February 27, 2019
Our newest Tech Fund investment: the kids are alright
There always seem to be only 45 minutes in those early morning hours. You want to get that refreshing shower in, have some decent breakfast (coffee and croissants would be nice), make sure the kids eat something as well despite their usual protests, put your offspring in some clothes that are not their pyjamas and drive them to their school or day care. At the same time, your manager insists you make that 8 o’clock conference call.
Now, Zūm can’t help you with your demanding manager. But this fast-growing, four-year-old company based in California aims to assist parents with at least one element of that daily life puzzle. They are operating an on-demand ride sharing service for children around most of the Golden State, helping out schools and parents to schedule rides taking youngsters to school, after-school events and other activities each day. Volvo Cars’ investment comes as a part of a funding round by Zūm, with which it aims to expand into other US states and continue developing its technology.
Zūm’s network of thousands of drivers is carefully vetted. Each driver must be able to prove they have a clean driving record and previous child care experience. They are also subjected to a driving test and several background checks. Finally, each driver needs to present their car and pass a thorough 22-point car inspection.
« We like what we see in Zūm: they offer a trusted and safe service that gives parents the comfort that their kids are in good hands. Add to that their innovative technology, and you can see why they fit our portfolio of investments. »
After your child has been picked up, a mobile app allows you to follow his or her travels in real-time. When necessary, you get notifications straight into your phone. In other words, your kids are being taken to school in a safe and trusted way, allowing you to focus on other things. Which we at Volvo like, because safety and caring for people is in our DNA.
“Parents lead busy lives and we all understand the challenge of solving the daily life puzzle,” says Zaki Fasihuddin, CEO of the Volvo Cars Tech Fund. “So we like what we see in Zūm: they offer a trusted and safe service that gives parents the comfort that their kids are in good hands. Add to that their innovative technology, and you can see why they fit our portfolio of investments.”
Those digital nuts and bolts that make up Zūm’s digital platform are another thing that drew the interest of our Volvo Cars Tech Fund professionals. To create the most efficient routes possible and to match drivers with rides, Zūm uses smart algorithms and machine learning technology. That fits well with our own digital efforts and while no decisions have been taken, we see plenty of potential for collaboration with Zūm.
Our Tech Fund was launched last year to invest in high potential start-ups like Zūm. Our first investment was in Luminar, a company that develops LiDAR sensors for future self-driving cars. Other companies that we have invested in are Freewire, a California-based electric car charging firm, and Forciot, a Finnish company that develops connected, printable and stretchable electronics.
Ritu Narayan, founder and CEO of Zūm and Zaki Fasihuddin, CEO of Volvo Cars Tech Fund