Roughly half a million school buses transport more than 25 million students to and from school each day in the US, where the majority of buses are still state-owned and operated. The cost of transportation has increased rapidly over years, and this results in a public expense of close to $25 billion per year. As the cost of providing bus service increases, this challenges public entities’ ability to invest in updating and upgrading bus fleets. Only 3 states across the country have fully funded their public school transportation budgets. It is estimated that there are about 250,000 school buses still on the road manufactured prior to stringent emissions regulations took effect in 2007. Additionally, there is a significant bus driver shortage, as bus drivers holding commercial driver license can easily find better paying jobs. According to a recent survey by School Bus Fleet, 25% of respondents indicated a severe or desperate shortage while only 5% reported having no shortage of bus drivers.
While researching startups that could shape the future of mobility, we met Zūm. Zūm has built an innovative solution to save schools money and simultaneously improve parents’ quality of life. Zūm provides an asset-light, technology-driven and end-to-end on-demand mobility service for kids. The company offers 4 apps (driver, parent, kids, school) along with a school dashboard, carpool page and live support. Additionally, Zūm happens to have a high representation of women throughout all ranks, from senior management to its drivers.
Zūm developed advanced routing algorithms and machine learning models to automate efficient route creations and match drivers with rides. The rides are provided by a highly vetted group of mostly female drivers. As safety is a top priority, drivers go through a variety of fingerprinting and background checks, incl. DMV, national-level FBI, Trustline certification, and 22-point vehicle inspection.
By helping schools achieve substantial savings in their transportation budgets and creating flexibility for parents, Zūm has experienced a phenomenal traction and has grown very rapidly into several regions over the span of the last few years . Zūm’s unique business model and strong B2B focus help generate foreseeable and sticky revenue streams; while predictable ride schedules and above-market pay allow attracting a unique pool of drivers along with high retention rates.
What is even more impressive than the amazing traction is the Zūm team. Zūm’s founder & CEO Ritu Narayan has experienced the challenges of being a working mother, where she had to plan her daughter’s commute to school. Over time, Zūm has successfully attracted key senior talent, such as Mike Brown (former Regional GM of South East Asia, at Uber) and Manik Dhar (previously Head of Sales of Americas at Google Maps), Roie Chizik (former VP of Finance at Amazon).
We are thrilled to be partnering with Zūm and leading their $40M Series C round, along with prior investors Sequoia and Spark, as well as new investors NGP, Draper Nexus, Clearvision, and Volvo!