In 2010, research from the CDC showed there were nearly four million births per year in the United States. That equals close to approximately 11,000 babies born every day in just one country. With each new bundle of joy being welcomed into the world, there comes extreme happiness and a huge amount of responsibility.
From birth to Kindergarten, parents are working around the clock to ensure their child is safe, well provided for and overall happy. All of these things are not easy tasks and quite frankly can be exhausting.
One of the more onerous tasks, outside of diaper duty, is driving offspring to and from daycare, pre-school and grandparents’ houses. This often requires parents to leave their job early where they may miss out on an important meeting. Before Kindergarten arrives with school buses taking care of most of these trips, parents are relied on heavily to chauffeur children. Kango is looking to take a load off parents’ backs by offering on-demand rides by vetted individuals for kids under the age of five. We sat down with Kango’s founder and CEO, Sara Schaer, to learn more about how the company was started and the value its service adds to working parents’ lives.
PYMNTS: In your own words, what is your company about?
SS: Kango is a mobile service that provides safe Rides and Care for kids of any age – from preschool to high school. I am passionate about solving the problem of safe transportation and childcare for kids – so that so that parents and kids can pursue their dreams without sacrificing each other.
Too many parents – mothers especially – end up quitting their jobs or scaling back their careers because they can’t make it work. It’s a challenge that I personally struggled with earlier on in my career, as I was working at another startup when I became a parent. I tried every possible schedule permutation. With Kango’s Rides and Care for Kids service, I want to help end that struggle for as many families as possible. It’s one reason why Kango – unlike any other service – provides safe rides and childcare for kids of any age, even if they need a car seat or booster seat – and even preschoolers. The challenge doesn’t start when kids reach the age of 9 or 10. It’s as soon as you become a parent and your child needs to go places outside the home.
Every day we hear from parents who describe what the Kango service has enabled them to do – a single mom whose daughter who can continue with gymnastics despite her mom’s work schedule, a parent who can go back to school to get a degree, a child who can continue to attend the same school despite parents being separated, kids who can start a sport they couldn’t get to before. It’s truly a game changer for today’s modern family.
PYMNTS: What’s the story behind how Kango started?
SS: As a working parent, I had struggled with getting my 2 children (now ages 12 and 14) where they needed to go, during the work day when I was at the office, or on business trips. I realized that smartphones helped immensely with juggling work on the go – but that was just voice, data or text. Kids required actual people – caregivers and drivers that could be trusted. If it wasn’t a parent or family member, who could that be?
I left my job at Snapfish.com
and decided to focus on finding a solution to this problem. My former co-worker and lead engineer, Kaliyuga Sivakumar (aka “Siva”), also left Snapfish and joined me, along with designers who knew us well. Together, working out of each other’s homes and in cafes, we bootstrapped and iterated on our first version of the app, which was called “KangaDo” and helped parents connect with each other for carpools. We experimented and tested each release with beta customers, got some initial traction, and networked in the startup community. Eventually we applied to and were accepted into the 500 Startups accelerator, receiving our first outside investment.
Soon thereafter, based on user feedback, we decided to focus on paid rides and care from pre-screened drivers and sitters that we would provide for a fee. We launched our Rides and Care pilot in spring 2015, got licensed in the fall, and took off in early 2016. Already growing over 50% MOM, our volume increased 5X almost overnight after our main Bay Area competitor, Shuddle, closed suddenly in mid April 2016.
PYMNTS: How does the pricing model work, and how does Kango get paid?
SS: Kango’s pricing model has 3 parts:
First, Kango has a monthly membership of $9/month per family (about 2 lattes!) which gives parents access to book any Kango driver/sitter on the platform, for pre-scheduled or on demand rides and/or childcare. It helps us cover the cost of ongoing driver and sitter screening and safety measures such as vehicle inspections.
Second, ride fares are calculated based on time and distance, and Kango keeps a modest commission. The minimum fare is $16. Babysitting is charged based on an hourly rate.
Third, and similar to ridesharing services for adults, there is a $1 per ride Safe Ride fee (lower than Uber/Lyft’s!) which helps us cover our mileage-based insurance costs.
PYMNTS: Who does your Kango see as its competition, if any, and why?
SS: We view Kango’s main competition as :
Traditional childcare providers – babysitters or nannies with cars.
- This is what most parents in our target market are struggling with right now, as this solution does not work well for transportation. Parents don’t have enough sitter supply, don’t have time to do all the screening themselves and it’s too expensive, can’t provide commercial insurance, and don’t have the convenience of an app to schedule, track and pay for the rides.
- Other risesharing or shuttle services focused on kids
- There is a small handful of other app-based kids’ ridesharing services which operate in CA (HopSkipDrive, Zum) or in Boston (Zemcar). All are early stage companies.
Kango is the only service which can transport children under 5 yrs old (who may need a toddler car seat), that provides same-day (not just pre-scheduled) rides, and that allows standalone sitter bookings in addition to rides. It’s also the only app that has a fully-integrated messaging platform, where parents and drivers can directly exchange messages and even photos.
PYMNTS: Since its inception, how much has your company grown year over year? Do you have any future projections for where it hopes to grow within the next few years?
SS: Kango was licensed as a TNC “Transportation Network Company” with special authorization to drive unaccompanied children, in late 2015. We grew 15X in calendar year 2016, and 87% MOM during Back to School (Aug/Sept). In calendar 2017, we aim to achieve similarly high growth, with possible expansion into another metro area.
PYMNTS: How many rounds of funding has Kango received (if any)? If no funding has been received, are there plans to seek funding?
SS: Kango is a seed stage company. Our first investment came from 500 Startups, the well-known Silicon Valley accelerator and seed fund. Since then we have received additional investment from early Uber investor Structure Capital, Crowdfunder VC Index Fund, angel groups such as Golden Seeds and 37 Angels (NYC), and individual investors such as SF 49ers player (and Dad) Joe Staley. We will seek additional funds to expand outside of the San Francisco Bay Area.
PYMNTS: What does the term “Uber of X” mean to you, and how does your company fit that mold?
SS: To me, the term “Uber for X” connotes a mainstream or traditional good or service, which is made available on demand to consumers via a mobile app – with maximum convenience, guaranteed availability of supply, and little to no friction in the user experience. Kango fits that definition in the sense that parents can request rides or childcare on demand, with 100% reliability, using a user-friendly mobile app with 100% uptime.
BUT since Kango, unlike Uber, is not a curbside-to-curbside, commoditized service, it has multiple characteristics that do not fit the “Uber for X” mold:
– the highest bar for safety and quality – all our drivers are background-checked twice, fingerprinted, and screened in person, among other steps. Our own kids ride with Kango too.
– the ability to plan and pre-schedule as many bookings as you want, as far in advance as you wish
– personalized service – the ability to request your preferred drivers and sitters
oversight from the Kango Operations team, with live, real-time monitoring of every ride or childcare booking
PYMNTS: As most startups have their fair share of hiccups, can you share a few lessons-learned anecdotes?
Be ready for anything: plan for scale, have the right team! In Spring of 2016, our main Bay Area competitor, Shuddle, abruptly shut down. Literally overnight, we received over 100 driver applications and hundreds of parents signed up for Kango. Thankfully, my co-founder and CTO, who previously built photo and video storage for 100M users at Snapfish.com
, had engineered the Kango platform to be able to handle a several-factor increase in volume. Even without technical issues, the team worked around the clock to get everyone onboarded. They were real troopers!
PYMNTS: What are Kango’s 2017 goals?
SS: By the end of 2017, Kango aims to be the #1 Rides and Care for kids service in the San Francisco Bay area, with geographical expansion underway.