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A Los Angeles start-up called HopSkipDrive wants to give parents the convenience of ride-hailing and comfort of a trusted sitter whenever they need to get their kids around town.
The company is one of a handful of transportation start-ups vying to become an "Uber for kids." Some, like Shuddl, have failed in this mission in the past and ultimately shut down.
One thing that's different about HopSkipDrive, according to CEO and co-founder Joanna McFarland, is that it's not trying to replace trusted school bus services, but to supplement them by picking up or dropping off kids when it isn't cost-effective to send a bus.
To that end, HopSkipDrive announced a partnership with Student Transportation on Tuesday, a public company that provides school bus services to different districts in the U.S. Student Transportation will encourage schools to use the HopSkipDrive app, in conjunction with its own scheduled pick-ups and drop-offs.
"We really think of ourselves as caregivers on wheels, and not just a ride-hailing app," McFarland told CNBC. Unlike Uber and Lyft, HopSkipDrive fingerprints prospective drivers and ensures they all have had at least 5 years of professional experience working with kids.
While Uber and Lyft don't legally allow minors to ride unaccompanied by a parent or guardian, HopSkipDrive is set up specifically for that use, from its insurance to the way its app communicates with passengers, parents and drivers.
The existence of HopSkipDrive, and competitors including Zum and Kango, is a sign of the times.
The share of students who can get to and from school relying on public school buses is in decline, according to research by the Urban Institute. Yet more parents are working, and not as available to do all the driving that they once were when a single income could pay the bills.
With its partnership, Student Transportation invested in a $7.4 million round for HopSkipDrive, alongside the company's earlier backers: FirstMark Capital, Upfront Ventures, and others.