Announcing Otter's Series A

Otter news

We’re thrilled to announce that Otter has just raised a $23M Series A fundraising round led by Sequoia Capital, with participation from seed investors Andreessen Horowitz and Abstract Ventures, new investor Thrive Capital, and numerous other investors and operators. We are thrilled to have the financial support of some of the world’s leading investors, and we are even more excited that they share Otter’s mission to reinvent childcare in America. Otter is actively hiring for roles in engineering, data science, product, marketplace operations, customer support, and more. If our story and our mission speaks to you, get in touch.

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Otter was born out of my experience, which is the experience of too many parents across America. Last March, when our kids' daycare shut down and my business was upended by the pandemic, I became a stay-at-home parent to my toddler twins. This was the fourth care solution their dad Sam and I had used since our kids were born in late 2018: before that, he’d been a stay-at-home dad for nine months, we'd sent our kids to daycare for six months, and we'd relied on my mom to fill childcare gaps. I thought my stint as a stay-at-home parent would be relatively brief, but a different reality set in when I had to turn down a job in late May because we didn't have access to reliable childcare.

Pandemic or not, this is not a new story. In fact, it’s eerily similar to the story of the choices my mom had to make when she was raising me. And among today’s parents, I was far from alone. Nobody feels like they are doing childcare right. Parents who work outside the home feel apprehension, and sometimes even guilt, about leaving their children with others. Parents who choose to stay home often feel underappreciated and undervalued despite the meaningful and hard work they do for their families. Other parents are pushed to stay home against their will because childcare is too expensive or too hard to find. As if that wasn’t enough, society puts parents on separate teams—stay at home parents versus working parents—when all parents just want what’s best for their kids.

I believed there had to be a better way. Starting in August 2020, I began to facilitate childcare swaps so parents could access childcare during the pandemic. A few weeks in, I noticed that the swaps where a stay-at-home parent was a caregiver were the most successful matches. But there was a problem: while the stay-at-home parents were providing excellent and abundant care, they weren't receiving nearly as much care as they provided, and they weren’t being financially compensated for their additional work.

This didn’t feel right to me, and the parents seeking care agreed. They saw the value of the care they were receiving and they were willing to pay for it! When I shared this with the stay-at-home parents, several questioned whether their care work was worth paying for. So I found myself asserting what would become one of Otter’s core values: no matter the context, care work is real work.

From there, Otter began--and began to really work. In just two cities over the last 6 months, we have helped more than 3,500 families who need it find childcare. At the same time, we’ve helped more than 3,500 stay-at-home parents provide care and earn more than $20 million dollars collectively. It’s clear the model resonates. With Otter, families open their homes to other families to create a safe, nurturing, and supportive environment for kids to learn and grow.  Stay-at-home parents provide care to others and are finally compensated for their work. Parents who work outside the home can find care they can rely on. We’re building childcare that feels like family.

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Growing up, I watched my mom struggle to balance motherhood and work, but I bought into the promise that it wouldn’t be so hard by the time I became a mom myself. In some ways, that promise has come true for me: Sam shares and has many times shouldered caregiving responsibilities. In other ways, I've found myself disillusioned: I've been pushed out of the workforce, I've worried about being hit with the motherhood penalty, and I've watched a generation of moms who work inside and outside the home be sidelined.

And yet, I believe there has to be a better way, one that works for families. Last fall, I spoke to an Otter caregiver who talked about how thrilled she was to get to do what she loves with the people she loves. And I echo this: I feel so lucky to get to do what I love with people I admire, including our investors and the early team members who’ve already rolled up their sleeves in service of our mission.

I’m thrilled to welcome Jess Lee from Sequoia to our board and to partner with Alfred Lin on this journey. Jess is an incredible product leader who buys into our vision for childcare and Alfred's expertise on marketplaces is unmatched. On a personal note, I feel so lucky to partner with Jess, whose work on behalf of women founders opened many of the doors I’ve had the privilege of walking through. And I’m honored to work with our COO/CLO Steve Siger, who was previously general counsel at Thumbtack, with our Head of Trust and Safety Dave Willner, who was a founding member of Airbnb’s Trust team, and with our Chief of Staff Tookie Graham, who has crafted people-first solutions to complex operational problems in companies spanning gaming, agriculture, and genetics.

To build childcare that feels like family for families everywhere, we need a team with all kinds of different perspectives, experiences and backgrounds. Check out our open roles here and come join us.