Virgin Atlantic’s Business is an Adventure event series touches down in LA this month, with the aim of discovering how great business ideas can become a success on the global stage. By tuning into the livestream you’ll not only gain insight from Richard Branson, but a collection of the city’s hottest start-ups…
LA start-up: HopSkipDrive
Founders: Joanna McFarland, Carolyn Yashari Becher, Janelle McGlothlin
USP: A ride service for kids, founded by three working parents it aims to take the stress out of getting your children where they need to go when you’re not able to do it yourself.
Here we ask Joanna McFarland to tell us a little more about HopSkipDrive and what it takes to make it as an entrepreneur in Los Angeles.
Do you think your location has been an important factor to the success of the business so far? Or could HopSkipDrive work anywhere, no matter what city you’re in?
Los Angeles has been a great place to launch HopSkipDrive. It is incredibly diverse geographically and demographically and that has enabled us to learn a lot about meeting supply and demand on a hyper-local level, and scale that across an area that is the size of six US cities. Our business works anywhere there are busy families but LA has been the perfect learning ground.
What have you learnt about the sharing economy since founding HopSkipDrive?
We have learned so much about the sharing economy. It really is all about sharing - providing both a valuable service to customers while offering an income opportunity to the providers. In our business, the CareDrivers. Both sides of the sharing economy are equally important, and we need to focus on making sure the value proposition is strong for families who use the service and for CareDrivers who provide the service. We have been particularly impressed by the strength of the CareDriver community. They love that they are part of something mission-driven, and they have come together as a community of caregivers who dedicate themselves to children.
What have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced so far?
Everything about starting a company is a challenge because you are starting it from scratch. We’ve grown even faster than we originally expected and have sometimes struggled to keep up with demand. Every day we learn and grow as a company and meet challenges head on. That’s what makes it so fun!
Some ridesharing apps out there don’t have the best of reputations, have you found yourselves having to work extra hard to project a positive image of HopSkipDrive?
We don’t think of ourselves as a ridesharing app, we think of ourselves as offering caregivers on wheels. The service we provide is fundamentally different and it starts with how we vet CareDrivers. CareDrivers are required to have a minimum of five years of childcare experience and go through our rigorous 15-pt certification process that includes background checks, fingerprinting, driving record checks, reference checks and meeting every CareDriver in person. We were the first rideshare company to fingerprint because we believe that safety standard is table stakes for driving kids.
What are the pros and cons of starting up in LA?
LA is a great place to start a business. There is great engineering talent here, a combination of entertainment and technology, a focus on monetization and profitability from the beginning, and a great collaborative community that cheers each other on and celebrates success.
The city proudly supports its start ups, and LA has been ranked the third start-up city in the world. The only real con is traffic.
What sort of businesses work well in LA?
LA is producing start-ups that are becoming leaders in ecommerce, on-demand, entertainment and media, VR and more, not to mention Hyperloop and other amazing game-changing innovations. We have some of the best engineering programs and now those engineers are starting to stay here rather than go north or elsewhere. It’s an incredibly collaborative and welcoming community, so really any business can work well here.
The first Business is an Adventure event, featuring Richard Branson and a panel of prominent LA business leaders, takes place in Los Angeles on February 18th. The event will be available to stream for free on virgin.com from 16:00 (PST).