How to Turn an Age-Old Need Into a Business for the Digital Age

Startup Central
Zipsit founders standing in front of a sign.

With ZipSit, Peter Helms ’97 (B.S. in regional development) and Josh Benveniste ’95 (B.A. in economics) transformed an idea into an app that’s changing babysitting.

Peter Helms ’97 saw the future for parents and sitters.

From personal experience, he realized there was a real need for a more efficient, streamlined way to connect babysitters and parents — and the opportunity for technology to make that vision a reality.

ZipSit was born. The app’s co-founders, Helms and Josh Benveniste ‘95, share questions to ask yourself when turning an idea into a business.

Is Your Business Idea Unique?

ZipSit first found legs after Helms had a bad experience trying to find a sitter. Knowing that many industries were utilizing technology to improve processes, he felt that an app would be able to improve the sitting process, too.

Helms reached out to Benveniste, a fellow Eller MBA graduate who had a technology background. After researching the market, they discovered there were no ideal solutions that could help parents and sitters connect, so they set about to create an app that would allow parents to find, book and pay for trusted sitters directly.

ZipSit handles the entire sitting process, from finding a trusted sitter, to scheduling a sitter, to paying for your sitter. “The ZipSit app is essentially a real-time marketplace for babysitting,” Benveniste says. “Technology is used to vet and rate sitters; it aids in connecting parents to quality sitters near them (and vice versa) and provides timing and secure transaction through the app.”

One of the key differentiators between ZipSit and other babysitting apps is that with ZipSit, parents are able to name their hourly rate, and it goes out to their favorite sitters. The first sitter to accept the sit gets it.

“The uniqueness of ZipSit lies in the fact that it makes the process easy for both sitters and parents,” Benveniste explains. “This allows parents to pay what they are comfortable in paying, and allows sitters to pick and choose as to what fits their schedule and desired pay.”

The biggest piece of advice Benveniste would like to share with would-be entrepreneurs? Don’t lose sight of some of the simple things.

Are You Willing to Face Potential Failure?

Both Helms and Benveniste earned their MBAs remotely while living in California’s Bay Area — Helms while working full-time at Merrill Lynch and Benveniste while working at startups in networking and telecom.

“The university’s remote program was unique and cutting edge,” Helms says. “Getting my MBA from the University of Arizona helped me create my entrepreneurial mindset and set me up for success as an entrepreneur.”

Halfway through Beneviste’s time in the MBA program, the tech industry imploded. “After my MBA, I definitely felt like I had the knowledge to start my own company, so I decided to give it a go. I decided to invest in a bankrupt road-building technology that hadn’t been used in 10 years and try to rebrand it and market it globally. Soon after, we won a contract to rebuild the Afghanistan Highway and I was off to the races being an entrepreneur. I soon found out how competitive, political and challenging the global road-building business is, and I decided to try my hand at some other endeavors.”

Over the last 15-plus years, Benveniste tried his hand at numerous things. “Some successful — and many not — but I still lean on my experiences from [Arizona], both undergraduate and my MBA, in my quest for success.”

Are You Overthinking It?

The biggest piece of advice Benveniste would like to share with would-be entrepreneurs? Don’t lose sight of some of the simple things.

“Business and data have evolved exponentially over the last 20 years, and it’s easy to get caught up in minutia of metrics and other data points pretty quickly. But as an entrepreneur, you can’t lose sight of some of the simple things,” he says.

The simple things, according to Benveniste, include:

  • Don’t forget about the true needs of your customer, and always making them happy — it is actually easier than you think.
  • Don’t lose sight of what got you to this point — you will have to take lots of chances along the way, always be flexible and confident and open to advice, there are many different paths that can lead to success.
  • Never forget to celebrate all of your victories — big, or small, along the way.
  • Don’t be afraid of the defeats you encounter — embrace them, understand them, learn from them, as you will be able to use what you learned from each of them and turn them into success in the future.

Learn more from the successes of University of Arizona alumni on the Bear Down Network, where you can connect with fellow alumni and access resources and mentorship opportunities to advance your career.