AWS Startups Blog

Safety First: HopSkipDrive and the Rideshare Economy

HopSkipDrive CEO Joanna McFarland It’s true that it takes a village to raise a child, especially if by “village” you mean a complicated web of calendars and commitments that can take hours to manage. At least nowadays there’s an app for that. Joanna McFarland is the co-founder and CEO of HopSkipDrive, a ridesharing app specifically geared toward alleviating the daily stress of planning hectic family transportation schedules. “The amount of time parents spend thinking about it, coordinating it, scheduling it, doing the driving themselves—it’s an additional part-time job for the family,” says McFarland, a busy parent herself. In its 2017 survey of over one thousand families, HopSkipDrive found that two-thirds of working parents say transporting their kids to and from school and extracurriculars regularly disrupts their jobs. On the other end of the spectrum, nearly a quarter of parents say their children miss out on extracurricular activities because they don’t have adequate available transportation.

The idea for HopSkipDrive—an app to connect vetted drivers with parents who need help getting their kids where they need to go—came from McFarland and her cofounders’ own experiences. “There’s three of us that started the business. We’re all moms. We have eight kids between us. They go to five different schools. They’re in twenty-plus different after-school activities. As working moms, we were really struggling, so we set out to solve this problem for ourselves and realized that we were solving it for millions of families all over the country.”

While efficiency is the end goal, safety is HopSkipDrive’s first priority, both in terms of the kids who travel with the service and the drivers who keep everything running. “We think about safety before the rides, during the rides, and behind the scenes,” explains McFarland. “Safety goes on both sides of the platform.” To begin, HopSkipDrive recruits and thoroughly vets its drivers, all of whom have at least five years of caregiving experience and have undergone in-person interviews along with comprehensive background and reference checks. Plus, each trip is monitored in real time by the HopSkipDrive in-office team, who are always available to speak with parents and drivers, and parents receive progress notifications throughout their kids’ rides.

For the drivers, the HopSkipDrive platform helps stem the kinds of uncertainty and risk built into the business models of other rideshare services. Driving, either for taxi companies or as part of the rideshare economy, can be a dangerous profession. And although Uber and Lyft don’t make their incident reports public, there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence to highlight the hazardous situations drivers encounter on the job. Basically, you never know who’s going to get in your car or what state they’ll be in when they do. With HopSkipDrive, however, drivers get to interact with children and all the rides are pre-scheduled. “They don’t have to drive late at night in order to make money, and it’s flexible, meaning they can plan their day around it,” explains McFarland. “They know exactly when they’re driving, where they’re driving, and how much they’re going to make.” Which points to another perk of HopSkipDrive: other rideshare drivers often have a hard time estimating their income because of wait times and other variables, but HopSkipDrive drivers always know ahead of time exactly what their schedules will look like.

Looking to the future, HopSkipDrive hopes to expand its connections with schools to provide transportation alternatives when buses aren’t available or feasible. But the company is taking a careful approach. “Expansion has to be very deliberate and very thoughtful because quality is super important. And because of the nature of the passengers that we’re carrying, quality can’t be sacrificed in the name of growth,” says McFarland. “We have very ambitious road maps.” No pun intended, of course.

Michelle Kung

Michelle Kung

Michelle Kung currently works in startup content at AWS and was previously the head of content at Index Ventures. Prior to joining the corporate world, Michelle was a reporter and editor at The Wall Street Journal, the founding Business Editor at the Huffington Post, a correspondent for The Boston Globe, a columnist for Publisher’s Weekly and a writer at Entertainment Weekly.