Black Lives Matter

I am writing this post to assert why I believe — All Lives Matter but Black Lives Matter First and they matter now – not tomorrow, not after the November ballot.

As an immigrant from India over two decades ago, my desire to come to the U.S. was driven by a few distinct images – one being astronauts breaking the limits of space and another of the Statue of Liberty – a land where it seemed anything was possible for everyone. As a brown woman, immigrant, and entrepreneur, I thought I knew first hand what discrimination means and feels like but the brutal killing of George Floyd and ensuing protests has changed my perception. By no means can my struggles be compared to what Black men and women in our community experience each day. I have not lived the fear of losing a dear one, every time they step out of the house. We are talking about ‘Systemic Racism and Brutality’ and not just about bias against black people in the United States, where one needs a poster or people have to gather during a pandemic to say ‘Our lives matter’. It is for this basic reason that I believe Black Lives Matter first and foremost.

My company, Zūm, is ultimately rooted in a dream for societal progress by creating unlimited possibilities for our next generation. We provide safe and reliable rides for our children on our technology platform. We primarily serve public schools. The core of what we do is consciously targeted towards improving equity in our public school system – it is the foundation of our offering, not a check-the-box exercise or an unintended by-product. 

While we endeavor to achieve our mission, I have decided to take action to demonstrate that Black Lives Matter to us at Zūm. Here are 5 actions that Zūm will take immediately:

  1. We will add a member of the Black community to our company advisory board and our customer advisory board.
  2. We will launch a Diversity & Inclusion talk series to foster empathy and awareness in our employees. We will invite diverse leaders including Black members of the communities we serve, from every walk of life, to interact with our team once a quarter and share their personal experiences.
  3. This November, Election Day will be a company holiday at Zūm. We encourage all our employees to vote as lasting change will come through the electoral process. 
  4. Although Zum is already a very diverse team, we will review our hiring policies and put a concerted effort into sourcing and hiring from the Black community at all levels of our organization.
  5. We believe true awareness comes by experiencing causes first-hand. We will institutionalize a policy where employees can take paid time off one day a year to work with BLM and other community-related organizations that promote equal treatment of people under the law. 

This is our beginning. It may not be perfect but ‘to commit and act is far better than staying quiet’. 

Today’s ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement has been fueled by the sacrifices of many and it is important that we support it. We all need to put the issue front and center and not dilute it by talking about equality in general. This is a fight against ‘Systemic Racism and Brutality’ against the black community. Let us keep focused. Let us fight wholeheartedly for Black lives! 

Godspeed to the activists and peaceful protests around the world!

A simpler, less emotionally-charged analogy I came across recently on social media sums up my point.

Ritu Narayan
Founder and CEO at Zūm

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Zūm update on COVID-19: Serving school districts and cities on the frontline

Fighting for What We Value Most

I am a mom of two beautiful children and am an entrepreneur. My company, Zūm, is 100% focused on children, providing smart mobility for students. And as both a parent and an entrepreneur, I never imagined that schools would shut down for more than a few days for snow or even wildfires. I believed education was literally recession-proof. But COVID-19 (Coronavirus) has changed everything, and has done it in the blink of an eye! We are aware of how challenging this time is for everyone.

If your organization needs help to deliver the resources you have, to your students and community members in need, Zūm is on the frontlines to make this happen. We were created to deliver precious cargo, safely and reliably. And while we still are providing rides for children and families, we are also extending our services to support school districts’ and cities’ efforts to fight COVID-19; delivery of meals, instructional materials and technology, and transportation for special services. Even though the cargo might be different, we still want to be there for you and do what we do best. 

Just two days ago our school system across the U.S. came to a screeching halt. It started with announcements of closures for a couple of weeks and has now evolved to speculations about closures through summer. I’ve been speaking with our customers, schools, districts, and families all over the U.S., and it’s clear that millions of students and families are impacted by this pandemic in ways we never could have imagined. This is truly a state of emergency for our society and education system, and it will take the collective effort of government agencies, schools, foundations, families and companies to meet all students’ unique learning needs while our schools’ physical locations are shut down and distance learning is put in place. 

The Complexity of School Closure in Numbers

Our school system is designed to serve students from every background, color, and socioeconomic status. As a country, we are committed to “equity and equal access to education” as a fundamental right of every child. But when schools shut down, it impacts millions of kids in ways that aren’t immediately apparent. 

Today in the U.S., over 56 million children attend school. Of these, 30 million children qualify to receive free or low-cost meals, and they rely on these meals as a constant in their lives every day. In addition, the school system supports education for over 7 million students with special needs and 1.5 million students who experience homelessness during the school year. 

Shutting down school sites does not just mean loss of classroom education but also for many students loss of access to guaranteed meals/nutrition, access to school-provided internet and laptops for virtual learning, access to special equipment for students with special needs, and many other challenges. If school closures persist for a few weeks or a few months, you can imagine what a majority of our children will have to go through. 

States, cities and school districts are working round the clock operationalizing efforts to normalize education and minimize the impact of school closure. We recently saw California Governor Gavin Newsom pass SB117 allowing Education Finance protection during COVID19. We have seen districts working to procure distance learning materials, and setting up drive-through pickup centers for student meals. Influential leaders like Facebook COO, Sheryl SandbergStephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors, among others are standing up for our children and supporting local schools and food banks. And companies like Zoom and Discord are helping set up virtual classrooms. It is heartening to see these great examples of organic public-private partnerships emerging all over the nation to bridge the gap and avoid disruption in the lives of our students as we fight COVID-19. 

Zūm has always been in the child mobility business, but never before has our mission and focus been more critical. Now more than ever safe delivery of meals, IEP resources, and distance learning materials means the difference between equity and access for some vs. for all students. Unfortunately, this is the case for millions of our children. We know this is where Zūm can step in and do our part.

How Zūm will Support Whole School Communities

Zūm today is working with over 250 School Districts and 10,000 schools across California, Texas, Illinois, Florida, Virginia, and Washington. We have a network of thousands of vetted and qualified drivers with childcare experience. We also have the technology to track and record every single pick up and drop off and monitor transportation services and deliveries in real-time.

Starting this week, Zūm is mobilizing our network of drivers and technology to fill the last-mile gap and deliver the resources all children need and deserve. We are working in partnership with hundreds of schools, districts, local agencies, and foundations to support students and families in the following ways. 

  • Meal delivery to students at home or to designated locations, especially during this period of “social distancing” and growing requirements to “shelter in place.” We will record every delivery to ensure the meal gets to the right student. 
  • Safe delivery of Chromebooks / laptops or any technology resources to support students with distance learning.
  • Pick up / drop off of materials for students with IEPs, such as assistive technology or any resources identified in a student’s IEPs to ensure compliance with IDEA requirements. 
  • Delivery of instructional materials to support all students with distance learning recognizing students’ unique and individual needs  
  • Safe transportation of students (and parents or aides) to therapy sessions, required services, and key meetings to maintain consistency for our most vulnerable student populations.  

Times like these define us as individuals, as organizations, and as a society. At Zūm, we have decided to join together with our community to fight for our students, schools, families, and drivers. To fight to ensure equal access for all students, especially during this period of school closures. To do everything we can to emerge from this pandemic together a stronger community. As Helen Keller said – “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”

If your organization needs help to deliver the resources you have to your students and community members in need, please contact us here. We are here to help. 

If you have other ideas for how we can collaborate to support your students or amplify existing efforts and impact, please share in the comments below. 

Ritu Narayan
Founder and CEO at Zūm


Zūm Celebrates Back to School with Expanded Service to Eight New Markets!

The first day of a brand new school year is always a special time for me, both personally and professionally. 

As a mother, I’m personally delighted to see my own two children (like over 50 million other students across the country) take that next step in their education and development. It’s wonderful to watch our kids blossom as they learn and grow and mature in so many exciting ways. Likewise, professionally I’m ecstatic to see Zūm continue to progress and mature as we fulfill our mission to be the leader in safe and reliable rides for children. Now more than ever our communities need a modern approach to transportation that works for schools and families. With student transportation costs rising 75% since 1980, it’s critical that Zūm succeeds in reducing these runaway expenses so money can be better allocated to programs that truly improve education.

I’m proud to share some of the ways Zūm is helping bring about better student transportation as children head back to school:

Zūm is expanding nationwide

As a team, we realize that to achieve our goals we need to bring the advantages of Zūm transportation to every school in every neighborhood. We won’t rest until all children have access to safe rides that are an efficient and enjoyable experience. To this end, we’re expanding Zum in two additional markets in California and six additional states. We’re now providing student transportation for schools in Sacramento and San Diego. This adds to our current offering in the San Francisco Bay Area as well as in both Los Angeles and Orange County. Beyond California, I’m proud to share that we’re also now providing student transportation to schools in communities in and around Miami, Phoenix, Dallas, Chicago, Seattle, and the Washington DC Metro area. 2019 will bring additional markets; we have teams in place in many other cities preparing to roll out Zūm rides. I’ll keep you posted as additional markets are announced.

Zūm introduces new Monthly Packages

To help families get the best pricing on Zūm rides, we’re also kicking off the back-to-school season with revamped Monthly Packages for SF Bay Area service. To offset the costs of demand-based pricing (and help us find a smaller pool of drivers for families), parents can now lock in the best rates by scheduling repeat rides for an upcoming month. To qualify for Monthly Packages, you only need to schedule the same ride three or more times in that month. To help us assign drivers, however, parents must schedule Monthly Packages before the month begins. You can learn more through our Zūm mobile app for iOS or Android.

Zūm is hiring (and has moved into new offices)

To continue creating new features and expanding to new cities, we’re adding new team members every day. This includes our full-time staff at our Redwood City headquarters as well as at regional offices in expansion locations. If you know talented people who would share our passion for helping schools and families, please point them towards our Careers Page. 

Speaking of our Zūm offices, after many months of growth we found ourselves running out of room fast. To give us all elbow room and provide even more room for team expansion, we moved our headquarters. Although we’re in the same building, we now have more than twice the space as before. Finding a conference room for a meeting or a comfortable place for some quiet contemplation is no longer a headache (at least not for a while).

We’re also onboarding more and more Zūm drivers daily, bringing trusted drivers to the Zūm community. It’s only through their dedication to children and safety that we’re able to be successful. Similarly, if you know wonderful people whom you think would be a great Zūmer, feel free to have them apply to drive for Zūm. The rewards are many, from financial to the satisfaction of helping nearby families and schools.

Zūm has now completed 1 million rides

With so many amazing developments happening here at Zūm, it’s no wonder we’re seeing our success multiply. We’ve now driven over one million rides, and we’re currently partnering with 250+ school districts and 4,000+ schools (and counting).

But more important than numbers, behind each of these metrics, is what really matters. Each number represents schools that have more money to spend directly on education, parents who can simplify their lives because children are safely driven where they need to be, children who can accomplish more by safely arriving at school and activities on time and ready to engage, and drivers who can benefit from helping their communities. This is why I originally founded Zūm, and why our team works so hard to continue achieving our mission and building on our success. I speak for all of us when I express how excited we are to help create a future that promises better and more enjoyable transportation.

Let’s work together to make this the best year yet. Welcome back to school everyone!

Ritu Narayan
Founder and CEO at Zūm

Zūm Heads Back to School Along with 50 Million Kids

Later this month, my children will join around 50 million other school-aged kids in the United States heading back to school. In California, where Zūm and my family are based, there are about seven million school-aged children. And, if your family is anything like mine, you’re probably preparing for the ‘special’ kind of craziness and complexity that juggling school, extracurricular activities and work brings each fall for the full year ahead. 

Thirty years ago, I witnessed my mother sacrifice her career to focus on her children and our day-to-day needs for transportation to school and activities. Many years later when my children started going to school, I realized that nothing much had changed. I faced the same dilemma of giving up my career because of a lack of safe and reliable part-time care for my children. This difficult but common parenting challenge for working families became my inspiration for starting Zūm – a trusted family logistics platform – to provide families with access to safe and reliable rides and care for children. 

Addressing Time Poverty

This is not your or my challenge alone. Over 41% of women in the U.S. say they find it hard to progress in their careers due to childcare needs and over 10 million women have left the workplace completely for this reason. Melinda Gates rightly calls this a time poverty gap, and it prevents women in the workplace from investing the same time into their careers as men. Researchers have often cited this as the ‘childcare penalty’ mothers face returning to their careers after a child is born.

I believe that while as a society we are showing a strong desire to act on gender equality in the workplace and society, we still have a long way to go. It is imperative to create easy access to safe and reliable on-demand family logistics resources, designed for modern families to turn this talk and desire into action. My vision for Zūm is to bring about this change and support child development without requiring anyone in the family to sacrifice their personal and professional aspirations.

Ritu Narayan
Founder and CEO at Zūm

Empowering Families for the New School Year

As 34 million families across the country gear up for a busy back-to-school ritual, we’re excited to share some significant milestones that provide us with the opportunity to expand our product and services.

We’re thrilled to announce that we recently closed our Series A financing, led by Sequoia Capital — the same team behind phenomenal brands like A irbnb, Dropbox, Instacart, WhatsApp, YouTube, and Zappos. Additionally, their General Partner Bryan Schreier will be joining our board of directors. Funding will support the company’s continued product and market expansion, as well as the development of strategic partnerships and initiatives.

For the families across the country with children, there is a lack of safe and reliable ride options. Zūm is for every busy household, no matter what it looks like — single parent families and dual income families; families with an only child and those with multiple kids; households with kids in public or private school, grade school and high school — all families that are constantly juggling multiple schedules and work demands. Zūm understands the need for flexibility with today’s busy families and provides the care and transportation they need.

We serve families from over 800 schools in the San Francisco Bay Area and Orange County, and over one hundred public, charter, and private schools use them as their exclusive rideshare partner to meet the dynamic transportation needs of their students and families. Having executed over 100,000 rides last year, Zūm is on track to grow five times this year.

Timed with the back to school season, Zūm has launched three new products that further expand upon existing partnerships with schools, and make it easier for families to manage increasingly busy schedules. These products include:

  • Zūm Carpools: Parents can now coordinate with nearby friends, neighbors, and partner schools to create single or recurring carpools to and from school, activities, playdates, and more, providing a cost-efficient ride that’s also fun for kids.
  • Zūm School Integration: Zūm provides easy integration with schools and full visibility of their student population’s transportation through Zūm’s technology. This brings added peace of mind to the schools and the families that they serve.
  • Zūm Monthly Plans: Parents can book recurring pick ups and drop offs for the full school year at a convenient, low monthly payment, creating a consistent and smooth routine for families.

We look forward to continuing to serve busy families this coming school year, from school pick-ups and drop-offs to swimming lessons and dance classes, and all the moments in between. Thank you for your continued support.

Zūm on!

Ritu Narayan
Founder and CEO at Zūm