Designing the Future of Trust
Product & Operations Leader
July 11, 2019
Designing the Future of Trust
Trust and safety is the cornerstone of any successful platform. But for a ride sharing app that transports unaccompanied school children to and from their many destinations, trust and safety becomes even more imperative. Learn how HopSkipDrive is designing next-level security through their remarkable platform - and uniting communities in the process!
Yapstone presents Platform Players, the sound of platform innovation at work.
And to you Platform Players listening, it's time to take trust and safety to a whole new level. Learn how HopSkipDrive is innovating next-level user safety through their remarkable ride sharing platform that is so safe, your child can use it.
But first, this is your platform player flashback!
“Hey, D. What’s wrong?”
Being sixteen is hard for everyone. But Denise had it rougher than most.
Two months ago, she and her sister were removed from their family and placed in separate foster homes. She was now a two-hour public bus ride from her school and all her friends.
For the last two months, Denise would get on the bus at 4 AM to make it to class on time. She was exhausted, but it was the only way she’d be able to see her sister.
“I can’t take it anymore! It’s just too much!”
The stress of the four-hour daily commute finally took its toll.
“I told the counselor I wanted to transfer to a school near my foster house, but she said if I do – I’m going to get held back a year. I won’t get to graduate.”
“Why? Your grades are really good.”
Denise cried into her friend’s shoulder.
“I miss my sister…”
The next week, Denise was called to the counselor’s office. Again. But something was different this time.
“Hi Denise. Sit down, please. We have found a solution for you that I think you’re going to like. Our school is partnering with a platform called “HopSkipDrive” – it provides safe rides for students. They are going to pick you and your sister up every morning, so you can ride to school together, and then take you home each afternoon, so you can get to your homework more quickly.”
Denise couldn’t believe her ears. The car ride would only take 20 minutes. She could sleep two more hours AND get to see her sister.
“Thank you. So much.”
“Hey, what happened?”
“I’m going to stay!”
A few weeks after, Denise’s grades began to rise. And when the end of the year came, she not only got to graduate – she received a scholarship to go to college.
Denise is one of many students whose lives were positively impacted by HopSkipDrive.
Flash Forward, HopSkipDrive has driven more than 5 million safe miles, covers more than 10K schools and has grown more than 8x in the last year alone.
Let’s get down to the Nitty Gritty, shall we? Kurt Bilafer! Do your thing.
Platforms have certainly transformed our world in many ways – revolutionizing the way we transact online.
But some platforms are making an even more profound impact by supporting families and communities. One of these is HopSkipDrive. And we’re so happy to welcome their product and operations leader, Corey McMahon, to the show today. Hey, Corey.
Why don't you take us through, to start, how you guys came up with this idea. Obviously, I think we understand the high-level problem you're trying to fix or address. Help us understand what the motivation was behind it.
Yeah, absolutely. This really started with Joanna, our founder and CEO talking to other working moms at a party about the challenges that working parents have, which is really how do you get your kids where they need to be when you are at work? She and two of the other moms decided they needed to figure out a way to solve for this. It was really born out of a need to really solve their own problems.
Today, we are a technology platform that is really solving this problem, not just for parents, but for schools as well around how do you get kids where they need to go safely and reliably. We do that by connecting them with highly-vetted caregivers that provide a door-through-door transportation service. Then we layer on a safety layer that's both people and technology to make sure every ride is successful.
So, if someone wanted to sign up for the platform, obviously, there's a typical vetting, I would expect, just like all of the other rideshare platforms. What's the additional layer of due diligence that you do to ensure that the trust and safety are there?
We really go far beyond what anyone in the industry has done. We were the first to do this, so we really had to chart our own path there. So, we started, and from the very beginning, thought about what would make us comfortable to put our own kids in these cars? Because that's what we do.
In addition to all of the minimum standards that are required of a TNC, we require five years of caregiving experience. So, our drivers are all nannies, and teachers, and nurses, and things like that. In addition, we do multiple background checks, one of which is fingerprint-based. We fingerprint all of our drivers.
We meet all of our drivers in person. Drivers have to be at least 23 years of age. So, we have a number of background checks and policies, written questionnaires, and screeners to make sure the drivers can handle situations because we're really not just looking for drivers. We really are looking for caregivers.
What were things like when you first talked about this? I've got to imagine as grownups, as adults, we've all taken whatever your favorite rideshare service is. Though there's a certain amount of convenience, not everybody's a five-star driver. As a parent, you probably can deal with that.
The driver wasn't great through traffic or got lost. It's one thing when it's you as an adult, and you're in control. It's another thing when it's your kid or kids in the car, and you don't really know what's going on. How do parents first respond to this notion of what you guys have built up?
Great question. I think in some ways you hit the nail on the head, which is that this isn't like another rideshare service. The passenger is not the decisionmaker. This is a third-party that you're scheduling rides for. The kids don't have the right to change the destination and go to a different place or the pickup time.
It is a different model, and it is really unaccompanied minors. So, we had to think through every piece of this end to end. As I said before, think about what it would take to get our kids in it. Yes, that's driver vetting, but that's also the real-time monitoring.
Every ride has a dedicated safe ride specialist who is monitoring the ride in real-time, and proactively coordinating with the school, the parent, the rider, anyone at pickup, emergency contacts, whoever it may be as that ride is progressing. You need to do a lot more around notifications and visibility for parents along the way.
Also, just the transparency of who it is. You get driver information in advance so that you can put that on the school sign-out. We really thought through a number of things. When you're picking up the rider, we have safety protocols. We use passcodes and multiple factors of identification in there.
Yeah, obviously, building trust is a big part of what we have to do. I think knowing that we put our own kids in it helps with those first few customers. Hopefully, knowing that we transported over half a million kids, today I think it helps with the next few.
Platform Players is brought to you by Yapstone, the premier payments provider for the platform economy. We're here with Corey today cutting it up about trust and safety, specifically for ridesharing apps, which you've probably had personal experience with. But let's dig a little deeper into the numbers to get a better sense of where the industry is now. Here are five fast, fun facts you should know about the ridesharing market in the U.S.
According to Statista, 36% of people used ridesharing services in 2018, an increase from 15% in 2015. Not surprisingly, the two largest companies in the U.S. ridesharing market are Uber, which reported a net revenue of 11.3 billion dollars in 2018, and Lyft, which reported 2.6 billion in net revenue for the same year.
What you might not know is that the average ridesharing driver makes $20 per hour. The most popular car used by ridesharing drivers is the trusty Toyota, and the most common reason for adults using a ridesharing platform is going to or coming from a dinner party. And those are the facts. That was fun. Now, let's get back to our conversation. Kurt, back to you.
So, the interesting thing is, it doesn't seem like this is a race to scale. It sounds like it's a race to quality in ensuring that there is this – not only a frictionless experience but a highly valued and trust experience.
Yeah. I think that's true, although in some ways it's true of every marketplace that you need to scale as fast as you can while not losing quality. But obviously, we take that more seriously than most. Luckily, what we've seen is while there's obviously a huge demand for this, there are an incredible amount of really qualified people in our community that are willing and interested in supporting our youth this way.
That's the way we think of it is that there's a reason why stuff feels hard for parents these days, or it feels hard if you're a transportation director at a school is because the model has changed. The only way that we can support all the transportation needs of our kids is if the community gets involved. The community is, luckily, large enough and supportive enough that we feel like we can scale without all that demand.
What do you see as kind of the choke points or the barriers, the obstacles that you guys are going to have to address to efficiently scale the business and ensure that you have that same high level of service that you're currently offering?
Yeah, great question. One of them that we're looking at right now is geographic scale. We started in Los Angeles, Orange County, Bay Area. We're all through California right now. We went into Colorado. We're now in Virginia and D.C. Over the next twelve months, we'll be moving into a number of additional markets across the country.
Thinking about scale geographically, one thing we're focused on is how do we build a great team and great culture as we need to grow? As we scale up the team, how do you have a distributed workforce? What needs to be central? What needs to be distributed across the country? How do you hire great people?
I'm confident that the model is what communities need. I'm confident with the product/market fit. I just want to make sure that people internally and the culture we've built, that we can maintain that as we scale up.
How has HopSkipDrive built the technology stack that's allowed you to do this? Because I think one of the things is, as you go through the vetting process, a big part of what happens is friction gets inserted in the process. Oftentimes, what kills marketplaces is friction. So, I suspect first you focus on the supply side and building it up. Take us through the stack and the area of focus.
Absolutely. You're right. It's a two-sided marketplace, and in some ways, almost three sides if you think about parents and schools have a very different experience or at least set of needs. So, on the supply side, as you mentioned, we've got our driver acquisition funnel where we take drivers through an applicant tracking system that takes them through each step of that onboarding via the background checks, the online training, and quizzes, the questionnaires, the onsite.
They schedule their onsite orientation where we take them through additional modules. We do the vehicle inspections onsite. So, all of that's in the applicant tracking system. Once they become live, they go onto the platform and have access to a mobile app. Then the parents have access to a web app and a mobile app, and our schools have a dedicated web app as well and access to the mobile apps.
So, all of those are our clients' applications that really sit on top of our backend marketplace where we connect everybody. That includes payment mechanisms, dispatch, and optimization algorithms. It includes a hybrid marketplace so that it's poll-based.
The drivers can build their schedules in advance. This has been a really great tool for recruiting drivers is that they get to know where they're driving and how much they're going to make in advance and build their schedule around that. So, it's a poll-based marketplace.
As we get closer and closer to right time, it has more push characteristics that look more like an Uber or Lyft where we're notifying drivers of upcoming rides and nearby rides that are a great fit for their schedule. That's the middle layer, which is the marketplace and the dispatching systems. Then underneath all that is all the data.
The other thing that keeps me up at night is just how do we get 1% safer every day? How do we get a little bit better? I want to make this the absolute, safest, most reliable platform possible. I just think about the thousands of rides we have tomorrow, and is there something else we can be doing from a technology perspective, a process perspective, a people perspective to make them just a little bit safer? I just continue to focus on that.
Alright, everybody. It's time to raise the stakes. As you can probably tell, HopSkipDrive is a company that obsesses over the safety of their users. Naturally, it's important that they have the safest drivers. But there's also a strong cybersecurity lesson that you can learn from them.
So, we've brought in Yapstone's Chief Information and Security Officer, Richard Noguera to unpack some of this for us. So, Richard, from your perspective, what can the listeners learn about instilling trust from HopSkipDrive?
Well, to instill the trust in any platform that the safety of my child is in. If I were just talking about that personally, I'd want to make sure 1) that the platform itself is impermeable. Why that's so important is so that the identities of the children that are being picked up are protected and always secure as much as that the identities of the drivers are validated, authenticated, and wholly protected almost at the same level as the children because you don't want them being manipulated either, so that it's a closed system that you can 100% trust at all times. There is no margin for error there. So, platforms have to be super tight from the cyber perspective in that respect.
Yeah, so give us the checklist. What do new platforms need to do in order to establish safety from a cybersecurity perspective?
Strong authentication is a must on all sides, meaning those that produce the platform, that operate the platform, that they're always validated and checked before they're even able to log on. As a customer, same thing: making sure that it absolutely me scheduling the pickup and that I can trust the driver who also has to log in to make sure that it's connected in a safe and trusted manner. So, the marketplace itself has to be preserved minimally at the authentication perspective. Are you really the person on the other end of that line?
Alright. Take note, players listening. Rich, thank you so much for your insights. Kurt, back to you.
So, two things that popped into my mind. Obviously, the data has got to be very, very insightful in terms of routes and where people are going, and those sorts of things that you can either use to improve the experience or potentially either monetize it at some point or time down the road. But I think, more importantly, it is probably pretty interesting from a school's perspective to know how far people are coming in from.
Absolutely. That's really how we think about it. We're not in the business of monetizing people's data, but as far as empowering schools to make better decisions, that's what we're all about. When we think about time and vehicle, are we able to take kids out of an hour-and-a-half bus route and get them in a 20-minutes-a-day in ride? That's really powerful.
Then, can we connect that with student outcomes? As we reduce time and vehicle, do we actually see performance in the classroom go up? Or, as we get access for students to have rides that didn't have it before when we think about foster youth or homeless youth, can we see changes in outcomes there? Truancy rate, absenteeism, graduation rates. We're really focused on how do we partner with schools to improve outcomes for their students.
You know, when I first started researching what you guys do, I was really thinking you were more like the Uber for kids, but clearly, the mission is so much more significant, and the benefit is tremendous. Where do you think this goes because I could imagine school districts once armed with this data saying, "Okay, maybe we need fewer buses, or we need to alter the bus routes, and then we're going to use transportation augmentation and leverage what you guys are doing to handle whether it's the last mile or very specific routes for very specific kids." Where do you envision the business going?
I think that's absolutely right. I think we're absolutely a complement and augmentation to student transportation across schools, across America. I think the reality is schools are really struggling with this right now because not only do you have a nationwide school bus driver shortage, you have a number of Baby Boomers in that industry that are retiring, and people just aren't coming into that field, but you also have this proliferation of school of choice, individualized education.
Kids are getting shipped around across the district from one location to another. Schools have smaller budgets, and yet somehow, far more demanding needs. So, this isn't a LA problem, Virginia, D.C., Colorado. This is a nationwide small districts and large districts problem.
Yeah, we think we can really be a tool for every school district in the country. Then really an empowering force for people in the community who need additional income opportunities.
Platform Players is brought to you by Yapstone, the premier payments provider for the platform economy. We've reached the end of our show, but we have just enough time for Tick-Tock where Kurt gets up close and personal with our player. Gentlemen, your time starts now. Watch that clock.
What's your favorite book?
Right now, I'm reading a lot about scaling up, but I guess I would have to go with a non-business book and say How Not to Die, by Michael Greger.
Just the title alone sounds great. I think everybody should read that, but give me a little bit more because I haven't read it.
It basically takes the top 15 causes of death in America and ties just about every one of them back to diet. So, it's really about a more plant-based diet and the impacts that can have on health and outcomes.
What's the best piece of advice you've ever received?
I think I would say always say yes when presented with new opportunities. The only way you grow – through my career, I've just continually been surprised by what I found myself in just being willing to give something a try.
What's your favorite smell and sound?
I'm going to have to be sappy here and say hearing my girls crack each other up and just giggling. That's literally the best sound in the world.
How about smell?
Smell? For me, there's something about just running through the hills behind my house in that early-morning fog. That is just intoxicating.
What would you be doing if you weren't doing this?
I was part of UCLA's basketball program back in the day, and I was heading down the path of being a college basketball coach before switching gears. So, I'd probably have to say that. I'd be a college basketball coach.
Corey, thank you again for joining Platform Players. I've really enjoyed the conversation. You guys are doing some incredible work in HopSkipDrive, and I can't wait to see how it evolves. Thanks so much for being here today.
Thanks so much. I had a lot of fun. It was great.