Woman behind Care.com shares roots of her online empire

Chrisee Dela Paz
Woman behind Care.com shares roots of her online empire

Alecs Ongcal

Sheila Marcelo, founder and CEO of Care.com, created waves when her company raised millions of dollars in a Wall Street IPO. But to get there, she needed to hurdle several roadblocks.

MANILA, Philippines — Sheila Marcelo was only 29 years old when she found herself sandwiched between two responsibilities: child care and senior care.

Needing around-the-clock care for her two sons and an ailing father, the idea of an online marketplace for caregiving services was born.

“I had to find a solution. I was working with a technology company and I was using the yellow pages to look for care. So I knew that given my technology, law, and business backgrounds, I can use my experience to develop a concept like Care.com and help millions of families,” Marcelo, founder and CEO of Care.com, Incorporated, said in an interview with Rappler.

Roots of her million-dollar business

Marcelo came up with the idea for Care.com when her dad had a heart attack 9 years ago. Marcelo and her husband were working full time and raising two kids. She needed help to juggle the demands of her family and work, but there was no website to help her do that.

“I struggled through our (Marcelo and her husband’s) undergrad and grad schools and careers, really worrying about the care of our sons Ryan and Adam, so I asked my parents to come from the Philippines to take care of them. My father fell down the stairs and had a heart attack,” Marcelo recalled.

Armed with Harvard MBA and JD degrees, Marcelo, along with her co-founders, launched Care.com in 2006, an online marketplace for caregiving services, including childcare, pet care, elder care, and tutoring.

Listed on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), Care.com now has more than 17.8 million members across 16 countries. The company raised more than $100 million in funding before going public in 2014.

One at a time

Just like any other entrepreneur, Marcelo and her co-founders also faced initial challenges when they launched Care.com.

“We really had big vision. We wanted to launch numerous verticals in the very beginning. We had different price points for each vertical and realized we were making it way too complicated,” Marcelo said.

With people having a lot of demands – from day care to a weekend babysitter, Marcelo said it is easy to be overwhelmed with a myriad of business ideas.

But the key to setting up a business, according to Marcelo, is to solve one problem at a time.

“We had to simplify the services….The care vertical is such a massive opportunity. You have to solve one problem at a time,” Marcelo said.

Now that that there is an online marketplace for every kind of service people can think of – from buying clothes to hailing a cab – there are many startups looking for consumer attention.

“The secret is be unique and know your niche. You have to offer something your consumers can’t find in any other companies,” Marcelo said.

Hurdling all roadblocks, Marcelo said Care.com was able to raise $111 million before its debut on the NYSE. Bulk of the capital was used to acquire 4 firms, including German care matching service Besser Betreut, giving Care.com a foothold in Europe.

TEST AND ITERATE. Her advice to young Filipino entrepeneurs: Be comfortable with failure and do not be obsessed with perfection. Photo by Alecs Ongcal/Rappler

What the future holds

Moving forward, Marcelo said she is optimistic about the future of Care.com, envisioning it to be the leading global destination for care.

“It is a huge market opportunity. Today, we are targeting to service 42 million household in the US. And households of the US is only 5% of the opportunity, so we expect to build a global markeptlace to to serve billions of families,” the founder and CEO of Care.com said.

Care.com currently services Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States, among others.

Asked if the Philippines is a good market to enter into, Marcelo said: “The Philippines is a great market to enter into. It is a great source for caregivers.”

Hurdles: Bandwidth, credit card penetration

But for Marcelo, Internet bandwidth and credit card penetration continue to be challenges in the Philippines.

“Internet bandwidth continues to be a challenge, also limited credit card penetration. But I think that opportunity continues to increase. As I’ve noticed, increasing remittances from overseas Filipino workers…they use bank accounts and more and more are using ATMs. I think they will soon be comfortable to start using credit cards,” she said.

Amid these hurdles, Marcelo still thinks the Philippines is conducive for microentrepreneurs.

“Probably the classic example are the sari-sari store and jeepney owners. I think there is a natural entrepreneurs bend among Filipinos. I think change will be in the matter of introducing technology, ways to compete globally. To be competitive in the long term, you must invest in people,” Marcelo added.

Test and iterate 

Marcelo imbibed entrepreneurship at an early change. As a child who grew up in the Philippines, she watched her parents venture into several entrepreneurial endeavors – from a rice mill to chicken farms.

Her advice to young Filipino entrepeneurs: Be comfortable with failure and do not be obsessed with perfection.

“In entrepreneurship, you have to be innovative and address dirsuption. You have to test and iterate. Be comfortable with failure. Being an entrepreneur, you have to be comfortable with failure,” Marcelo said. – Rappler.com

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