Chauffeured group transportation – the vehicles used for company outings, special occasions and even weddings – is a fragmented industry with hundreds of small operators who rely on analog systems to book customers. In this era of COVID-19, these operators are under pressure as travel and tourism have declined and companies have chosen to have employees work from home.
A Los Angeles-based transportation booking startup called Swoop wants to take these small local operators into the digital age with a new software-as-a-service platform that helps them adapt to this COVID-19 era. The capital-laden startup is upgrading its SaaS product in hopes of opening up a market in which customers spend $ 40 billion annually.
Dive raised $ 3.2 million in a seed financing round led by Signia Venture Partners, South Park Commons and several angel investors, including former Uber CPO Manik Gupta; Kevin Weil, co-creator of Libra on Facebook; Kim Fennel, a former Uber manager; and Elizabeth Weil, former partner at Andreessen Horowitz and 137 ventures.
"I'm fascinated by how operators are still doing most of their business with pen and paper," said Amir Ghorbani, Swoop's CEO and co-founder, in a statement. Ghorbani has experienced the limitations of these small operators first-hand. During high school and college, Ghorbani helped with his Parents limousine business. Experience prompted him to look for a solution.
"I saw a great opportunity to help these small mom and pop stores in a sub-digitized industry where no operator has a market share of more than 1%," added Ghorbani.
Ghorbani started building a group transportation booking platform used by companies like Airbnb. Google and Nike. Through these bookings, the companies saw the opportunity to develop company management software for vehicle operators.
With Swoop's SaaS platform, businesses can Book and send trips, track vehicles and communicate with customers. It also acts as a central hub for payments and other accounting. The tool is intended to simplify the booking process and increase vehicle utilization, which according to the company is currently 4.9%. Swoop also passes the operators on via the SaaS tool leads from companies that use the booking platform.
At the moment the focus is on local carriers, non-public transportation, a sector that Uber tracks.
COVID-19, which has put off most group excursions, has turned these local transportation companies upside down. Swoop has adapted its platform to enable these operators to survive. The company told theinformationsuperhighway that it helps operators use their vehicles to ship goods, not people. For example, large vans that used to be used for business trips can now be marketed to food wholesalers or companies that require local package delivery. The platform is also used to connect operators with companies like Amazon that offer transportation for key shuttle factory workers.
According to Swoop, COVID-19 could accelerate its business ramp as operators are forced to value their businesses and look for new ways to generate revenue and cut costs.