The Fund Founder Spotlight Interview: Charles Bonello of Vivvi
The Fund is a founder community and early stage fund, by founders for founders.
Welcome to The Founder Spotlight where we highlight the incredible people behind the companies we’ve backed at The Fund. This week the spotlight is on Charles Bonello, co-founder and CEO of Vivvi. They’re reinventing child care and early learning for today's families.
Childcare is an endemic problem all over the United States. More than half of Americans are living in a childcare desert, which is identified as an area where there are more than three children for every licensed child care slot. Vivvi is at the front and center reinventing child care and early learning for today’s families. Vivvi partners with employers of all sizes to make child care more accessible and affordable. CEO and co-founder Charles Bonello teamed up with co-founder Ben Newton – who has an extensive background in education and learning – to tackle the child care issue together. Before founding Vivvi, Charles co-founded Grand Central Tech, which grew to have around 1,000 people from over 100 companies under their purview. It was there he saw firsthand the impact of child care on working families and their employers.
Vivvi is coming off a $15 million Series B raise as they plan to build more schools, launch their multi-channel platform, and make new hires. Charles is not just the CEO, but also the very proud “First Dad” of Vivvi. He has a two-year-old who has been going there since she was three months old and he just had twins 6 months ago. The company was named after Charles’ niece Vivvi, but also pays homage to the latin word vivi meaning “alive” or “to live” – an apt description for a future where working parents and their families can actually thrive.
What’s Vivvi’s mission?
At the heart of our company is a really simple mission to make exceptional care and learning accessible and affordable to working families. We do this by partnering with their employers to provide child care as a benefit in a very flexible way, so we can serve families and employers at the right place, right time, right cost, and the highest quality. It started with our beautiful campuses, with extended hours and experienced teachers who are all full time employees, with salaries, benefits and even equity in the company. But as we look to fulfill our long-term mission of meeting families where they are, we have expanded into in-home care, back-up care, care reimbursements and even virtual tutoring so we can address the full spectrum of care that working parents so desperately need.
How does Vivvi inspire “customer love”?
Child care is such an intimate and personal decision, and it’s one of the biggest pain points for working families today. Our goal is to provide flexible, affordable and accessible options so that we can truly meet parents where they are. As the workplace continues to evolve, Vivvi’s multi-channel approach allows our customers to access care in whatever way works best for them, empowering them to bring their best self to work because they have the support they need at home.
Our beautiful campuses offer flexible enrollment and extended hours so that working parents can coordinate consistent, dependable care with their ever-changing schedules.
Our in-home program brings Vivvi’s proprietary curriculum right into families' homes in select cities around the country.
Our virtual tutoring platform was designed to support school-aged children so that employers can serve parents across the full spectrum of their parenting journey. From an equity perspective, we feel that's so important.
Our national back-up care network caters to parents living in geographically underserved areas through partnerships with over 2,000 high-quality early learning centers across the country.
We recently launched Cash Care to equitably support the cost of child care with direct financial subsidies. This product allows us to value the trusted village that nearly 50% of working parents rely on but are typically unpaid: grandparents, neighbors and friends. Care Cash empowers employers to support the millions of families most at risk of leaving the workforce due to child care gaps.
What do you consider some of your greatest personal/professional accomplishments?
Our work throughout the pandemic battle-tested us as a team, but it also reaffirmed the importance of our mission on a human level, while driving our growth and transformation in ways we probably never initially imagined. I’m really proud of the decisions we made to support our employees and our customers during that challenging time, in particular:
1.) Keeping all of our teachers on board. We invested so much in them, and in turn, they supported us throughout the pandemic, and most have remained with us as we continue to grow. By paying them above-average salaries and offering them equity in our company, we’ve become a sought-after place to work, and in turn, created consistency and engendered loyalty from our families.
2.) Showing up and serving. When other child care facilities shut their doors, we were able to continue providing care, which was critical for essential workers during the pandemic. We saved more than 16,000 shifts for New York Presbyterian’s nurses, doctors and techs during the throes of the COVID crisis. What those first responders did was nothing short of heroism, and I’m grateful we were able to facilitate their great work.
How do you see the vision of child care changing in the future?
Employee-sponsored child care has become an increasingly necessary benefit for companies that want to create a parent-inclusive environment, and yet currently, only 4-6 percent of U.S. companies offer it. When companies provide affordable, accessible child care to their employees, women – and other vulnerable populations – are less likely to leave the workforce and more inclined to pursue career growth opportunities, creating a more inclusive future of work. It’s my hope that we’re helping rewrite the employee/employer contract so that we can create generational change for working families.
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