The round was led by Royal Street Ventures, Matchstick Ventures and JPK Capital. Onward launched in March in the San Francisco Bay Area, offering round-trip, door-to-door rides for older adults who can no longer drive.
Onward Co-founder Mike Lewis told TechCrunch that he came up with the idea for Onward while his mother-in-law was battling Alzheimer’s. He and Co-founder Nader Akhnoukh decided to create a service to help senior citizens who might feel isolated because they are unable to do certain things anymore, such as driving.
“The minute you can’t do that, it’s sad and scary,” Lewis said.
So far, Onward has completed more than 500 trips in the San Francisco Bay Area. The company will focus on that region — as well as one other undisclosed market — for the remainder of this year.
In addition to seniors who can’t get behind the wheel, Onward’s customers also include people who can’t drive for medical reasons (surgeries, eye exams, etc.) and caregivers who aren’t able to transport their loved ones.
The company has more than 25 drivers and all are 1099 contractors, but they are paid hourly — at least $20 per hour. They are all trained in CPR, dementia, and have gone through a background check and car inspection. Drivers are also required to know how to fold wheelchairs. Within a year, Onward expects to have hundreds of drivers on board, as well as an increase in the number of vehicles that can transport riders in powered wheelchairs.
Riders pay $35 per hour, with the minimum charge for the trip at one hour. After that first hour, Onward starts to charge by the minute. Passengers also have the ability to request a favorite driver.