Mobile Commerce

HopSkipDrive Joins California’s Family Ride-Sharing Space

A trio of working mothers have joined forces to create an app-driven, ride-sharing service in California.

The New York Times reported Saturday (June 27) that Joanna McFarland, Carolyn Yashari Becher and Janelle McGlothlin, mothers to a total of eight children — and driven by driving those children to seven schools and a myriad of extracurricular activities — founded HopSkipDrive to combat the daily stress of getting children where they needed to be on time.

Thus began HopSkipDrive, a ride-on-demand service that serves southern California and takes its place alongside Shuddle, which serves the San Francisco Bay Area, according to NYT. The business started two years ago with funding provided by friends, families and investments from both angel investors and venture capital firms. The trio declined to tell NYT how much was raised.

Geared toward ferrying children ages 7 to 17, parents request and pay for rides at least 24 hours in advance using a smartphone app or HopSkipDrive’s eponymous website. A ride costs $20, and a package deal of 50 rides garners a discount and runs for $600. NYT reports that trips longer than 5 miles, or that last longer than 30 minutes, will cost parents extra. The company says roughly 2,000 people have signed on to date.

In an interview with NYT, co-founder McFarland said the service has value for families that do not have full-time help or for those parents who are divorced or are caring for more than one child at home.

The service borrows a page from ride-sharing models like Lyft and Uber with drivers hired by HopSkipDrive and using their own cars. The service also mandates that drivers have at least five years of child care experience under their belt, and security measures include background checks and fingerprinting. In addition, all drivers must receive safety training focused on young passengers, such as how to ensure that they are safe, or, for example, what to do with a sick child en route. Parents get email alerts several times as the trips progress.

Of the driver base, which numbers 100, many are mothers, according to NYT, and they can bring their own children on trips. Drivers do not get tips but instead get a percentage of the total cost of each ride.

Separately, ,, a New York University Stern School of Business professor, told NYT that safety measures are of utmost importance. “It’s absolutely critical that they don’t sacrifice safety over speed of growth,” Sundararajan said, adding that a business like HopSkipDrive has “huge potential” in urban settings like New York.

In city settings, the professor noted, there are often residents defined by high disposable incomes and low incidences of car ownership. Looking longer term, a service like HopSkipDrive may be driven to the point of obsolescence by flying cars — or, as he told NYT, “The Jetsons are coming to life.”

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