If you've silently wondered how exactly you acquired an education, developed an accomplished professional life, balanced a marriage, had great kids, and amassed the mental and emotional acuity to juggle all of the above, only to go on to become a beleaguered chauffeur, you're not alone. It's a common refrain from moms and dads everywhere. I can't believe this. I never planned to just drive around all day.
The cavalry (or fleet) is on the way. Four startups have ideas for you, all started by parents who decided there must be a better way.
The company came of a conversation you've likely had: Parents at a kids' birthday party talking about driving their kids around. They joked about hiring a bus and freeing themselves of days spent in the car. Founder and CEO Joanna McFarland started to really consider the idea, eventually forming the company alongside Head of Policy & People Carolyn Yashari Becher and Advisor Janelle McGlothlin. HopSkipDrive began testing with its very first ride in November 2014, then launched out of beta in March 2015.
The Los Angeles-headquartered ride service for kids, like its new local competitor Kango, is quick to rebuff the often used "Uber for kids" explanation of its function.
HopSkipDrive's three founders proudly label themselves "picky moms" for their safety standards. The certification process for new "CareDrivers" involves 15 requirements, including five years of childcare experience, a genuine love of kids verified through personal interviews, clearance through TrustLine (a stringent caregiver clearance system connected to the Department of Justice fingerprint database), a good driving record, being at least 23 years old, and having a car that is not more than 10 years old, among others.
The two-year-old company also notes that, unlike Uber or Lyft, they're not just fetching and delivering children. Their drivers will do things that a nanny would, like sign a kid in and out at school, or walk a child in a friend's house to ensure a parent is home. Those instructions are issued when customers book rides, pre-scheduled at least eight hours in advance.
Its app is integrated with ZenDrive, so that a parent can track a child's ride, watching a child in a car moving across a digital map in real time from inside HopSkipDrive's. ZenDrive's technology also flags HopSkipDrive management with any abrupt turns, unapproved route choices, and personal mobile phone use by the driver.
Now in Los Angeles, Orange County, and the San Francisco Bay Area, the average fare across all markets is $25. The minimum fare is $16 for a single family or $7 for carpool.
Next in the pipeline is expanding its partnerships with schools. The company just announced a strategic investment from Student Transportation Inc., a school transportation service provider and manager.
HopSkipDrive also secured a contract with the County of Los Angeles to transport foster kids to school, part of a federal mandate with practices aimed at increasing equity in education.
Also offering pre-scheduled rides for California kids, Kango was founded in San Francisco in fall 2015 by Sara Schaer and Kaliyuga Sivakumar, both Snapfish alums. This year the service expanded to Los Angeles, where it could cut in on the demand now supplied by HopSkipDrive.
If ever there was a market for parents needing transportation help, L.A. is it. The traffic-riddled city itself is 469 square miles, not counting outlying areas. The U.S. Census estimated the 2016 population at 3,976,322, with about one-fourth of that population under the age of 18.
In addition to rides, Kango offers standard child care. Sitter rates are per-hour, so far averaging $20 per hour for one child across both markets. Ride fares are based on time and distance with a minimum of $16. There is a $9 monthly membership fee.
The company hopes to set itself apart by offering rides to all ages, even infants, though it requests that kids under the age of two be accompanied by a parent or guardian. All drivers carry booster seats; advanced booking is required in order to get proper car seats for babies.
Kango also aggressively backgrounds its drivers and caregivers, including the use of TrustLine, but has an experience requirement of three years rather than five.
It too allows parents to track the ride in its own app.
In place of an interview for a new driver, Kango offers prospective clients the option of a free ride along to observe a driver in action.
With the Los Angeles Car Show underway and the North American International Auto Show in Detroit coming in January, Kango could get a public relations boost from new partner Chrysler. The originator of the mini-van, Chrysler recently began offering discounted leases on the well-reviewed Pacifica Hybrid to Kango drivers.
See Jane Go
At the border of both HopSkipDrive and Kango is See Jane Go. Originally offering on-demand and pre-scheduled ride-hail with background-checked female drivers to adult female passengers in Southern California's Orange County, the company will experiment with pre-scheduled rides for minors in its teen pilot program for ages 12 to 17. It made the change after receiving requests from clients.
The co-founders are father and daughter William and Savannah Jordan. The company grew out of an over-my-dead-body protective dad moment when Savannah talked about ride-hail driving for a part-time job while in college. The Jordans' area was home to some of the worst ride-hail horror stories. William didn't want his daughter anywhere near it, but the timing would increase demand for their new service. The company began a test launch in September 2016; that November an Uber driver was charged with sexually assaulting his passenger, an unconscious 17-year-old in tony Laguna Niguel, close to See Jane Go's Laguna Hills headquarters.
Safety concerns are kept in the public's mind by the unrelated site Who's Driving You?, an aggregated list of worrisome ride-hail incidents around the world funded by the taxi lobby. See Jane Go referenced the site in its launch materials.
The pricing for standard service--$2 booking fee, $1.10 per mile, 19 cents per minute, $7 minimum fare--will hold. In the pilot program, all the drivers and the passengers will still be female. Males are allowed to accompany female passengers.
The backgrounding process for new drivers, which does not include TrustLine, will not change for the time being. See Jane Go's spokesperson Debbie Moysychyn explained via email, "Because we are not shuttling small children, the need for fingerprinting is not as vital. However, safety is extremely [important] for all our riders. Therefore, we do background checks on every driver applicant, that includes the use of local [and] national criminal databases, as well, FBI, Interpol and similar sources."
It's kind of like Facebook for carpool: A platform on which acquaintances connect and view profiles. But you only add other parents, whose kids share destinations with yours.
Founder and CEO Stefanie Lemcke was moved to somehow improve upon the usual way of transporting kids when she moved to the United States 10 years ago from Germany. Then a media executive who at first lived in New York City and then Connecticut, she was confounded by how we otherwise forward-thinking Americans waste so many hours hauling our children around.
She leveraged her knowledge of digital products into GoKid to create a highly efficient carpool organizer, manageable via smartphone or desktop.
Unlike ride services, there is no cost to calculate. "We are 99 percent of the market," Lemcke said, referring to the many working parents who can't shuttle their kids around, but can't afford a driver or ride-hail service either. They're also too busy to network with other parents. That's where her app comes in. Parents can invite existing acquaintances into their carpool circles, or connect through schools.
Available in both iOS and Android, GoKid's original app is free. Premium features are being developed. Through the free version, one can track a ride in real time, optimize a route, and message other users.
Because there is no fleet to maintain and thus no patchwork of local transportation regulations to negotiate, GoKid is borderless. It is now in 25 countries and growing.