintech you’re working to kind of, I don’t want to say monetize it, but to, to work in the space of Tandem.
Yeah. So essentially what we’ve done is we’ve combined what will be eventually a traditional mobile banking app where you can save, spend, transfer, manage your earnings, invest your earnings, with a job finding app. So we are combining both of those things for the person who’s looking for a job and that means from the family perspective that they are able to connect bank or credit card just like Venmo; it essentially works exactly the same way, and pay their provider through our site. When the provider receives that money they have a full ACH functionality checking account with the bank and routing number and a debit card that is Tandem branded and so they’re able to immediately go and spend their earnings as soon as they’ve made them. They’re able to save within their account or transfer to an external account. Eventually the goal in the near future is to monetize that model by adding credit functionality adding high yield savings accounts, adding customizable credit cards that are available for an upgrade so those are all parts of kind of our revenue model. But right now, kind of the behavior we see in terms of people using what we call Tandem pay is really promising and moving in that direction.
You know, I think it’s, I mean, let me ask you this, do you have a lot of, as far as the sitters go, are there age ranges for who is qualified for eligible to be a sitter on this service?
Yeah, so, when we started just due to my background and babysitting from a really young age, I really felt adamantly that we had to allow under 18 year-olds to sign up for the platform so as young as 13 can be on the platform. The average age is 24 so we definitely have a lot more on you know the professional working nanny side. , but what we found, is for everyone, it’s really intuitive to make money where you’re being paid and where you’re finding your jobs. , so kind of that, that baked-in platform exists and works for the 13 year old who wants to just spend their extra weekend earnings on their debit card or for the 24 year old who is using this as their bank account where they pay bills, where they spend and where they save.
So that’s what, and I think you may have actually started answering the question or understood where I was going before I asked it, but I mean, that’s exactly what I was thinking about is the 13 year old. , I was thinking about how, you know, frankly we’re moving closer and closer to being a cashless society and as we move there I’m thinking about how, you know, seamless it would be for a 13 year old or a 16 year old who is babysitting to be paid and have a debit card and have access to that in that form without having to take the cash or , or take the Venmo and then transfer the Venmo to their bank account or however they want to do it , but how intuitive it is to have it kind of built in to that system. That’s why I was asking about the age because I’m thinking that’s really smart to give, especially that age demographic, the built in banking which for some of them this very well could be their first banking experience.
Exactly. And that, that’s been the goal kind of from day one is for a lot of people this could be their first checking account, this could be their first debit card, this could be their first app where they’re able to enter their budgets and their savings goals and things like that. So really playing off of that financial literacy aspect as well for people who are younger, people who are in college, , those people who, you know, maybe aren’t using this as their full-time job but using it as their first job and they’re able to safely find those jobs and connect with those families and then have that, that payment process built in where we’re prompting them to use their money safely and in a financially smart way.
I’m sure that you’ve seen the statistics and you know that, the struggle in this country, I mean in a lot of countries, but specifically this country with financial illiteracy as a real issue, , and so reaching people where they are to assist with the financial literacy, I mean, I think is very helpful thing overall to society in general, especially when you’re able to start them, somebody, not that, I mean I know you said the average age is 24, but especially if you’re targeting somebody, this may be their first job.
You start them to have healthy financial habits early is obviously going to be better than helping them try to figure it out when they’re 35.
Exactly. And I think it’s, it’s kind of a twofold goal for us and there are tons great first jobs which we talk about often because we are targeting that demographic, late middle school, early high school, all the way up to college. but for me, growing up, I mean, having the ability to directly communicate with families and own that responsibility and be paid directly by them. It was never a check made out to my parents, it was money that was coming straight to me and then it was my, my goal and my responsibility to really use those earnings correctly , and my parents were really open about allowing me to do that myself but I think having that end to end you know, finding the job yourself, communicating with the family, and being paid and then using those earnings responsibly from a young age was really important for me in gaining some of that financial literacy.