As the new war over who you should trust to drive your kids heats up, one startup just made a key hire that could set it apart from the pack.
The Los Angeles-based HopSkipDrive plans to announce today that it’s hired Eyal Gutentag, Uber’s former general manager for LA.
Gutentag, a father of two, joins the startup cofounded by three mums.
“Eyal brings significant operational expertise, rideshare expertise, as well as experience at scale,” said Joanna MacFarland, HopSkipDrive’s cofounder and CEO. “He’s also a dad of two young kids so he fits well culturally and shares the importance and the priority that we place on safety.”
HopSkipDrive has a harder battle than Uber because of its focus on safety — you wouldn’t want just anyone with a car to drive your kids around.
Hiring drivers to keep up with demand takes longer since the company does a full background check including fingerprinting. All in, the process takes between two to three weeks for a driver (which the company calls “caregivers”) to sign up. In comparison, Uber drivers can be on the road in as little as three days, depending on their background check process.
Extra features are also baked into the app to help parents plan and keep their kid safe.
Parents can request that their driver sign the children out at school or walk them all the way to the baseball field, McFarland said by way of example. If the baseball coach isn’t there, the driver knows to wait — not just drop the kid off.
Her company’s support team watches each ride, and the parents can also monitor it on their app. And, unlike Uber, the drivers are allowed to drive with their own children in the car. McFarland sees this as a plus and a safety feature of its own: parents are likely to feel safer about the ride and the driver can be a working parent and not worry about their own childcare.
Wilson says the company’s mission is not to go after Uber, but provide a different service entirely.
“It’s really a different product altogether,” MacFarland says. “Because of the nature of a child being in a car and what they can or cannot understand, our drivers will park and go sign out a child out of school or walk a child get into a class. If they get to the baseball field and the coach isn’t there, they will wait because they’re caregivers and that’s what caregivers do.”
Still, HopSkipDrive faces an already crowded market when it comes to ride-sharing for kids. Its main competitor Shuddle has raised $12.2 million in two funding rounds. There’s also Kango, which organizes not only rides, but also childcare. Zum, another on-demand childcare in a car service, just launched last week.
To compete and scale beyond the tens of thousands of rides it has done, HopSkipDrive has some fresh funding to stick to its mission. The company plans to announce Tuesday an additional $10 million in funding, led by New York-based FirstMark Capital. The company has now raised $14.1 million since its launch less than a year ago.