Zum Accelerates Plans To Modernize School Transportation With $130M Series D Led By Softbank Vision Fund 2

I started Zum 6 years ago to break a cycle. A cycle that has held parents and families like mine back for generations. When I was young, my mom had to quit her job as an educator in India, like her mom before her, to ensure my brothers and I could get to and from school. Once I had kids I feared I might end up having to do the same. When they became school-age, I was working as an executive and couldn’t find good transportation options for my kids to attend their school. So, I created an alternative, Zum. And in doing so I altered a cycle that not only impacted me, but also so many of the other local working parents I’ve met since starting the company. Making sure parents didn’t have to worry about their kids while on school transportation was and still is our primary goal. 

Yet as Zum has grown, so too has our ambition for fixing the systematic problems. As we dug in, we realized the problem was far greater than just about helping local working families. It turns out school transportation is the nation’s largest mass transit system, and it’s massively broken. It’s a problem hidden in plain sight as it hasn’t changed much in over 80 years. Over 25 million kids go to and from school every day in an outdated mode of transportation. Student transportation is costly, it’s bad for the environment and there’s very little visibility into safety and maintenance records, on-time arrivals, real-time vehicle locations, background checks on drivers and more. 

We started out as a company for parents to directly schedule rides for their kids, yet we knew there was an opportunity to build on our success and expand our services to the entire system. We saw an opportunity to break even more cycles. To break the cycle of dependency on diesel-fuel powered buses that result in 6 Million tons of co2 emissions per year. To break the cycle of parents and school administrators remaining in the dark about knowing where exactly students were and whether they got on or off the bus. To break the cycle of wasting unnecessarily large amounts of school budgets on transportation rather than on programs like after school activities or meal subsidies. 

Today, we are taking a huge step forward in solving the systemic issues that have plagued school transportation. We’re modernizing the entire system because we believe schools, parents, kids, and drivers all deserve better.  

We are excited to announce $130 million in Series D funding led by Softbank Vision Fund 2, with participation from existing investors, including Sequoia and BMW i Ventures. This brings our total raised to more than $200 million. 

We will use the new capital to further our mission to reimagine student transportation by strategically expanding our service across new markets and districts while adding new electric vehicles on our platform as we deliver on our 100% EVs by 2025 commitment.  To learn more about our plans, I encourage you to read our recently unveiled vision. for student transportation through 2025 and beyond. 

I started out with the belief we could help families facing challenges like mine. And quickly learned that we have an opportunity to go far beyond and help families across the country and the broader communities by ensuring safe, sustainable, flexible student transportation for all. 

If you’d like to learn more about the details on our funding announcement, please see this morning’s press release.

All of this has been made possible by our amazing team who have been champions of our company and our vision and executed tirelessly and flawlessly to make this happen.

Thank you,

Ritu Narayan

Founder & CEO

The Zum team


Reimagining Student Transportation: Our Vision Through 2025 And Beyond

Here at Zum, reinventing student transportation isn’t just a job — it’s deeply personal. As we continue our journey to reimagine a more reliable, sustainable, and safer future for students, parents and teachers, we’re excited to share our larger vision for not just now, but through 2025 and beyond. This includes what we believe are the six key pillars that will be critical in the coming years in order to achieve this vision: flexibility, equity, efficiency, safety, sustainability and community.

“During this period of unprecedented transformation and disruption, we have an opportunity to rethink one of our country’s most iconic institutions—the yellow school bus. Let’s act now to reinvent student transportation for the future that we want to live, learn and travel in. We owe it to our children. We owe it to ourselves.”

Ritu Narayan, Zum Co-Founder and CEO

To read our full vision for the future of student transportation, starting today, visit:


Zum CEO on SiriusXM’s Launch Pad

Zum CEO Ritu Narayan spoke with The Wharton School’s Karl Ulrich for a recent episode of Launch Pad on SiriusXM’s Business Radio. They discussed how Zum is modernizing student transportation. The episode also features the CEOs of Headspace and Ginger following their recent merger announcement.

You can check out the full episode here, on Apple Podcasts, or wherever you prefer to listen to podcasts.


Zum Commits to Transition School District Partners to 100% Electric by 2025

Senator Alex Padilla (D-CA), Representative Barbara Lee (D-CA), Oakland Unified School District Superintendent, and more come together to share zero emission vision for student transportation.

As we welcome our children back to school campuses, our work to reimagine student transportation has never been more important. Transportation accounts for the largest share of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. And over 90 percent of the nation’s 500,000 school buses are internal combustion diesel buses, which we know emit notoriously noxious exhaust. 

This harmful air has a negative impact on the health and academic performance of the more than 25 million children, and thousands of drivers that breathe it in on their commute to and from school. The status quo is unacceptable. 

That’s why Zum and our district partners have committed to transitioning the nation’s school bus system to electric, addressing one of the largest generators of harmful carbon emissions. 

We were thrilled to share this news during a virtual press conference yesterday alongside Senator Alex Padilla, Representative Barbara Lee, Oakland Unified School District Superintendent Dr. Kyla Johnson-Trammell, as well as representatives from Teamsters Local 853 and the California League of Conservation Voters. 

During the event, Senator Alex Padilla, who introduced the Clean Commute for Kids Act to invest in the transition of the nation’s school buses from diesel to electric, applauded Zum and Oakland Unified School District’s commitment  to replace these diesel vehicles and transition its school bus fleet to a 100% electric and zero-emission by 2025. 

We look forward to working with Senator Padilla, all of our districts and partners, and our communities to continue electrifying our school transportation system and create a greener future.

Ritu Narayan, CEO and founder of Zum

Partnering with school districts to transition to zero-emission school buses is going to make a tremendous impact, and it is a significant, much-needed down payment on our children’s sustainable future. Oakland’s 50,000 students, and children nationwide, will breathe easier and learn better with this investment.

Senator Alex Padilla (D-CA)

At OUSD, our job as educators is to prepare students to succeed in their future. By setting this groundbreaking goal for electrification, we are also demonstrating that we are committed to a more sustainable future for our kids. We are incredibly proud to partner with the team at Zum to make OUSD one of the first districts in the nation with all-electric school buses by 2025.

Dr. Kyla Johnson-Trammell, Oakland Unified School District Superintendent

This news was yet another milestone on our road to drive the school bus system toward sustainable change. You can find out more about Zum’s sustainability program here.

Read the full press release here.


Zum Goes Carbon Neutral, Leads Student Transportation Toward an Electric Future

Student transportation leader unveils Zum Net Zero, a program rooted in creating a safer, healthier, more sustainable planet

Today, we’re announcing that Zum is offsetting 100% of the carbon emissions for our entire fleet in 2021. While we’re transitioning our full fleet to electric vehicles by 2025, we recognize the urgency of the climate crisis and are choosing to make an immediate positive impact now, not tomorrow.

As schools around the country are gearing up for a return to the classroom, Zum is taking aim at the 8.4 million metric tons of greenhouse gas that diesel school buses emit annually — that’s the equivalent to over 1 million homes’ annual energy use! Through these carbon offsets, Zum is enabling school districts to start meeting their sustainability goals today and providing students with carbon neutral rides.

“We plan for Zum’s entire fleet to be 100% EV by 2025, but we can’t wait for technology to catch up to our ambitions to drive sustainable change.”

Ritu Narayan, CEO and founder of Zum

Today’s announcement is the latest in our Zum Net Zero initiative, a program rooted in creating a safer, healthier, more sustainable planet. You can find out more about Zum’s sustainability program here.

Read the full press release with today’s news here.


New Student Transportation Provider at SFUSD

Editor Note: This guest post is cross-posted from the San Francisco Unified School District’s blog

Zum Promises Modernized Transportation With Upgrades in Service, Safety and Reliability

The SFUSD Transportation Department strives to create safe, reliable, and environmentally sustainable transportation to and from school for our students. To that end, the District engaged in a rigorous Request for Proposals (RFP) process that led to SFUSD selecting Zum as a new transportation partner for the next five years. Zum promises to provide a modern, connected fleet powered by an integrated service platform, with the ability to provide end-to-end visibility and transparency to our school community.

We are excited to begin the 2021-2022 school year with the means to provide a seamless, full-service transportation infrastructure equipped with modern technology to unify and improve the experience for our students, families, administrators, and bus drivers.

Increased Transparency and Improved Communications

Zum’s service offerings promise increased transparency and better communication at each step in the process, creating an enhanced experience for families. Students and families should expect to see the following main changes in the service from Zum:

  • New, green fleet: Students will be riding in brand new school buses, many of which will be greener from day one to meet SFUSD’s sustainability goals.
  • Easy onboarding: Improved onboarding, including detailed verification of family and riders’ data in six languages.
  • Real-time route updates: The Zum mobile app provides everyone who is part of the child’s school day (families, school sites and the Transportation Department) with real-time route updates and estimated arrival times, eliminating questions or concerns about the location of your child or their ride to school. All students will be checked in and out of the bus at pick-up and drop-off as an added safety feature.
  • Personalized preferences: Zum’s technology offers a more personalized care experience for all students by making it easy for parents to communicate preferences and updates directly through the app. For instance, a family can use the Zum app to notify the District instantly about any ride cancellations or issues with pick-ups.
  • Feedback and complaints: With the Zum app, families can rate their child’s daily ride experience and give feedback, or directly speak with a Zum team member.
  • Enhanced accountability: Zum will provide performance data and reports to the District, allowing SFUSD to have a better understanding of how transportation is serving students and families, and which areas need to be improved upon.

At SFUSD, we are committed to improving transportation for our students, and working toward environmentally-friendly options for our community. Our longer-term plans include transitioning to a zero-emissions electric fleet, which will make SFUSD one of the first school districts in the U.S. to operate on an entirely electric fleet by 2025.

We look forward to welcoming our students back to the classroom!


Zūm and AutoGrid Partner to Deploy 10K Electric School Buses to Create 1 Gigawatt of Flexible Capacity for the Grid

We’re thrilled to announce today we’ve partnered with AutoGrid to pilot a program with Zūm’s electric buses and AutoGrid’s Virtual Power Plant technology (VPP).

Please see our press release here. A brief recap follows below:

  • Our partnership will help accelerate adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) in an antiquated school transportation system that previously relied on emission-intensive diesel yellow buses. 

  • Together, we’ll deploy 10,000 electric school buses to create over 1 Gigawatt of flexible capacity — the equivalent of powering more than one million homes for one to four hours — when the electricity grid is overloaded.

  • This will not only help lower the cost of energy for school districts, but also help lower the overall cost of operating the grid. It will also help in removing expensive and pollutive “peaker” plants that are disproportionately located in disadvantaged communities.

  • When fully deployed, this is expected to be one of the largest VPPs in the world.

  • Every EV bus saves 11 tons of carbon emissions per year, which will help school districts make progress on their carbon footprint goals.

  • If deployed over the 500,000 yellow school buses transporting over 27 million students every day, the transition to EVs for the school transportation sector can play a critical role in helping communities improve air quality and environmental health for student passengers and area residents.

  • The Biden Administration’s proposed $25 billion investment in the electrification of school buses as part of the infrastructure bill provides even more acceleration for a clean future.

Exciting times ahead as we reimagine the future of school transportation. Stay tuned for much more to come!


Saving The Extra Mile

It should come as no surprise a company founded on challenging industry conventions would explain itself a bit unconventionally. Here at Zūm, we’re constantly questioning traditional ways of doing things as we reimagine better alternatives. So it’s only natural our film starts by questioning the old adage ‘going the extra mile’. We reflected on this expression and asked ourselves if it still made sense in today’s world. After all, hard work and innovation should yield less miles, not more. Less toxic fumes polluting our planet. And less time and money spent unnecessarily getting kids to and from school through outdated modes of student transportation. And in-keeping with our approach of bucking established norms, we decided to put our story in the hands of a teenage soon-to-be star who describes the benefits of Zūm from a students’ perspective.

Let’s make saving the extra mile a better measure of hard work. It’s certainly what we do at Zūm. Check out our video below and reach out if you’d like to learn more.


3 reasons school transportation isn’t working — and how to get things back on track

No matter how many years pass after high school graduation, it’s hard to forget how you got to and from school. Whether you walked, biked, carpooled or took the yellow school bus, it’s one of those things that sticks with us. And that’s not just because of fond (or not so fond) memories; it’s because school transportation hasn’t changed in more than 80 years!

As a result of that lack of evolution, the system just isn’t working for today’s students, families or school districts. Here are 3 reasons why — and how Zūm is working with districts, drivers and families to reimagine student transportation:

  1. Lack of visibility: Once their child steps onto the bus, parents have no idea if they made it to school or not. By implementing state-of-the-art technology like RFID and offering a simple-to-use mobile app, Zūm enables schools, districts and parents to have visibility into where their children are in real-time along with any route updates and the driver’s profile. Not only does this increase safety and alleviate parental worry, it also significantly reduces the number of customer support calls districts and schools need to manage on a day-to-day basis. 
  1. Inefficient Routes: Students today are sitting through long bus rides that can take them way out of their way — taking precious time away from after school activities, homework or time spent with family or friends. But with Zūm’s safe and modern service, inefficient routes, long travel times and unexpected delays are a thing of the past. In fact, 70% of students using Oakland Unified School District’s transportation system previously spent more than one hour on a bus traveling to school each way, but that number has shifted since Zūm implemented new, flexible routes for the district so that 97% are waiting less than an hour. 
  1. Scattered information: School districts lack a simplified, end-to-end platform, relying instead on a variety of systems and technologies that don’t talk to one another to make things work. With Zūm, school districts can now manage daily operations, track and plan vehicle use and driver profiles, and analyze performance and service data from one place. This not only makes things less complicated, but can also save districts time and money.

At Zūm, we recently launched a comprehensive student transportation service designed for school districts, drivers, and parents. If you’d like to learn more about how to reimagine transportation for your school or district, please reach out! (1-855-RIDEZUM) We’d love to chat.


Zūm is What’s Next

Axios features Zūm and the shift to working directly with school districts in its latest weekly newsletter.

Read the newsletter here.