Uber for Your Kids?

One of the hottest areas in technology is the use of apps for accessing and sharing resources.  There’s Airbnb for booking rooms and Uber for booking rides. And now there’s a service for booking rides for your kids.

My first reaction after learning about this was, “What parent would put their child in a car with a stranger?” But after digging in more deeply and speaking with the company’s founder, Sara Schaer, I came away with a different opinion.

Ms. Schaer, a San Francisco resident and mother of two, is the co-founder of Kango.  She explained that two of a parent’s pressing needs are babysitting and taking their kids to and from school and from one activity to another. These are needs that working parents have, particularly when they are tied up in a meeting, need to make a business trip, or their work schedule suddenly shifts. Kango is designed to meet these needs in an all new way, leveraging the use of an app.

The idea began when Schaer was organizing carpools with neighbors and friends to transport her kids to and from school and after-school activities. But, when some parents couldn’t participate as drivers, they asked Sara to recommend one who could drive in their place. From that came the idea to offer an on-demand transportation service that specialized in kids 5 years and up.

After months of beta testing the idea, the company rolled out their services to the public in January. They currently have about 100 drivers who cover the San Francisco Bay area, including San Francisco, Oakland and the East Bay, and the southern Bay Area from Silicon Valley to San Jose. They have provided thousands of rides so far.  Some parents use them for a single ride, but many use them on a repeat basis.

Like Uber and Lyft, Kango books rides using an app. But unlike them, most of the rides are booked in advance, and the drivers undergo a much more stringent screening service.

Potential drivers are checked using a number of criminal databases, much like Uber, but Kango also does a personal interview and a fingerprint check, and conducts multiple reference checks.  Kango is the only TNC carrier (Transportation Network Company) that’s insured to transport kids of any age.

Most of the drivers are part-time and nearly all are female, often teachers, caregivers, or parents supplementing their income from another occupation.

Currently, an average ride costs about $21 with a minimum of $16. Users pay a monthly charge of $9 per family.

One of the unique features is their app can be used not only for booking a ride, but also for communicating with the driver before, during, and at the conclusion of the ride. The parent can also track the location of the car using GPS.

The app allows the parent to message and call, although for safety reasons, messaging is restricted during the ride. The parent gets notified when the ride begins and when the child is dropped off. The app also allows photos to be exchanged, such as showing the drop-off point.

The parent also has the option of meeting the driver ahead of time and even going along for the ride the first time. Parents are able to specify a particular driver when booking the ride. Cars come equipped with the appropriate child safety seat to comply with state requirements.

The premise of the company is to provide a trusted ride service that parents can use as needed, whether it’s a single time when they are away on a trip or on a regular basis. Few parents would ever consider using Uber or a taxi service for very young children, so other than using parents or a neighbor or a friend, there has never been a service to fill this need.

Schaer said one of her investors, who also invested in Uber, told her that he would never trust it to transport his children, but he does use Kango.

Kango began as a part of an incubator in Silicon Valley, 500 Startups, and has both private and venture funding. The company has expansion plans to offer the service in additional cities across the U.S.