One of the worst nightmares for a parent is having to rush out of an important work meeting to pick up your children after school. In a world dominated by Uber, Lyft and a myriad of other transportation startups geared toward adults, kids needed a ridehailing app of their own.
Zum, which offers an on-demand ridehailing service for children and families, has announced a $40 million Series C round led by BMW i Ventures, with participation from existing backers Spark Capital and Sequoia and new investors NGP Capital, Volvo Cars Tech Fund, Draper Nexus and Clearvision. Based in Redwood City, CA, the company's services are currently available in the Bay Area, Los Angeles, Orange County and San Diego, with looming plans to launch in Dallas and Chicago.
In addition to individual customers, Zum has partnerships with more than 2,000 different schools, a network the company claims includes 80% of California's student population, offering transportation to and from school, field trips and after-school activities. The company was co-founded by current CEO Ritu Narayan and her brothers, Abhishek Garg and Vivek Garg, after Narayan realized the need for a child transportation service based on the idea that "parents should never have to make the choice between advancing their careers or taking care of their children," as she wrote in a blog post announcing the new round.
Zum has now raised close to $70 million in total VC funding, including a $19 million Series B last year led by Spark Capital at a valuation of $85.5 million. In 2017, Sequoia partner Bryan Schreier led a Series A investment in the company at a $15.5 million valuation. The company has recently made two notable additions to its leadership team, bringing on former Uber executive Michael Brown as senior VP of operations last November and hiring Roie Chizik, a former VP of finance at Disney, as CFO last May.
Ridehailing giants Uber and Lyft restrict minors from using their services without the presence of an adult, probably to avoid the safety and liability issues that might come with transporting kids. Perhaps the closest they come to kid-friendliness is offering car seats in a few cities, at a surcharge.
So it makes sense that Zum isn't the only startup trying to fill the void. HopSkipDrive, another operator of a ridehailing app for kids based in California, raised $7.4 million at a $37 million valuation in 2017. In the Bay Area, Kango is the developer of a social parenting app that schedules rides and other childcare services. The potential concerns, though, are real: Boston-based Sheprd, which operated a fleet of SUVs for transporting students and their families, shut down in October due to the combination of a lack of funding and concerns of Massachusetts regulators.
Related read: The top 9 VC investors in ridehailing companies