Zūm’s mission is simple – to introduce school transport that is reliable, efficient, sustainable and transparent.
To accomplish the feat of modernizing an incredibly outdated, bogged down system, Zūm relied on cloud-based analytics software to create a flexible bus routing system with real-time visibility for schools and parents. The startup also uses a diverse fleet that includes buses, vans and cars, which it distributes based on specific use cases. For example, children who live on busier routes will be assigned to school buses, and those who are a little further away will be given vans or cars to increase overall efficiency.
When we last spoke to Ritu Narayanfounder of Zūm, the startup just won a A $150 million contract to modernize student transportation in the San Francisco Unified School District and was working on a plan to transform it fleet of electric school buses in a virtual power plant to provide backup power to the grid.
“Zūm is a very recession-proof business. No matter what, children will go to school every day, whether there is a recession or inflation. Zūm founder Ritu Narayan
Zūm has since signed a $68 million contract with Seattle Public Schools and a $400 million contract with the Los Angeles Unified School District to phase out their aging bus systems in 2022 and beyond. The company closed and a $130 million Series D led by Softbank Vision Fund 2, bringing its total funding to over $200 million, and aims to have a 100% electrified fleet of buses, vans and cars by 2025.
We sat down with Narayan to catch up on the past year and talk about how to attract top tech talent, how growth-stage startups can attract next-level investors, and how to pick a recession-proof business.
Editor’s note: The following interview, part of an ongoing series with founders building transportation companies, has been edited for length and clarity.
TechCrunch: Zūm had a little impressive new executive hires recently — looks like you’ve been stealing from Amazon, Microsoft, Uber, and Netflix. Do you have any advice for other startups looking to attract top tech talent?
Ritu Narayan: The #1 thing is a focus on mission and purpose. The business we are discontinuing is a fairly old business. It has existed for 80 to 100 years without much change. So when we’re looking for potential hires, we’re just outlining very clearly what change Zūm is bringing. We believe that everyone has encountered a school bus story of some sort, whether it was being bullied on the bus or perhaps not having access to one and having to walk. It’s such a part of people’s lives that when we actually explain our mission and founding story, people are very able to relate.