Every family knows the story: In the morning the kids need to get ready for kindergarten or school, have breakfast, prepare their lunchbox, make sure they have all necessary things packed for the day, etc. And while taking them to kindergarten or school, the rest of their day also needs to be already planned – all into details. Who will pick them up again and at what time? Are there any play dates in the afternoon? Do they have any appointments or practices? While all this is manageable with one child (you only have to remember everything once) having two or more kids, this time management can result in complex project management with different time sets and different groups of people involved. And beware of gaps in the calendar – be it only half an hour missing – this can result in total chaos. And the picture gets even bigger once the workplace gets affected. This is where DigiSitter steps in.
Katharina Schiederig is the founder of DigiSitter and she is working on a web app that helps working parents coordinate who takes care of the kids at what time. And not only that, the app also connects with family members and babysitters so if there is a timeslot left open, you can simply send an alert to all members and ask for their support. This way, you don’t spend a lot of time on the phone calling several people one by one but you notify them all at once and get faster feedback. Katharina describes her app as the “family fridge with lots of post-its”. And that is exactly what it is, just in a digital format. DigiSitter is currently in its prototyping phase and it is to launch this summer.
Tell us a little about the idea behind DigiSitter and how you came up with it?
Katharina: I am a working mom and therefore facing the same issues that millions of other women face when organizing their work and family schedules: Meticulous time management. Making sure that I have my calendar in sync with my husband and that our children are well taken care of at all times. And it is a lot of little things you have to keep in mind telling the people that will take care of your children, e.g. a new certain toy that always needs to be there or if one of the kids suddenly has an allergy. When my husband or I have work related travel coming up we sit together taking both our schedules and planning our kid’s days – calling our parents for support, arranging times with the babysitters. It’s a lot of coordination work that gets even more complicated if it’s on short notice.
Around that time – I was working as a consultant and I had a project with three big German corporations on how to implement more flexible work environments for managers. Within that project I was interviewing more than 800 managers and it became clear very quickly that they all were criticizing the same topics: missing communication and transparency within the teams and also the lack of programs within human resources. If families cannot organize their personal schedules properly it affects work – and therefore also colleagues. This is how DigiSitter basically began.
How did the idea turn into a real project?
Katharina: After working on that big project I knew this idea of mine had great potential. There were many people out there who would appreciate a tool to manage their family and working schedules easily and more efficiently. I just needed the right tool for it. I started to further develop my idea and during an event last summer where I had pitched my idea to an audience I met my partner Ashish. Since I have a strong analytical background but no tech-knowledge – and I knew it would be an IT-based tool – Ashish, being a designer and developer, was the right partner for me. We continued to develop the idea further together and we also went out there talking to people and companies about our idea. This is how we actually started moving forward. But we are still in a very early stage currently developing our prototype and looking for companies to pilot this prototype with.
Was there a first highlight in the past six months you remember?
Katharina: A first highlight for me was a positive feedback from “Erfolgsfaktor Familie”, which is the central organization for reconcilability of work and family in Germany. They really liked the idea of DigiSitter and for me that was like an accolade from a public organization, a real legitimization, and it gave me the right push to pursue this idea of mine.
And was there a moment where you thought: This all does not make sense? I am going to quit?
Katharina: There was one moment that really set me back. Of course, when you start out, the biggest issue is always money. Same in our case. I was very lucky to find a partner in Ashish who believes in this idea as much as I do – otherwise I would not have been able to start this at all. But when we pitched for the “Berlin Startup Stipendium” for funding and did not make it, I was devastated. But when you fall off the horse, get back up and continue. And that’s what we did. We continued.
Let’s take a look at time management on your side. How do you manage your time these days with work, family and a start-up? Is this manageable at all?
Katharina: The first few months after starting out with DigiSitter I was working both as a consultant and on my project – and I had my family, of course, to take care of. As DigiSitter got more and more time consuming I realized, I had to make a decision. I could not do it all. And since I wanted to really push DigiSitter and see how far I could go I decided to take a leap and give it all. As of the beginning of February I have no regular paying job but I am a full-time entrepreneur. When it comes to my time management, it is basically the same to what it was when I was working as an employee. But I can now use myself and my life as case material for my app.
How difficult was the decision to leave your job and go full-time founder?
Katharina: I had been thinking about it for some time as I knew DigiSitter could only work if I poured my entire heart – and time – into it. So, the step was inevitable if I wanted to seriously pursue this idea. But after working for the same employer for five years it was difficult. I really liked my work but it had to be done, so I did it.
How did your family and friends like your idea of DigiSitter and how did they react when you told them you would quit your job and do it full-time?
Katharina: Their feedback has been positive all the way. First, when I told them about my idea their reaction was very positive and very motivating. A lot of people told me, this was exactly what they need and would actually use. And I even remember one of my aunts asking me “Why didn’t we have something like this 20 years ago? It would have made raising children so much easier.” And since I had been talking to my family and closest friends about leaving my job and working on DigiSitter full-time for quite some time, everyone supported me and told me to do it. There was nobody who tried to convince me otherwise. I have their full backup!
How did you come about the name DigiSitter?
Katharina: That was a very pragmatic business. I was looking for a word that would describe the actual idea behind it – a digital solution for childcare assistance or babysitting support. And while I was browsing for domain names – I found DigiSitter and I liked it. As I said, very pragmatic.
Are you very pragmatic? Or how would you describe yourself in three words?
Katharina: I am a very enthusiastic person. At the same time I am a very analytical person and a very strong communicator. Most of all, and this is the motor behind everything I do, I am a fighter for female empowerment.
How does this show?
Katharina: When you look at DigiSitter, the first thing you probably see is a digital tool that helps families organize their daily lives. But it is so much more than that. Nowadays, it is still mostly women who have to leave work when kindergarten calls that their child is sick. And especially while children are very little it can cause a lot of missing work time. It hinders women from having a successful career if their family life is not organized well. And this is what DigiSitter is actually meant for: It shall make daily life easier for women so they don’t have to choose between career or family but can have both. This app is designed for companies who want to focus on better reconciliation of family and working life of their (female) employees. Companies who are willing to use our tool automatically set the right signal that they are family friendly and they do care about the careers of their female employees.
What are the next steps for DigiSitter?
Katharina: We are currently working on our prototype and looking for partners we can pilot this prototype with. Meaning a company whose employees use our prototype for their time management. This is our goal for the next six months.
And where do you see DigiSitter in three years?
Katharina: I want to promote gender equality with DigiSitter. And in three year DigiSitter will already have had a major part in shaping German companies towards gender equality and given more and more women the opportunity to focus on their careers rather than spending hours and hours making phone calls to find babysitters for their children. DigiSitter will have already had a great impact on their lives making daily time management a lot easier and efficient. And it will also have given companies a gender friendlier image in general as they are willing to support women where they need it.
Do you have a tip for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Katharina: Just dare something. It is the best learning you could ever have to start your own company. It’s incredible. So just do it!
The interview was conducted and written by Christina Richter from FIELFALT, the community and blogazine for female empowerment. FIELFALT wants to encourage women to leave their comfort zones to dare something and to achieve their goals and realize their dreams.