On Sunday we announced that Ada has led a £2m investment round in Bubble. Bubble is a childcare and babysitting marketplace on a mission to become the destination site for flexible, accessible and trusted childcare.
Part of our mission at Ada is to broaden access to and understanding of venture capital. As part of this, we wanted to share some thoughts on what Bubble is, why we invested and how it happened.
What was the process that led to investment?
Some investment processes happen quickly, some take a while longer. Our investment in Bubble is the result of over two years of discussions. We’ve been following Bubble’s progress since Ari Last (Bubble’s CEO and co-founder), was introduced to us by one of Ada’s scouts, Deborah Okenla (founder of YSYS) in early 2018. Ada’s scouts are a phenomenal group of people like Deborah who run communities of different kinds. They are incentivised through a cash payment and a longer term carry-linked payment and we are delighted that Deborah has chosen to invest that payment in Bubble alongside us - so she’s going to be an even bigger part of the Bubble journey. Deborah met Ari when she was working at Huckletree, the co-working space where Bubble is based. After Deborah introduced us to Ari we had coffee and started catching up regularly.
Around the same time, we also started getting rave reviews about Bubble from friends, friends of friends and even a few VCs. The users who relied on Bubble felt compelled to tell others about it. It was clear that the service was meaningfully impacting customers’ lives for the better. We were intrigued.
We were fundraising for Ada ourselves at the time and investing out of special purpose vehicles (effectively individual wrappers for each company with different investors), but frustratingly the timing and stage didn’t work on Bubble. We stayed close to Ari and watched him quietly and consistently execute. After we closed the fund in December, we knew that Bubble was a company we wanted to to work with and we’re delighted to be announcing our investment this week.
Why does Bubble fit the Ada Thesis and what got us excited?
- It’s an overlooked market. Childcare is an underserved and overlooked market. Parents are increasingly in need of childcare. As the world becomes more globally dispersed, families are living away from their parents and friends who might previously have provided childcare. One million more mothers are now working than 10 years ago in the UK and this is increasing, with 70% of mothers now working flexible hours and fathers too. A nanny is unaffordable for most people and others are working freelance or shift work and therefore need flexible (rather than 9:5) childcare. Millennial parents in particular are entirely accustomed to using their mobiles to book their every-day services quickly, securely and on the go. Who you let look after your kids undoubtedly involves greater consideration (and Bubble’s tech-powered security processes are industry leading) — but their expectations of quality and convenience are the same. Yet despite this demand, and the potential impact of the right solution, there are few viable options available to parents.
- The product economically empowers an overlooked segment of the population who may not have access to 9:5 work. Bubble’s two-sided marketplace platform not only gives parents their freedom and spontaneity back, it also enables the sitters to flexibly earn money doing something they enjoy. Some of these people are unable to commit to 9:5 jobs because of their own caring responsibilities, academic commitments or schedules. Bubble’s platform enables them to generate income whilst working towards their goals.
- Bubble is a technology business in a low tech sector. The team have built a sophisticated and scalable product, both externally facing and for their internal ops. In the customer facing product Bubble is continually building tech features. For example, their social graph enables parents to see if they have any mutual friends with the sitters they are considering booking. Bubble’s matching engine finds the best matches for each job based on sitter preference, location, availability, response rate, skills, reviews and social features. The internal ops product allows just three people to successfully handle 10,000 childcare requests a month, which will scale to hundreds of thousands by the end of 2020 and millions beyond that.
- Bubble is solving a globally important problem, changing people’s lives for the better. The way that families find accessible, trusted and affordable childcare is broken. In the UK alone, the childcare market is worth £11bn and is non-discretionary. Up to 30% of household income in the UK is spent on childcare, yet there are few technology products and services that help people find it. The current status quo for finding and booking childcare is largely informal (asking neighbours or friends if they know anyone), or through a limited range of non-mobile optimised desktop sites. Often parents can’t get childcare at short notice, or during the day-time and there are few ways to ensure that childcare professionals are trained and capable before booking them. Bubble changes all of that. Through the Bubble platform you can find, assess and book childcare at short notice. Close to 50% of bookings made on the platform are for daytime sits, and almost 50% are requests for childcare with less than next 48 hours’ notice. Bubble is a solution that can positively impact the lives of millions of people on both sides of the marketplace.
- Customers love the service. Bubble has over 100,000 registered users and one million hours of childcare requested, with 4.6 stars on Trustpilot. Features that users particularly like are the ability to search by DBS, see mutual friends with the sitter, book regular help, the insurance that comes with every sit and time it exactly and speak to other parents who’ve previously used that sitter.
This is what some of Bubble’s customers say about it:
“I would highly recommend Bubble. The service is so easy to use using the app. It is great to be able to see reviews from other parents and to be able to choose sitters that have DBS, first aid etc.”
“The sitters we have used have been wonderful with our kids. Communication has been so easy via the app and it has helped to put our mind at rest knowing that our children are happy and being well looked after. And the best bit is that it is a cashless service, so no last minute dash to the cash point or rummaging around for change needed! I have already recommended to friends.”
“As a freelancer, I absolutely love this app. It’s saved my life in last minute situations. Extensive information and background info on everyone listed. I’ve had such great sitters, some I use regularly but I’m always comfortable trying someone new too.”
Now that Bubble have closed their funding round they are looking to scale their reach and impact beyond London, Bristol, Manchester and Edinburgh. They are also going to be deepening the product and exploring new channels to market, including a B2B offering for companies to provide childcare support to staff.
As with any young company there are certainly big challenges ahead but we’re thrilled to be joining a fantastic group of investors in this company and helping propel Bubble onwards to the next stage of growth.