Volvo Cars has acquired a stake in Zūm, an on-demand ride-sharing service specifically aimed at children.
The California-based company was founded in 2015 and provides a network of vetted drivers that allows parents and schools to schedule transport for children to and from their place of learning, after-school events and other activities. It also provides the option of adding childcare before or after a ride as needed.
The Swedish car firm has made the investment through the Volvo Cars Tech Fund, its venture capital investment arm. It has not disclosed the size of the stake it has taken.
Zūm vets its drivers through a strict three-step process. They need to be able to prove they have a clean driving record and previous childcare experience. Each driver is also subjected to a driving test and multiple background checks. Finally, every vehicle needs to be presented for testing and pass a thorough 22-point inspection.
The business currently has thousands of certified drivers in the San Francisco Bay area, Los Angeles and other urban areas in California that together serve 80% of the state’s population. Because of the predictable nature of the business and a lean and efficient business model, based on smart algorithms and machine-learning technology, it is a credible competitor to the traditional school bus.
Volvo Cars’ investment comes as a part of a funding round by Zūm, with which it aims to expand its business into other US states and continue developing its technology.
The customer group targeted by Zūm – families with children – significantly overlaps with Volvo Cars’ customer base. While no decisions have been taken, Volvo Cars sees potential for collaboration with Zūm. Possible areas of collaboration include adding Zūm to the digital consumer services offered as part of its Care by Volvo premium subscription service, as well as the deployment of Volvos as part of Zūm’s fleet.
‘Parents lead busy lives, and we all understand the challenge of solving the daily life puzzle,’ said 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 comfort that their kids are in good hands. Add to that their innovative technology, and it is easy to see why they are a good fit for our portfolio of investments.’
The Volvo Cars Tech Fund was launched last year and aims to invest in high-potential technology start-ups around the globe. It focuses its investments on strategic technology trends transforming the auto industry, such as artificial intelligence, electrification, autonomous driving and digital mobility services.
Last year, the Volvo Cars Tech Fund announced its first investment, putting money into Luminar Technologies, a leading start-up in the development of advanced sensor technology for use in autonomous vehicles, with whom Volvo Cars collaborates on the development of LiDAR sensing technology.
Since that first investment, the Tech Fund has also invested in electric car charging firm Freewire as well as in Forciot, a Finnish firm that develops connected, printable and stretchable electronics.