How AI Is Helping Get Kids To School On Time! With Kimberly Moore
Many parents are struggling with dropping off and picking up their kids to and from school. With the pandemic, it can be risky, and even costly, to put them in the school bus either. Seeing this problem, Kimberly Moore started CarpooltoSchool, a SaaS that is helping parents create and schedule carpools, reducing their kids' exposure while helping them get to school on time! In this episode, Kimberly speaks with Chad Burmeister about this revolutionary product that is taking the idea of shared rides from Uber and Lyft to the schoolyard. She shares with us how she became an entrepreneur in 2015 and how the pandemic has done her business model more good than harm. Putting technology at the center of it all, Kimberly then talks about how AI is helping ensure kids get to school on time during this pandemic.
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How AI Is Helping Get Kids To School On Time! With Kimberly Moore
I've got a special guest with me. She's from one of the smallest states in the country or the first. We couldn't figure out which one that is. Maybe it's both. I've got Kimberly on the show. She is the CEO of CarpooltoSchool. What a cool idea and concept, especially in the world we're living in, what better time to carpool to school than to share a ride on a bus. We're going to talk about different things that are going on pre-COVID world, post-COVID world, what's going on in sales, how's that all affected you, and have a human-to-human conversation here. Kimberly, welcome to the show.
Thanks for having me. I'm looking forward to it.
You're from Delaware. If I'm not mistaken, that's where a little guy named Joe Biden is from as well. I've never been to Delaware, but as you said, if you've driven from New York to DC, then you've been there.
For at least ten minutes.
I drove from DC to North Carolina through Virginia. I think we saw it, but we didn't quite get there. You've been doing this for five years. It says on the website, “No buses? No problem.” How did this idea come to mind in the first place? How do you provide value for your customers?
CarpooltoSchool, “No buses? No problem.” Got to this idea at the intersection of my sister-in-law, needing to take my niece to school and pick her up from school, take her to practice. She’s a single mom, not having somebody who she could trust to pick her up and drop her off. I was in between my gigs as an event production producer and decided, “I might be able to do this.” She's like, “I have a lot of parents who I could hook you up with.” I understood what the problem was that many parents drive their kids to and from school, particularly from school because they have somewhere else to go. In solving the problem, playing around with it.
You were talking about your sister had your niece that needed to be taken to school and that's how you came about figuring out this business. Tell us more about that.
I figure out after talking with her that this is a big problem for parents, particularly from school to wherever kids going after school. For private schools, public charter, and even kids in public schools, there isn't a good way for kids to make that transition that fits the family schedule. I'm a former event producer. I've got about fourteen years of experience in the wireless industry. I ran the Federal Government division for Verizon wireless and in technology. I was also in between event gigs. I thought, “This might be a good way to make a little money and create a little side hustle.” I had a Mercedes Station Wagon at the time. I’m picking up kids and taking them to and from school or practice. I started exploring the idea. I did a fourteen-month beta. It would remind you of an Uber for kids.
That’s the first thing that came to mind. Uber with trustworthy drivers.
What I realized was in order to deliver a trustworthy, vetted driver who will do pickup and drop off on a regular basis is an expensive proposition. We were going to do a 25 driver pilot in DC. It's going to be $500,000. Almost $3,000 per driver just to onboard them and before they return a profit because you've got to build up the demand for your service and so forth. What I realized quickly with Uber also and Lyft realize is that shared ride is where you make your money. How do you do that with kids? How do you get parents to agree to let their kids ride with other kids that they don't necessarily know? In my search for some software to do that, I land in a conversation with the actual founders of CarpooltoSchool at the exact moment that she wanted to sell her company.
She asked me, did I want to buy it? I thought, “Let me see. Let me talk to my advisors and see what they say.” We were so aligned with our values. She had talked to other companies about the acquisition and she's like, “I like what you're doing. My why for this is when you offer parents multiple options of how their kids can get to and from school, their kids can go to the school they need to or want to go to, to be their best.” Ninety days after that conversation, we acquired CarpooltoSchool with the express purpose of being able to develop this national brand. Scale it across the country and make it available for public schools, private schools and public charters so that as many kids that can get to school in a way that makes sense for their family, they would be able to do that.
As we dug into it and understood what we had, our vision has evolved and we want to be the go-to platform for all school districts and schools to point their parents to organize transportation. It takes the school out of having to sign them up and all that stuff. We don't care what transportation option that they select. We want to be the platform that the parent signs up, figures out our carpool, “I'm going to book a trip with the Uber for kids’ company that are now in the market.” We see that is what our pathway to success in scaling.
COVID made it clear that we got to have a school bus alternative.
I love what you said when you were aligned on values with that company because that's where it starts. We've partnered with a guy named Rich Blakeman, who was the former sales vice president of Miller Heiman for many years. He could go anywhere he wants. He could go to any company in America or in the world and get hired for a lot of money. He said, “Chad, I know you know a lot of people in the Denver area, why don't we get together? Do you know anybody who's looking to hire?” I said, “We just hired a CRO and I could use some help on the channel side. Why don't you come over to my house? We'll have a few hours at the fire pit and let's see if we're aligned on values.” We talked about religion and spirituality and it was obvious that the base was 100% in alignment. That no matter what it is we do together, we're operating from that system of trust and belief in a higher power.
When we realized that the highest value for us is kids, family and keeping a trusted environment around those kids, it made sense and we were super excited to get it. We've optimized it. When we acquired it, it was just a web app. Now we have mobile, iOS and Android. Now we incorporated the ability to share your trip to navigating your routing and all that good stuff. We've got a terrific feature roadmap plan for it as well.
Talk to me pre-COVID and post-COVID. How did that change your business?
COVID has made our business even better. Not only from the same point that it only makes sense not to put your kid on a bus to reduce your own family's exposure to COVID, but from a vision perspective, it has done as well because we are presenting a school bus alternative. A couple of facts, the school bus industry is a $22 billion industry that only transports 33% of all students to school and 54% of all kids are driven to school by their parents or a responsible adult. You've got schools, who need to maximize every single dollar, putting and investing in a system process that isn't working because it's not getting all kids to school. While many understand that, the ability to see what could be possible, that doesn't look like a school bus has been hard for school districts in particular. They get it. Immediately, they go to risk and liability.
It’s like political decisions, bureaucracy, red tape and all that.
We understood that we would have to navigate those conversations, but what COVID did was made it clear. We got to have a school bus alternative, like in the DC area where we're headquartered. Fairfax, Virginia, their County school has the second-largest school bus system in the US with 1,200 school buses. They would have to buy an additional 779 buses and hire the equivalent bus drivers to meet the CDC guidelines. That’s not going to happen.
Testing and everything else. They're going to have the money, time and resources.
For many school districts around the country, the decision to delay in-person instruction is largely determined by how they would get their students to school. They need more time to figure out what those options look like. It's increased our conversations with school districts exponentially because they need to have other options. If they have to take those kids who are going to school outside of their community because they have the benefit of school choice, they can create a better conversation with parents about carpooling than they could have before. During COVID, we're thriving. We're having great conversations. We're learning about what we need to do as a business in order to put the right gates around our products to keep kids safe and make schools comfortable with this new idea. By using our software, we're reducing their per student transportation costs by over 60%.
One of my kids just went off to college. My daughter's in her senior year of high school. This didn't apply to them. They're driving cars now, but I got an email and it said, “If your kids are going to be taking the bus, two changes for this year. Number one, the bus is going to go to the front of the subdivision.” It's 2.1 miles to the backend. “Kids, good news. You're going to walk 2.1 miles.” It snows here in Colorado. That would be a little tough. Two, instead of it being included in your free cost to attend elementary or high school, now it's a dollar per trip there and back. It's not only inconvenient, but it also costs you money. If you had a carpool option and who wouldn't do that?
Many school districts are having to make those same choices. Even for students who typically would walk based on the federally mandated guidelines and school bus systems have agreed to take them, they're scaling back. They're saying, “That mandates in place. It says that you're supposed to walk if you live 1.5 mile or less from the school, we're going to have to have you walk now. We're not going to be able to provide a bus.”
I talked to someone who knows the bus driver or even as a bus driver and they said, “Half of the bus drivers do not want to drive now.” It has to do with your belief system around COVID, “Am I safe or am I at risk?” As a citizen, that's your choice to decide if you're safe or at risk.
Many people do this as retirement income. You've got the flexibility to hours. In some school districts, you can get part-time benefits. They have a difficult time. Even before COVID, there was a 30% bus driver shortage nationally.
I would think there's going to be parents who are like, “If I only knew this was available, could I sign up on the website and use it myself?” Second, “Can I get this introduced to my school board or the principal?” Are there a couple of different recommendations you might make for parents that are in this type of situation?
We've chosen it as a business model to sell our software to schools and school districts because it is a way for them to have another option to be able to control of the asset. If they need to make changes, to how it's operating, they can make those changes and to demonstrate to their families, “We get that this is a big problem. We're going to be part of the solution.” If a parent loves the idea, once they introduce it to their school, on our website at the bottom, it says, “Share this with your school or share this with your PTA.” We will get that message and follow up directly. We have a live chat on our platform. They can send us a message there as well.
We often will reach out to a school and say, “We had a parent want to know more about CarpooltoSchool. We thought you'd like to know in case you want to do a demo.” This is what we'll talk about it here because I see AI as being a perfect solution for us to incorporate this because we do that. From our live chat to that customer and in the email, it's not automated. There are some activities of our customer success team and our sales team that I see AI being able to help us solve.
I would think even in the backend of your product and platform, there has to be some level of AI around matching the students with the driver and with the routes.
We have an intelligent matching algorithm built-in based on where the parent lives or the address if they want to be able to do the pick-up and drop off, the child's grade, and also, their schedule. We're talking about optimizing that for our 2.0 platform. I'm curious to hear some ideas that you might even have. Let’s think about there, but intelligently matching parents so that they are connecting with the right people that they want. We want to add some more filters to that as well.
Another company comes to mind called Smoothwall that sells to schools. Another company that we work with is called Sodexo and they do school lunches. My thinking is I know that senior vice presidents of both of those organizations who have all of the contexts at the major schools. That might be an interesting introduction for you to talk to the head of sales at Smoothwall and get the word out. This has been a fabulous conversation.
Delaware is an important state in the union. All eyes are on Delaware. I'm glad to hear that you've taken this as a passion to solve this problem. My daughter cares about people and society. School choice and the things that your company enables, she believes that education is where it all starts. She's my entrepreneurial cloth. I applaud her in chasing her dreams to say, “How can I change society?” The 2020 vision is now lit the lights on in the darkroom and helps a lot of people understand that, “How can we move the chess game around a little bit?”
The creativity level now is high. People have been able to come up with some of the most fantastic ideas. We'll never go back to the way that we were before.
It's been a pleasure to talk with you, Kimberly. I appreciate your time and investment. It’s a pleasure getting to know you. Good luck.
Thank you, Chad. Good luck being an empty nester.
Everybody, we'll catch you on the next one. We are out.