Money Matters

This Female Founder Just Raised $19M To Pick Your Kids Up From School


Freedom of choice.

This was at the top of Ritu Narayan’s mind when she left India. As a girl, Narayan dreamed of becoming an astronaut. In school, she was one of six girls out of 300 students in her engineering class. By the time she immigrated to the US, she had become the first engineer in her family.

After starting a family of her own, Narayan realized that her ability to make choices, especially as a working mother, was becoming increasingly constrained. “I was working at eBay when my daughter started school, and it was very hard to find someone reliable who I could trust to pick her up,” she explained. “It was a crazy hassle trying to juggle work and childcare. I kept feeling like I should be working.”

This internal tension is what initially sparked her idea for Zūm. Narayan quickly realized she was not the only working mother to experience these challenges. There are 63 million families in the U.S. and mothers spend over a billion hours driving their children around and taking them to school. Even more critically, 41% of mothers find it very difficult to advance in their careers because of childcare needs.

Her vision as CEO of Zūm was to create the biggest ally for working mothers by providing safe, reliable rides for kids. “ Women should never have to make the choice to leave work or to take care of their children ,”  Narayan said.

From the beginning, the demand for Zūm was clear. Her turning point came she she met Miriam Rivera of Ulu Venturues who wrote their largest seed check giving Zūm the ability to quickly launch and scale “There was an instant connection with [Riveria],” Narayan says of her early investor. “Having faced this problem for years, she knew the scale of what we could become and even compared us to Google early on.”

“We are always looking for founders with an authentic personal story,” said Bryan Schreier, partner of Sequoia Capital, who led Zūm’s $5.5 million Series A in 2017. “Ritu built a company based on her own experience as a working parent and created an elegant solution that tackles a key problem facing modern families.”

Today, Zūm announces their $19 million Series B, led by Spark Capital. The raise makes Narayan one of the few female founders to close a significant late stage funding round. In 2017, female founders captured just 8% of late stage venture rounds. Looking forward, Zūm plans to expand its school offering to select major cities in California, and grow its footprint to 20 additional US cities in 2019.

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