Parenting is a full-time job. You practically need a personal assistant for all of the drop offs, pick ups, and errands in between. That’s where Zum comes in with a totally new kind of on-demand service that’s designed for the busy parents of busy kids.
Since getting her undergraduate degree in computer science and moving to the U.S., Ritu Narayan has worked at top Silicon Valley technology companies like Yahoo! and eBay, while also raising two young children.
When she went back to school full-time at Stanford Business School, Narayan had a startup idea prompted by the common plight of the working parent: Zum.
Zum is a rideshare startup that’s as far away from Uber and Lyft as you could possibly get. It’s basically a personal taxi for your kids with highly-trusted and reliable drivers.
Narayan is continually working to build trust with users so Zum can ease the stress of busy parents.
As busy as you are, your kids’ schedules are likely just as packed. With school, extra curricular activities, weekend events, and homework, it’s a wonder that you’re able to get them anywhere on time.
“I myself am a mother of two active kids [and I started thinking about] managing my life on a day-to-day basis,” Narayan said. “I’m very work driven.”
She, like many other working moms, was trying to balance the duties of work and parenting. But even with plenty of options to find babysitters, she was finding a gap in parenting services.
If her babysitter fell through, there was really nowhere to turn while also managing work obligations. If it meant finishing her work so she could later focus on quality time with family, Narayan realized that she’d be willing to pay for a service to help fill in the gaps of time when she needed to taxi her kids around.
When she spoke about the idea with her friends and other parents, she quickly found out she wasn’t the only one who’d be willing to pay for this kind of rideshare service. The result of her research and interviews is Zum.
With the Zum app (available on iOS and Android), parents can book a ride in advance, get matched to a Zumer, and then track, pay, and rate the driver. You can book daily or weekly rides and get set up with a familiar driver on a recurring basis.
As an added bonus, while your Zumer is waiting for your kid to finish their 45-minute soccer practice, they can even run small errands for you to make the best use of these little bits of time.
With headlines frequently bashing Uber, it may seem like rideshare services are leaps and bounds from gaining the trust of parents who need transportation for their children.
Narayan kept this in mind from the start and set out to create a rideshare service that’s everything the others aren’t with a priority placed on trust, continuity, reliability, and safety for kids.
But, she said, “Trust was the biggest focus.”
Zum drivers (a.k.a. Zumers) aren’t just pulled over somewhere waiting for a ride request. They also aren’t full-time rideshare drivers, splitting their time between Uber, Lyft, and the like. In fact, the recruiting and onboarding efforts are a big part of what sets Zum apart.
Zumers are professional childcare providers, teachers, caregivers, coaches, and people who generally work or have worked with kids at length. Rather than hiring drivers who are good with kids, they’re hiring childcare professionals who are good at driving.
Narayan explained, “Some of them would have never been drivers except for with a service like ours.”
“The qualification itself is much higher in terms of what we look for. They have to be at least 21 years old, [have] at least three years of driving experience … and [we do a] thorough background check with trustline certification.”
In addition to an official driving test, Narayan and her team perform a second one themselves plus a car test to see the skills of each driver first-hand. With the fleet of Zumers, Narayan said that she’s really looking to build a trustworthy community.
She understands that families deserve familiarity and consistency, so Zum also has a unique matching and optimization system where they provide a small pool of drivers per family. This ensures that the Zumer knows the family’s routine, and the kids are comfortable and happy to see them.
More Than Just Rideshare
Before starting Zum, Narayan actually went to after-school practices to ask parents directly what they would and wouldn’t like about the service. She said, “All of [our] decisions were very heavily based in the reactions we got in the field.”
For example, she quickly found that while she’d been focusing her user base on working parents, parents with multiple kids (regardless of whether they work outside the home or not) are prime customers for Zum as they have to manage multiple schedules every day.
As for the extra errands feature, she said, “Transportation was the first product we wanted to do, but at the same time … it doesn’t solve people’s problems completely because someone has to be at home.” That’s why she extended the services to include babysitting and errands as sort of a one-stop shop.
“It’s all about managing these small pockets of time.” For parents using the service, “there’s a real sense of urgency,” so every second counts, Narayan explained.
Since July 2015, Zum has provided over 30,000 rides safely, and families have come to depend on them daily. Right now, the service is available in the South Bay and Peninsula (south of San Francisco, CA). Zum is looking to soon extend to the entire Bay Area and beyond.
Imagine booking your kids’ ride from school and to their after-school practices and rehearsals every day for a whole year with trusted drivers. It could really free up your afternoons so you can dedicate your entire evenings to your family, resulting in more quality time together.
Zum single rides start at $16 and pooled rides at $8. Bulk rates are available for when parents book multiple rides in advance.
The rate for on-site childcare is $6 per 15 minutes. Parents pay for what they use, and there is no contract or subscription.
Parents have told Zum that they save over 30% by using Zum as compared to hiring a dedicated nanny.
Narayan’s team is a group of highly-talented professionals from Stanford, Harvard, and eBay. She said, “We are very scrappy, but at the same time, we’re very ambitious.”
They plan to expand to more cities in coming weeks to provide parents with full-fledged support for one of the hardest jobs out there. Above all, they are on a mission to be the most trustworthy partner of busy parents who feel the pressure to be in two or more places at once.
All images were provided by Zum.