From 3 moms to a million rides: HopSkipDrive turns 5!
Written by Joanna McFarland
From November 16, 2014 to today, we’ve grown from three women at a dining room table to 100+ employees in our own office, 12 markets, nine states, and a whole new set of kids.
HopSkipDrive has partnered with more than 180 schools and districts and 14 counties across the country. Our CareDrivers have driven more than 6 million safe miles!
It’s been an incredible ride.
A Startup is Born
HopSkipDrive began as many startups do — seeing a market need, coming up with a great idea to solve it, sitting with co-founders at kitchen tables, garages, and Starbucks, to make it happen.
With two children and a successful career in product management, it wasn’t my intention to found HopSkipDrive, or any company for that matter. But one day, at my son’s friend’s birthday party, I shared with other parents that I struggled to get my children to all of their activities without sacrificing my career.
Other parents shared that they too felt frazzled — guilty even — because they couldn’t get their kids to the activities, social events, music lessons, sports practices, and more, that were so beneficial to their development.
Another mom, HopSkipDrive cofounder Janelle McGlothlin, and I came up with a rough solution to our shared challenge. We met the next Sunday and started sketching out what would become HopSkipDrive.
We met the Sunday after that, and the next, sitting at the dining room table while our kids played together in the other room. In a few months, Carolyn Yashari Becher joined the Sunday brainstorming sessions as our third cofounder. Though we were all busy with families and demanding full-time jobs, we believed in the idea so much that we didn’t stop working on it.
Pulling on our combined experience in business, tech, investing, law, and, of course, motherhood, we built HopSkipDrive.
From the beginning, we knew safety was our number one priority. The three of us designed the technology and processes using a single question — what would it take to put our own kids in a HopSkipDrive car? — as the rubric against which we measured everything.
Five years later, we still ask ourselves the same question every day.
To ensure rider safety, we built the most rigorous driver selection process in the industry. We designed technology that gives us full visibility into each part of the ride and a Safe Ride Support team which acts as ‘air traffic control’ to monitor every moment of each ride.
Our First Hire
In November 2014, before HopSkipDrive’s first ride, we hired Mira (she’s still with us today!).
In her interview, I told her about our safety value proposition. She asked whether the Safe Ride Support team would have equally rigorous checks, saying that anyone with access to ride information should be thoroughly vetted. We could see she shared our same passion around safety, and we hired her immediately.
That’s what HopSkipDrive is built upon — people who constantly challenge the status quo. We can’t be the safest, most reliable youth transportation solution without challenging ourselves to innovate.
Our First Rides
After Mira started, we moved into a co-working space in downtown LA. We were set up in the middle of the floor; we didn’t even warrant an office until January of 2015.
On November 16, 2014, we hit an incredible milestone: our first ride.
Janelle’s 7-year-old son Gus was the first HopSkipDrive rider. After his ride, he gave us constructive feedback on his experience, which we used to innovate further. Again, it’s always about listening to our team, CareDrivers, customers, and riders
In March 2015, HopSkipDrive hit another milestone: our first paid ride.
From there, our reach exploded: By the end of 2015, we covered 59 of the 88 cities in Los Angeles.
And we moved into our own office!
HopSkipDrive Turns One!
In 2016, we turned one, celebrating in HopSkipDrive style.
And we received our Series A round of funding — taking us into the big leagues.
We moved into Orange County and the Bay Area, and surpassed the 1 million safe miles driven mark.
We also made our dog parents very happy when we became a dog-friendly office. Our office filled up with new employees and furry friends.
Partnering With Schools, Districts, and Counties
We figured out how to solve a need for families, but in 2017 we started working with an entirely new market: schools, districts, nonprofits, and government organizations devoted to child welfare.
HopSkipDrive’s new partnerships helped these organizations fill gaps that traditional school buses couldn’t.
For some background: States, counties, and districts are required to provide foster youth transportation to the school they were attending when they were placed in foster care. School stability increases academic success and emotional well-being.
Districts also provide transportation for homeless youth and those with IEPs (individualized education plans).
School buses can’t always reroute to transport children under these special circumstances, but our solution can.
Our mission was always close to our hearts, but we were awed to realize how big a barrier mobility can be in so many kids’ lives, and how much our solution could help.
HopSkipDrive broke open new opportunities by helping families, mine included, get their kids to school and after-school activities. And now we were moving beyond that to break open opportunities for kids, who may not get those chances without access to safe, reliable transportation.
In 2017, we partnered with Los Angeles County, the largest child welfare system in the country, providing rides for over 1,000 foster youth to help them maintain school stability. In the past few years, we’ve grown to provide transportation solutions to thousands more youth in the foster system across the country.
Beyond the numbers, we’re invigorated by success stories like Georgina’s. This young woman was in the foster care system; when we met her she had changed high schools four times.
HopSkipDrive started giving Georgina rides, enabling her to get to school early and make up credits she missed due to moving schools. Through access to reliable transportation, she not only graduated on time, but with honors.
Or take OD and Azul, two high schoolers in a multimedia careers academy, a vocational program which necessitated off-campus activities outside of the traditional school day. We partnered with their school district and they got the safe transportation they needed to jobs and activities.
The opportunities I could afford my own children with HopSkipDrive should be available to every child. HopSkipDrive plays a part in that shift by democratizing access to transportation.
I’m so proud of what the HopSkipDrive team built. We’re a company that prioritizes work-life balance while working hard to put out the best product. We’re a successful, woman-led business in a male-dominated tech field. We’ve built innovative, industry-leading safety technology and a team obsessed with the safety of our riders and CareDrivers.
And every day, we get to transform children’s lives by getting them to the opportunities that can make all the difference.