Women's Plaza troubles highlight obstacles facing childcare startups.
Founder Glaucia Martin-Porath says she has tabled the idea of opening Women's Plaza, a childcare-co-working space in Portland.
Martin-Porath had assembled a team comprised of child care experts and entrepreneurs — including Garden Bar cofounder Ana Chaud — but was unable to find a location that would accommodate a day care center and also fit strict state requirements for a child care facility.
Investor demand for a quick return was another problem, says Martin-Porath, who will be moving to San Diego.
“Some investors will give the money to co-working spaces that can scale quickly, and Women’s Plaza will never be the case because of the daycare component. That is why no one adds daycare to the picture.”
In the past few years co-working spaces catering to women and mothers have sprung up around the country, and a few are attracting angel investors and venture capital. But on site child care is practically unheard of.
The Riveter, a Seattle-based co-working startup targeting female entrepreneurs, features programming focused on women in business and and mothers’ rooms but does not include child care. Instead the Riveter has contracted with Poppy, an on-demand childcare service. Poppy is not a physical center but a platform that matches parents with vetted providers.
Poppy and the Riveter both landed money from investor groups, including Seattle's Madrona Venture Group.
A spokesperson for Madrona declined to comment.
WeWork, the national co-working outfit, surveyed members last year to improve amenities for mothers, and "is developing a set of standards for mother's rooms that we are implementing in all new U.S. locations this year and beyond," a spokesperson said.
In an emailed statement, Gina Phillips, general manager for WeWork Northwest, said the co-working service is "actively exploring" childcare options for employees. Williams did not mention childcare for members. (WeWork opened its third location in Portland last week.)
Nitin Rai, managing director of Elevate Capital, says angel investors are looking for growth returns associated with high tech ventures, and that co-working and childcare don't fit into that model. "They are more real estate deals that might [qualify] for bank loans," he says.
Rai is a former employee of Mentor Graphics, one of the first companies to develop an on site child care center.
"It's a big attractor," Rai says.
As the world of work continues to evolve, the need for child care has remained constant. Numerous studies show access to child care remains one of the biggest challenges facing working women.
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