Let’s be honest: Shuttling kids back and forth from school to sports or other activities and then back home again can often feel like a full-time job for parents in addition to their existing full-time job of just being parents.
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Founded with the intention of capitalizing on that need via its uber-like application for kids, Redwood City-based Zūm is now poised to further expand its services within an even broader market that it entered three years ago – school systems.
Investors are clearly vying for a seat on the bus. Zūm has raised a $40 million Series C, led by BMW i Ventures. Sequoia Capital, Spark Capital, Volvo Cars Tech Fund and others. The round brings Zūm’s total known funding to $67 million.
With the funding, the company plans to focus on school partnerships and move into other geographical areas outside of California with the hopes of doubling its footprint by 2020.
That’s serious cash fueled by bold plans for a company founded by a full-time working mom who struggled to find consistent, reliable transportation for her own kids.
Zum founder and CEO Ritu Narayan launched the company in 2015 specifically for parents making individual bookings for their children, but in 2016 the company started its school program which is now its business core.
“As I started talking to schools to promote to parents, I realized that schools had an even bigger issue,” Narayan told Crunchbase News.
School systems were stuck with a decades-old infrastructure and their own transportation systems were inflexible and behind technologically, Narayan said.
Zūm already operates in metropolitan areas that make up 80 percent of California’s population. The company has partnered with 150 school districts including more than 2,000 private, public, and charter schools, according to the company.
How It Works
Schools sign a contract with Zūm for one or multiple years to cover both daily transportation and ad hoc needs. Schools only pay for booked rides.
By partnering with Zūm, schools dealing with issues like bus driver shortages and inflexible routes can save up to 60 percent versus their traditional transportation systems, Narayan told Crunchbase News.
The money saved translates into more trips for students or other needs that enrich the school system’s offerings to children.
“Or they circle back this money for other programs like music programs, teacher trainings or extracurricular activities for the school themselves,” Narayan said.
As a result of its school-centered partnerships, more individual users are introduced to Zūm. The company’s bookings grew five times from 2017 to 2018, with the average Zūm user taking 80 rides per year. According to Narayan, 20 percent of those rides have included additional childcare services.
Zūm isn’t the only company in the “Uber for kids” space. Others include Kango and HopSkipDrive, which also operate in California. Shuddle, a company which was founded in 2014, closed its operations in April 2016. Its assets were acquired by HopSkipDrive which also partners with schools to provide alternative transportation arrangements.
With $40 million more funneled into the space, not only will parents continue to have tech tools handy to address their transportation challenges, but participating schools will have more options as well.
Illustration Credit: Li-Anne Dias