Shuddle, The Uber For Kids?

A new car service is looking to compete with Uber, but with a twist. A startup called Shuddle will focus on ridesharing for children and seniors, and it just raised $9.6 million in its first big round of investment funding. According to Tech Crunch, Shuddle has now raised $12 million in funding, and though it's so far only based in California's Bay Area, Shuddle plans to use the money to begin expanding into new markets. It's an interesting idea — it would be extremely helpful to parents who can't find the time to drive their kids to endless sport practices, dance recitals, and other hobbies, as well as seniors who want a safe, comfortable option to get around.

Shuddle is a lot different than Uber, which has seen controversy after controversy, in many ways. For one, the majority of Shuddle drivers are women. For two, many of those drivers are teachers and nannies "who are doing this kind of thing anyway," says Nick Allen, the CEO and founder of Shuddle who's also a co-founder of Sidecar. For three, the extra training would hopefully make drivers both more safe and trustworthy, so parents aren't too worried about putting their child in a car with a stranger.

Parents often use carpooling as a way to circumvent the stresses and inconvenience of getting children to the many places they need to be. Granted, that carpool driver is generally a kid's parent or a babysitter, but that doesn't always work out. According to Shuddle's website, they screen for "reliable and friendly caregivers" with experience. Then they must pass a "ShuddleScreen" process that includes: face-to-face interviews, employer references, a criminal background check, a motor vehicle reference check, a vehicle inspection, and in-person training and orientation. The ride also, of course, includes GPS tracking, and a message is sent to the parent once the passenger has arrived at his or her destination safely.

To use Shuddle, passengers must have a mobile phone, caregiver permission, and a secret word chosen by the family that a driver will say to confirm their identity. All rides must be scheduled a day in advance, fares are based on mileage and time, and, like Uber, there is no cash used. There's also a $9 monthly fee, which seems well worth it if it's a safe a service as it seems; Shuddle says the monthly fee goes toward paying for the driver ShuddleScreen process, which, in turn, makes the ridesharing service safer. Steve Schlafman, principal at RRE Ventures, which invests in Shuddle, said in a statement:

Nearly every parent struggles with getting their kid(s) from point A to point B because they often need to be in two places at once. Shuddle solves this problem. RRE Ventures is incredibly excited to partner with Shuddle to bring safe, reliable and trustworthy transportation to millions of families across America.

Whether or not parents will feel comfortable letting their children (or their parents — remember, Shuddle also caters to seniors who need to get somewhere but still want to be independent) remains to be seen. But Allen says they're at capacity for service and ride volume has grown five times as much since the service came out of beta. Allen told Forbes that the fears of putting children in a car alone with a stranger are fading.

I heard the same argument when we started Sidecar, that no one wanted to get into a car with a random stranger. But kids already do that: taking carpools, riding on the school bus or city bus, riding a bike to school themselves.

Images: Shuddle (5)