With Heavy Hearts, Poppy is Discontinuing its Services

We have hard news to share today – Poppy will be discontinuing services as of December 4, 2018.

Since 2015, we’ve been passionately focused on creating a platform that could serve our mission of building the modern village. In many important ways, we were tremendously successful in bringing the original mission and intent to life. Turns out it IS possible to build a delightful, trustworthy, and convenient experience connecting caregivers and families. The challenge has been the underlying business model that would enable such a community of families and caregivers to grow at scale. While there are many important complexities, it really boils down to the core economics of what it costs to deliver this end-to-end experience.

This writing has been on the wall for some time – families have been pushing for lower-priced tiers, and caregivers are constantly moving on to pursue higher-paying opportunities. Despite that, Poppy has continued to experiment as much as possible to find a viable option for maintaining this model. However, after 3+ years of this dedicated experimentation, it is evident that the cost of creating this type of product is beyond what families are willing or able to pay.

We are deeply grateful for the opportunity we have had to serve your families and as you might imagine, this is a tremendously hard decision. We are doing everything we can to make the transition as smooth as possible (read more about transition details below).

We’re heartbroken that our journey ends here, but we’re committed to ensuring our incredible families and caregivers can connect so they can continue working together.

  • As we wind things down this week, we will connect you directly with Poppy caregivers who you’ve previously worked with.
  • We’ve also partnered with Sittercity to offer Poppy families and caregivers another option to go to if they wish. In getting to know Elizabeth, the CEO of Sittercity, and her team, we’ve found a similar passion for solving this problem using thoughtful technology. We’ll share more details on this by the end of this week. Update: UrbanSitter has also graciously reached out with a helpful offer to the Poppy community which we will also share at the end of the week to give families and caregivers the option to choose what works best for them.

I wish that Poppy could have been the solution we all dreamed it could and needed to be. But understanding that it can’t, we are sharing this hard news with you as candidly as we can, with as much help as we can provide.

Yours in community ❤️
Avni and the Poppy team

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Looking back, where we started
At the beginning of 2015, I had a problem I couldn’t get out of my mind. We had just welcomed our second daughter into our family but were still new to Seattle and, without family in town, I’d never felt more stressed and anxious about parenthood. And every other parent I talked to had a similar story. For me, it boiled down to not having this “village” that I felt I was promised before becoming a parent but was nowhere to be seen within the realities of modern parenthood.

The curiosity for why this was became so great that I felt compelled to see if it could be created by connecting the people in our communities to families using data and technology, in a trustworthy, affordable and convenient way. It was a tall order but it’s what I believe our families deserve. As I dug in, I found an equally painful experience for caregivers – difficulty connecting easily with trusted families, getting paid their worth and having the work be respected for the hard, skilled job it is. Quickly I saw a vision where we could build the platform that found the amazing people that had the talents and passion to provide childcare and that connected them simply and seamlessly to the families that needed care. Presto! Village.

Our evolution and challenges
Over the following 3+ years, we continued to grow by word of mouth with a product that we never stopped iterating on, experimenting our way around the many roadblocks. But even an incredible product without sustainable underlying business model and dynamics cannot survive.

Our business has a central tension: creating and upholding a high, consistent service level to families while enabling flexibility and choice for caregivers.

To have a turnkey, experience necessitates caregiver rates of at least $25/hr and if a service like Poppy is to make the margin it needs to operate, that would be mean $30/hr rates to parents. For a family under a strict budget, that means really that Poppy becomes only a backup service or a high-end agency. And that does not align with our goal of creating a service that is accessible to every family that needs their village.

It’s been incredible to look back upon what we’ve built – from having done over 36,000 bookings to serving over 5000 families to working with over 700 caregivers. We’ve built a truly “rave-worthy” service that families share readily with fellow parents as a “must-have” parenting resource. We’ve worked to create more transparency and dialogue around the critical and vital role of caregiving and what that work is worth.

In many important ways, we were tremendously successful in bringing the original mission and intent to life. Turns out it IS possible to build a delightful, trustworthy, convenient experience connecting caregivers to families.

What now:

Poppy’s booking platform will no longer be available as of Tuesday, December 4: No new bookings can be made and Poppy will not be able to support any existing bookings for future dates or facilitate any payments between families and caregivers.

  1.  If you have a caregiver booked through Poppy for an upcoming date: For any existing bookings for dates after Dec 3, if you would like to still work with that caregiver, you will need to connect with them directly to establish a direct relationship with them and to confirm details such as the dates, time and payment. Families with one or more existing booking for future dates will receive a text message reminding them of their confirmed caregiver’s mobile number for their next booking. If you would rather cancel any future bookings, please do so by tonight, December 3, at 6pm. For any other upcoming bookings, you can log into your account to get contact info until Friday, Dec 7, so that you can confirm the bookings directly with those caregivers who’ve already accepted. Important to note: you’ll also be paying caregivers directly at the end of any bookings after today.
  2. We are working to create lists of caregivers that you have previously worked with and that would like to have their information re-shared with you. We will be following up at the end of this week, reminding you of their names and contact info so that you can still work directly with them if you are interested in doing so.
  3. Monthly membership fees: if you have remaining unused days of paid membership, we will be processing prorated refunds this week; any unused portion as of Monday, December 3 will be refunded to your credit card on file.
  4. Records for taxes – in anticipation of any future tax filing, FSA or record keeping needs, we’ll make your Annual Summary statement available in your account until Jan 31, 2019.
  5. Partnering with Sittercity – As mentioned above, we wanted to offer parents access to an alternative service that we feel best serves our community going forward, so we’ve partnered with Sittercity. In getting to know Elizabeth, the CEO of Sittercity and her team, we’ve found a similar passion for solving this problem using thoughtful technology. Sittercity has also launched a similar on-demand babysitting in four markets and they are looking to expand it to Seattle next year. In the meantime, we believe they’re a great option for families to transition to their core service if they wish. We’ll follow up with more details at the end of the week. Update: UrbanSitter has also graciously reached out with a helpful offer to the Poppy community which we will also share at the end of the week to give families and caregivers the option to choose what works best for them.

Farewell for now.

Creating Poppy has been the most rewarding years of my life. But the great honor has been building the incredibly talented team that has brought this service to life every day, and to whom I owe my unending gratitude. From our Caregiver team who curated our vibrant community of talented caregivers to our Operations team that handled requests, questions and unexpected challenges with grace, empathy, and resourcefulness, to our Product and Engineering team that had the heart and mind to translate something so human into software that was simple, flexible and intuitive. Through it all, this team has dedicated their lives to this mission and idea that our families and caregiver communities deserve a better option, and I wanted to recognize their efforts.

I will be forever grateful that you gave us the chance to try and change a space deeply important to all of us. Thank you for letting us into your families and lives.