Anita Gardyne, president and CEO of Oneva, is on a mission to bring quality family care to working families – San Francisco Business Times – The Business Journals

Daily news

The nature of work has been in a state of flux as innovation and changes to corporate and labor regulations culminated in the emergence of grind culture.
Idolization of go-getters like Mark Zuckerberg has led to an increase in entrepreneurship and burnout. Working over 40 hours a week may seem doable for the young, unmarried, childless and (often) male worker, but employment opportunities for those who care for children, family members and those with special needs grow slimmer.
Anita Gardyne is here to help restore balance.
Gregarious and hardworking, Gardyne enrolled at UC Berkeley at age 15, and after decades rising up the corporate ladder, she launched Oneva in 2014. Oneva connects certified independent caregivers to employees, providing in-home care services from babysitting to dog walking.
I caught up with Gardyne to discuss her company and desire to make the gig economy as we know it a thing of the past.
What is the meaning of the company name, Oneva? “Oneva” is a word we came up with that means “trust.” Originally we had the name Safety Sitters, but we quickly found that name to be limiting for the services we ultimately wanted to provide. Imagine going to my mother, 87 and blind, saying, “Hey, Mom, your Safety Sitter is on the way!” Are you kidding me [laughs]?
So we reimagined the name alongside our attorneys at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, honing in on the true ethical backbone of the company, which is trust between us, our clients and the caregivers on our platform.
You were the youngest of eight children, and are now a working parent that provided in-home care for your mother. How have these experiences inspired Oneva? I became a care provider to many in my family, including several nieces and nephews who are on the autism spectrum. I’ve never lived farther than 10 miles from the home I grew up in for that very reason. 
When I had my second child at age 41 and decided to reenter the workforce, my parents were getting older and needed more care. I needed to find a single place where all of these care needs could be met, but when I read the privacy statements of some providers, I learned they were little more than matching platforms like Tinder, which is kinda scary. There wasn’t much difference between these platforms and Craigslist — except Craigslist is actually free. 
I also saw the conditions in my native community of Richmond compared with the wealth creation happening in Silicon Valley and wondered why there were such disparities between the two. 
With Oneva, we’re able to help bridge that gap so the care providers on our platform can earn a living wage. There’s also an extensive application process that includes a background check. We think it’s important to know who’s in your home, and that those people comply with all the state laws to provide care to your loved ones. 
Has work-from-home had any effect on Oneva’s model? Absolutely, and in a good way. At this moment we’re seeing some things open up. Kids have returned to school, and we’ve seen an increase in hybrid work and its impact on families. We’re seeing large numbers of employers really increase their focus on care as an employee benefit, especially in the wake of the Great Resignation which has been driven by women. 
Due to virtual meetings, employers have gotten a very literal glimpse into their employees’ home life and have seen what working families struggle with in terms of providing care to those who live with them, especially those with special needs relatives. 
Before co-founding Oneva you had a career in the Bay Area corporate world, including a C-level position. Have you always wanted to be an entrepreneur? Absolutely. This is actually my third startup alongside my husband. He’s Oneva’s CTO and was officially hired about six months after I started the company. He actually used his own attorney to negotiate the deal! 
Unlike my husband who has spent most of his career in startups, I went the big company route because, to be frank, I wasn’t in a position to take big financial risks with my career due to the nature of my role as family care provider, and as an African American woman, there just wasn’t a conducive environment for someone like me to break into the startup world, despite my extensive education and engineering skills. But I’ve always wanted to do this. 
Right before the dot-com bubble popped we developed a company that was similar to an early version of CareerBuilder, but it wasn’t sustainable because we couldn’t figure out a way to make money by strictly catering to people who were jobless. There are definitely more opportunities for me as an entrepreneur now than in years past, which is a step in the right direction.
How did the collaboration with Microsoft to help build Oneva’s platform come about? The Rev. Jesse Jackson, actually. Back in 2014 I became aware of his engagement with Silicon Valley for more equitable access for people of color to start their own companies, so I found a number online, gave it a call, and six months later I actually got a call back!
We met with his team, discussed the product and business model, and the next thing we knew, my husband and I were in a room with the reverend and several other African American entrepreneurs, pitching our ideas to companies like Intel and Microsoft. I got a great response from Microsoft and they’ve collaborated with us in the most comprehensive and warm way. 
In the wake of George Floyd’s murder, I sent a letter to many of Microsoft’s executives and within weeks they responded by expanded their contributions to Black entrepreneurs and Black-owned suppliers. I have great respect for them, seeing as they could have just co-opted my idea for themselves.
Do caregivers set their own rate, or are prices standardized like conventional service apps (Uber, Doordash, etc.)? Each caregiver on our platform sets their own rate for their services, though we provide data for prevailing market rates for others with similar skill sets. We mark up that rate on our end for the service provided, and we may charge an employer for access to our platform, but every contract is different. 
The reason for this is so that the caregivers on our platform can make a living wage without having to work around the clock themselves. Between employer perk programs and FSAs, we’re always making sure quality care is financially accessible to those who need it.
Any plans to expand beyond the Bay Area? We’ve actually started expanding already. We’ve been collaborating with Tampere University in Finland on a pilot project of theirs, and domestically we’re working with federal agencies centered on the East Coast. We will be in three cities in 2022, and will continue to look at the West Coast for regional expansion.
When you’re blessed to work with a global company like Microsoft, the ability to scale quickly is much, much easier. 
Jeff Howe is a Walnut Creek-based freelance writer.
MEET YOUR MENTOR at the BIZWOMEN MENTORING MONDAY event. Join the San Francisco Business Times on February 28th for this one-of-a-kind event that brings together women with the opportunity to network.
Inno is bringing the Bay Area’s entrepreneurial community together for some healthy early-stage startup competition … bracket-style!
© 2022 American City Business Journals. All rights reserved. Use of and/or registration on any portion of this site constitutes acceptance of our User Agreement (updated January 1, 2021) and Privacy Policy and Cookie Statement (updated July 1, 2022). The material on this site may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, cached or otherwise used, except with the prior written permission of American City Business Journals.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.