You probably trust a Postmates delivery person to pick up a pie from your favorite pizzeria and drop it at your door. But would you trust a stranger hailed from an app with your kids?
Zum is an on-demand ride and nanny service that gives busy parents a way to get their kids where they need to be, whether it's soccer practice or a tutoring session. Parents can schedule a pick-up from the app — but unlike other on-demand services that work instantly, it has to be with at least four hours' notice.
It's sort of like the "Uber for childcare," a concept that cropped up in 2014 with the launch of the Shuddle and HopSkipDrive apps, which both let parents hail rides for their kids.
Zum takes the idea one step further by offering nanny services. Parents can arrange for caregivers, or "Zumers," to take their kids from points A to B and stay with them wherever they need to be watched. If a meeting runs over, the parent uses the app to connect with a concierge who will make necessary arrangements.
After completing a limited pilot program, Zum launched in the San Francisco Bay Area (specifically, the South Bay and Peninsula) last week. Over 500 families have signed up.
Zum emerged out of a real mom's need. Cofounder and CEO Ritu Narayan struggled to juggle activities and arrange childcare while working as a manager at eBay and studying at the Stanford Graduate School of Business.
"We founded Zum to provide children and parents with a trustworthy, professionally trained childcare and driving service and create peace of mind for the families," Narayan said in a press release.
Startups like Shuddle and HopSkipDrive, which are available in the Bay Area and Los Angeles County, respectively, also aim to fill that need. Shuddle offers carpooling, which makes the service more affordable for parents, and HopSkipDrive sells packages so parents can buy rides "in bulk."
When a parent signs up for Zum, they're assigned a maximum of six Zumers, who get to know the kids over time. This way, children aren't greeted by a new face at their trumpet lesson every week.
Like Uber drivers, Zumers are employed as independent contracters. However, Zum surveys staffers on their preferred hours and availabilities and makes assignments accordingly. That way, the company can guarantee one of the family's six Zumers is always on call.
Each Zumer is hand-picked by Zum and meets a rigorous set of requirements. They must be over the age of 21; have childcare experience, a clean DMV record, and a minimum of three years' driving experience; and be checked and approved by the US Department of Justice, The FBI, and Trustline, a service created by the California Legislature that performs background checks on nannies and babysitters.
The startup also regularly monitors the Zumer's driving, and insures drivers and passengers for $1 million.
This kind of security doesn't come cheap. Rides by Zum start at $16 (a dollar more than Shuddle's minimum fare), and are charged on a time and mileage basis. Like Shuddle, the startup offers carpooling rates for multiple kids. Zum's nanny service runs $6 per 15 minutes.
"Uber for kids" might sound like a weird Silicon Valley thing that could only happen in a place where people expect absolutely everything to be available 24/7 . But as the on-demand economy expands to cities around the world— automating the delivery of everything from dinner to doctors — eventually, sending your kid off with a somewhat random driver might not be so scary.
They say it takes a village to raise a child.
We'll see if Zum can do it, too.