For Shuddle, hiring moms may be key to success

In a move that further distinguishes the ride-booking company from other Silicon Valley tech startups, Shuddle announced on Thursday it has hired two experienced professional women — and mothers — to join its executive ranks.

Shuddle, a San Francisco startup that makes an app for parents to order rides for their children, is one of the rare tech firms that is dominantly women — its drivers are mostly women, and increasingly, so is its executive team. The company now adds Carly Lutz, who will join Shuddle as senior vice president of family experience, and Jaleh Bisharat, a former marketing executive at Upwork, a website where freelancers can find work, who will serve on the company’s board.

The board of directors also includes well-known women VCs Trae Vassallo, formerly of Kleiner Perkins, and Kirsten Green, founder and managing director of Forerunner Ventures. In addition, Shuddle’s head of engineering and head of operations are women.

The new hires underscore the importance of having mothers in leadership roles at the company, which sells its service to busy parents who need a way to get their kid to a play date or home from soccer practice. The brainchild of Nick Allen, who co-founded San Francisco ride-hailing company Sidecar, Shuddle makes an app that orders rides for children post-booster seat age, as well as an app for teens and tweens to book their own rides. Not only are the company’s customers often mothers, but their drivers, too, are mostly women. Drivers must all have childcare experience and are usually teachers, day-care professionals, stay-at-home parents or nannies — and skew heavily women, although men can certainly drive for the company.

That preference for not just women but also mothers to lead the company distances Shuddle dramatically from ride-booking firms such as Uber, whose CEO has referred to the company as “boober” and which in France offered a promotion where passengers could book a 20-minute ride with a “hot chick” driver.

Lutz, a former marketing director for Clif Bar, said hiring mothers helps Shuddle better empathize with the often overwhelmed families they sell rides to.

I have felt “I should be better at work and better at home, and I think every parent feels that at some point,” said Lutz, who has three children — ages 8, 6 and 3 — and is frequently single-parenting while her husband travels for work. “I can just relate to the idea that families need help.”

Her job at Shuddle is “figuring out, what do families need and how do we provide it?”

Lutz, 40, has never taken significant time off since having her children. The Berkeley native said she goes to work at 9 a.m. and leaves at 5:15 p.m. so she can be home to have dinner with her children, and then hops back on the computer after they’re in bed. That commitment to her family was something that Allen saw as a plus for his company — a rare attitude among young startups.

“In tech culture there’s not a lot of acknowledgement that people have lives outside of work,” Lutz said. “I’m not going to trade off my role as a mom for my role at Shuddle.”

Shuddle has also distinguished itself from other ride-booking companies with its extensive safety guards — necessary when parents are trusting a stranger to drive around their children.

“Even when I first heard about Shuddle, I got excited and I also got nervous. It made me scared,” Lutz said. “If this is not a safe service and reliable service, we have no reason to be in business.”

Drivers must pass a background check that includes fingerprinting and pulls from federal, state and county criminal records; they must have references and pass an in-person interview. All rides are monitored by Shuddle in real-time, and parents, too, can monitor rides from their app and receive text messages about their child’s arrival. Children have a secret password and are not supposed to get in a car until the driver says that word.

However, all drivers are classified as independent contractors — which may prove to be a problem for Shuddle as legal and political pressures mount for on-demand startups to classify workers as employees, and because of the tight controls Shuddle keeps and its driver training requirements.

Shuddle has raised more than $12 million from investors including RRE Ventures, Comcast Ventures, Forerunner Ventures and Accel Partners.

Photo: Carly Lutz, SVP of Family Experience for Shuddle, courtesy of Shuddle


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  • Carly is such an amazing leader and woman!!