(Photo by Flickr user Rafael Castillo, used under a Creative Commons license)
When you Google-image search the term “startup culture,” you don’t really see many pictures of elderly individuals. So when’s the last time you heard about a startup that was created to cater to the elderly?
Direct Mobile Transit is the newest senior-focused business in New Castle County, operating out of the Emerging Enterprise Center at the New Castle County Chamber of Commerce.
“In a certain sense this population is somewhat forgotten, taken for granted,” said founder and president Mike Bantum. “You compound that with it being the fastest-growing population in the state, it really starts putting pressure on the services and other things that this population needs.”
Bantum founded the company with his brother and vice president Charles Bantum thanks to U.S. Small Business Administration funding. They both started the company due to personal experiences with aging parents and family members who had to give up driving for health and safety reasons.
The company has only been operational for a little under two months and it’s already operating at 40 percent capacity, Bantum says. The company currently has four transportation vehicles and five drivers, but is looking to hire at least three more drivers to keep up with demand.
There has been a growing movement in New Castle County for elderly rights. New Castle County Register of Wills, Ciro Poppiti, recently passed the Senior Citizens’ Bill of Rights Initiative, which is backed by a volunteer think-tank to consider the needs of the elderly in government.
Some public transit options already exist: DART paratransit, DART SCAT (Senior Citizens Affordable Taxi) and a group powered by volunteer drivers called FISH (boy, do these services love their acronyms). But Mike Bantum says all of these services are overburdened and cannot keep up with demand, this is where his company comes in.
What makes his company different? Direct Mobile Transit participates with Medicaid and is a part of the LogistiCare transportation network. It’s also dedicated to tackling the time issue: many of the transportation services Direct Mobile Transit is competing against are frequently late. In addition to GPS tracking, route efficiency is powered by Pantonium, a dispatching software that is installed on a tablet in each Direct Mobile Transit vehicle. The company also utilizes manual lifts as opposed to hydraulic lifts, making them more environmentally friendly. Every single driver undergoes a criminal background check as well.
“There’s an underserved market for a private-pay person in our target group who may want to go places that are not related to healthcare,” explained Mike Bantum. “They want to go to the movies, a play or to a lecture and they want secure, safe and comfortable transportation to those events.”
Currently, Direct Mobile Transit only serves the New Castle County area, though the company is working on expanding across the state. It also hopes to offer out-of-state service to reach Philadelphia, New Jersey and Maryland, as there has been a large demand for transportation between hospitals, Bantum said.-30-
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