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Alexandra Greenhill & My Best Helper
Written by Diana Thebaud Nicholson // April 14, 2014 // Alexandra T. Greenhill // Comments Off on Alexandra Greenhill & My Best Helper
Announcing the 2015 YWCA Women of Distinction Awards Recipients
More than 1,200 guests and volunteers gathered on May 26 at the Vancouver Convention Centre to honour inspiring women and their achievements.
Entrepreneurship — Alexandra Greenhill
A nationally-recognized physician and the Co-Founder and CEO of myBestHelper, an award-winning technology start-up, Alexandra is a rare leader who collaborates across the business, health care and non-profit sectors. After a successful career as a physician, Alexandra Co-Founded myBestHelper to match working families with child and elder care. The service saw immediate success, with more than 8,000 users across Canada in the first few years, and Alexandra was noticed as an innovative new leader. myBestHelper has sped to the forefront of technology start-ups, including selection in 2012 as one of three Canadian companies to go to the Canadian Technology Accelerator in San Francisco. She is a mentor and role model and organized the Women Lead Tech initiative to showcase BC businesses led by women.
The nanny connection: My Best Helper allows Canadian families to vet caretakers online
( Financial Post) After striking out with a meet-and-greet nanny service in Vancouver, Tanis Jorge turned to the Web to find a caretaker for her two boys, JJ and Nuno.
Ms. Jorge’s search led her to My Best Helper, an online database that has the guise of an online dating site and is meant to help Canadian families vet the next caretaker for their children, find relief for household chores, or browse for one of the many other roles lumped under its namesake.
Her frustrations undoubtedly resonate with other working mothers, including the site’s co-founder Dr. Alexandra Greenhill, who realized that finding good domestic help is not always as easy as a knock on the neighbour’s door.
Dr. Greenhill, a medical doctor, considers herself a “funny transplant” into the world of startups. She is about to find out how much investors agree with her thesis ahead of a seed round of financing next month.
“We want to build a platform that allows families to feel that there is a back-up,” Dr. Greenhill said. “Anyone who has kids gets this. There’s no need explaining this to them.”
Before finding 28-year old Thai, Napatra, on My Best Helper in October, Ms. Jorge had employed a nanny for three years who had come to Canada through the live-in caregiver program and depended on the spotty availability of her friends’ daughters.
“It was really important to find someone I could trust,” said Ms. Jorge, the co-founder and chief operating officer of cyber identity startup Trulioo.
It’s almost trite to say societal shifts have reduced the amount of time families spend together at home, while debates on the virtues of stay-at-home parenting come and go. Regardless, the phenomenon has created a market that appeals to David Tedman, chief executive of Vancouver’s Invoke Labs, the startup accelerator that spawned 2013′s venture capital darling Hootsuite.
This inevitably led to his collaboration with Dr. Greenhill.
“You’d be hard pressed to find anybody in Vancouver who doesn’t know who she is,” Mr. Tedman said. “We’re always on the hunt for the next partner to work with. We just began discussions and began to talk about what a relationship might look like.”
That relationship — exclusive because just five other companies aside from My Best Helper are getting Invoke’s attention now — began about six months ago.
Dr. Greenhill’s clever marketing also impressed Mr. Tedman. In a Facebook contest, she offered to be a nanny for a month. “I thought that was incredible,” Mr. Tedman said. “That’s as committed as one can get in terms of putting themselves on the front line.”
My Best Helper was born out of frustrations. Dr. Greenhill had tried online classified site Craigslist and sites such as CanadianNanny.ca and Nannies on Call, which ironically are now her competitors. Yet, she was only getting part-time options when what she needed was full-time care for her three children, now aged 11, nine and three. She even paid an Ottawa-based nanny agency $1,000 in what she called “my desperate attempt to find a solution.”
A significant amount of non-professional caregivers are available on My Best Helper, on the assumption that a trustworthy person can be trained to do the job. The so-called helpers include a mix of university students, stay-at-home mothers and retirees looking for additional income.
While the net appears wide, domestic help from emerging nations is becoming a scarce pool. Since reaching a 10-year peak in 2009, the number of nannies coming to Canada through the live-in caregiver program has dropped precipitously. That year, nearly 40,000 caregivers were working in the country. Three years later, there was half that amount, according to data from Citizen and Immigration Canada.
The department says it does not set a target for temporary workers. It issues permits according to labour market demands, a signal that more Canadians are making themselves available as domestic help.
My Best Helper has some catching up to do. The site’s 5,000-odd users pale in comparison to Canadiannanny.ca, which has existed in various forms for 13 years and has about 100,000 caregivers in nearly 500 cities.
To accommodate her growth plans, Dr. Greenhill would like to more than double her current six-person team by the end of the year with more developers, marketers and an outreach co-ordinator to help with expansion to other major Canadian cities beyond Vancouver, it’s largest market, Toronto and Calgary. A launch into the United States is also on the horizon.
Dr. Greenhill also wants to make the site’s matching capabilities more intricate, which Mukul Krishna, Frost & Sullivan’s digital media global director, says is necessary to keep customers coming back.
“Everything hinges on the analytics algorithm that you’re using,” Mr. Krishna said. “The most important thing that has emerged now is being able to create a very sticky and personalized experience.”
Every time a user logs on, clicks on a link or runs a profile search, the site needs to be able to interpret that interaction and customize the next experience Mr. Krishna added. It’s something Dr. Greenhill, who learned how to code in high school, knows is important.
“If you want to grow any online strategy and try to do it without analytics … You’ll be dead in the water,” he said. “It takes milliseconds for someone to get frustrated and move to another site.”
While Dr. Greenhill expects to raise somewhere between $500,000 to $750,000 in the imminent seed round, she would rather grow the company organically.
“I think every entrepreneur’s dream is to build a huge company without raising [funds]. While we’ve tried to bootstrap for the longest time possible, we’ve come to the realization that it’s time for us to add fuel to our engine.”
My Best Helper has already got some attention locally. It won the 2011 Vancouver Start-up Weekend competition and a cash prize of $35,000 for third place at BCIC-New Ventures Competition in 2012.
An iOS mobile app, with the help of Invoke Labs, should be ready this month. “Our strategy now is letting people know we are open for business,” Dr. Greenhill said.
Nanny matching company takes cue from world of online dating
(Vancouver Sun) As a physician, mother and entrepreneur, Alexandra Greenhill shares the pain of parents trying to juggle child care and other responsibilities at home with a hectic work schedule.
So she created a cure.
MyBestHelper is an online resource for parents, families, caregivers and child care providers that goes beyond traditional nanny matching services by offering both helpers and families the tools they need to customize their search — whether it’s for emergency babysitting, a full-time caregiver for grandma or someone to feed the cat or walk the dog.
It’s the eHarmony of home help.
“There are competitors everywhere,” Greenhill said. “Every day somebody starts a nanny agency because the need is still there, but the issue I saw was that every one of those looks at it from one perspective.
“And what this space really needs is somebody who will say one idea can’t solve this. It’s a complex space.”
And so instead of setting up an agency, recruiting workers and clients and offering up services in a single geographic area, Greenhill, a one-time computer coder, and fellow co-founders Rob Attwell and Francois Deschenes created an online platform to connect families and helpers — whether that’s babysitters, nannies, housekeepers, caregivers or other family help.
Let’s say you’ve used MyBestHelper to find full-time child care at home in Vancouver and you’d like to take the kids along on a business trip to Toronto — you can check profiles for the 387 helpers listed there to see if any would be available to babysit while you work.
The site includes Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto and has about 5,000 users, with two-thirds of those helpers and one-third families seeking help.
Like an online dating service, helpers post profiles and photos, but there the similarity ends. The profiles read more like a LinkedIn listing — an abbreviated resume listing skills, background, availability and other information, including whether or not they can provide a recent criminal record check. Helpers get an automatic email when a job listing is posted that fits their requirements. Their contact numbers and email addresses are only available to families that sign in to use the service. And families can message prospective job candidates through the site without giving their own contact information.
Helpers post profiles and answer job postings for free; families pay a flat rate of $99 a year, or $59 for a one-time three-month membership.
Statistically, MyBestHelper says families need a new helper 3.2 times a year.
Unlike most home help agencies, MyBestHelper also integrates social media with links to Facebook and other social networking sites.
Greenhill has been more fortunate than most moms in that she can adapt her work to her kids’ schedules: She has pitched investors with her baby sitting on her lap and attended conference sessions where fellow doctors minded the baby while she stepped out for a few minutes.
But as a physician who keeps up her clinical activity by serving as backup to doctors who can’t find replacements and is Chief Medical Officer of Medeo — the Vancouver-based company that offers virtual house calls through secure video feeds — Greenhill’s schedule is formidable. Her family, husband James and three daughters, aged 11, nine and three, are supportive of her start-up.
“The kids have been my greatest champions,” she said of her children, who critique MyBestHelp flyers for blogs and other sites. “Having that steady support from home is very, very important.”
The company got significant help when it was chosen by Vancouver’s Invoke Labs to join its tech accelerator program, a program perhaps best known for its first spinoff, HootSuite.
Greenhill’s company donates one per cent of its equity to Science World in the hope that what now represents a small donation could grow to millions if MyBestHelper achieves its goals.
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