Sheila Marcelo
Miranda Dobson

Member Article

Bdaily talks to Care.com founder Sheila Marcelo

It’s technology week on Bdaily. We spoke to Sheila Lirio Marcelo, founder and chief executive of care-finder website, care.com. The website, which was set up in 2006, is an American service that helps users find carers for children, elderly relatives, people with special needs and even pets. We quizzed Sheila about her own experiences and how the UK technology compares to its international competitors.

Please describe your role and expertise?

My role as Founder & CEO of Care.com has really evolved as Care.com has grown. Today, I often refer to myself as the Chief Salesperson because so much of my time is spent talking about the company to investors, prospective partners, the media, and at speaking engagements. I am actively involved in all aspects of our business and all major decisions and initiatives but as we’ve grown, our extraordinary management has really stepped up to manage the day-to-day operations so that I can focus more on our next phases of growth, including global expansion and M&A.

Where do you think the UK sits in the Technology sector and how does it compare with international rivals in this field?

You need only look at the response to initiatives like Silicon Valley Comes to the UK, an entrepreneurial conference held in November 2012, to know that the UK entrepreneur ecosystem is strong, not just in the number of tech start-ups but in the scope of services they provide. Among those that come to mind are Duofertility, a medtech; Wonga, a financial/loan service; Adzuna and Eternships, in the employment space; and Dressipi, in the fashion/style space.

What does the UK need to think about in order to remove obstacles for Technology start-ups?

First, insure that the infrastructure is there to support entrepreneurs. New laws like the Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme go a long way in doing that. Second, embrace failure…a failed start-up in the past shouldn’t determine an entrepreneur’s worth in the future. And finally, creating programs that bring entrepreneurs together with experts in other disciplines like technology, marketing and finance helps with multi-discipline idea development. Programs like Idea Transform at the Centre for Entrepreneurial Learning or the Bioscience Enterprise program at the University of Cambridge bring together teams of people from across disciplines to take innovative ideas and turn them into sustainable businesses.

How is a business that operates purely online different from a traditional business that sells a tangible product? And how do you think this changes your perception of your business as a founder and chief executive?

In terms of how the consumer interacts with a brand, I think the line between brick & mortar business and online businesses has significantly blurred as technology has become such a prevalent part of everyday life. In fact, the challenge faced by so many traditional companies is how they compete in an increasingly online and mobile world.

There are also operational advantages to running an online business versus a business with a physical plant or store…technology has become much less expensive so building the actual infrastructure is less expensive as compared to real estate, inventory, warehouses, etc. In my view, as an online business we also have the agility to respond more quickly to the changing marketplace and/or expand our business than if we were a traditional company. With our platform in place, we can add new services and countries very rapidly.

How do you develop your ideas into businesses and what advice would you give to entrepreneurs hoping to set up in ecommerce?

We started with a pretty ambitious vision to be the Amazon of care for families around the world. We knew that wouldn’t happen overnight and we knew there would be necessary building blocks along the way. But from day one, we had a long-term vision and a strategy for how we planned to get there. That vision—that Care.com could and would scale – was critically important to investors, as was the strategy for delivering on that promise.

But before we even began to talk to investors, we started by testing our hypothesis about the consumer demand and the current marketplace, gathering real-world data to see if it held true. You need to test demand for your product or service in different markets. With that data, you’ll be able to determine if your concept is on target or needs adjusting…either way, it will insure that you stay consumer-centric and consumer-driven. And if the results aren’t what you expected, test and iterate.

That’s a huge part of being an entrepreneur…learning and evolving, taking calculated risks, and pivoting when the data shows you have to. There’s also some patience involved. Sometimes, an idea is a few months or years ahead of consumer demand. That’s OK. If you know your market and you stay attuned to it, you’ll get there.

Check out the other technology week articles, including: Bdaily talks IT technology; the UK tech sector: a health check; and the web-developers perspective; Bdaily talks to Care.com.

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Miranda Dobson .

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