Shuddle, ride-hailing app for kids, raises $9.6 million

Shuddle, the ride-hailing service for children, announced on Wednesday it has raised $9.6 million from investors.

The investment, about five times the company’s total prior funding, underscores the demand for services similar for Uber that families can use — without worrying about their children’s safety. Shuddle, the brainchild of Nick Allen, who co-founded San Francisco ride-hailing company Sidecar, makes an app that orders rides for children about ages 8 and up. There are a host of security features that companies like Sidecar and Uber do not have: Parents receive a notice when their child is dropped off; children have a secret password that the driver must say when picking up; and there’s a rigorous system of background checks and interviews for each driver who is hired.

The round was led by RRE Ventures with participation from existing investors, including Comcast Ventures, Forerunner Ventures and Accel Partners, according to a news release. The investment brings the total amount raised by Shuddle to more than $12 million. Shuddle operates in the North Bay, south to San Jose, and in the East Bay and San Francisco. About one-third of its customers are in San Francisco.

In a recent interview with the Mercury News, Allen said the idea for Shuddle started while he worked at Sidecar. He heard that Sidecar drivers in Los Angeles were being called to transport children to school, camp and after-school activities. When Allen discovered that Uber drivers were also being used to transport children to school in New York, he realized the opportunity.

Shuddle raised a seed round last April and launched in October. All of the company’s drivers are women — not by design, Allen said, but because women feel safer driving around children than they do driving around adult men late at night or picking up men from a bar, such as they would be tasked with at Uber, Lyft or Sidecar. (Although many women also drive for those companies.) And with Shuddle, rides are scheduled in advance and only during the day.

Allen said Shuddle has stricter requirements for drivers than other ride-hailing companies: All drivers must clear county-  and national-level background checks, and must have references and experience working with children. While children are in a Shuddle, the company tracks the entire ride to make sure the child is safely picked up and dropped off. (When asked about how this puts users’ privacy at risk, Allen just said all the customer data is encrypted.)

“The whole trust and safety aspect of our companies is not just for the parents and kids,” Allen said in an interview. “It illuminates the type of company and culture you are.”

“There’s lots of talk about the ‘bro’ culture in San Francisco,” he said. “You won’t see that at our office.” Shuddle has more than 20 employees.

Each child chooses a secret word to share with driver over the app, and the driver must say the word before kid gets into the car. Assuring that linguistic transaction actually happens, though, could be a challenge for Shuddle.

Shuddle costs more, though — about 15 percent more than UberX rides. Drivers keep 80 percent of the fare; Shuddle does not do surge pricing.

Most children who use Shuddle are 11 to 12 years old, Allen said. Shuddle drivers have been ordered to shepherd kids to school, sports, ballet class, gymnastics class and between homes of divorced parents.

“The kids really like it,” Allen said. “It gives them a sense of independence they didn’t have before.”

This post has been updated to accurately reflect Shuddle pricing.

 

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  • BiggieBen

    Use code “SHUDDLE27” in the app for a free Shuddle ride worth up to $20 (both new & existing customers).

 
 
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