When her longtime babysitter was no longer able to watch her children, single mother of two Noreen Butler almost immediately felt the loss. But she quickly realized that what she needed wasn’t someone to help watch her kids, who were 11 and 14 at the time — it was someone to get them where they needed to go.
“The most important thing to me was that the kids were going to be safe and the driver was going to be safe, and shared the mission of providing a safe, trusted ride for the kids that was going to be reliable, consistent and something I could count on every single day,” Butler told Technical.ly.
So, Butler began a journey of testing out rideshare drivers from Uber and Lyft in order to find someone she trusted to help out, who could also notify her when her kids were getting picked up and when they were dropped off safely. It worked, but it meant notifying other parents about the arrangement when her kids wanted to spend time with friends after school. In no time at all, she said, her phone began ringing off the hook with parents wanting to borrow the drivers she was using.
The experience led Butler to launch Bethesda-based RubiRides, a rideshare service that launched in DC this month to help offer parents a safe option for transporting their kids. Parents can download the app, developed by an in-house team, and upload their information and transportation service needs. Each family is then assigned two to three drivers, to offer some consistency for the kids but allowing multiple options if a driver is unavailable. During the trips, parents can use live location tracking to see where drivers and kids are, and receive text updates on when kids have been picked up and dropped off.
“Transportation is such a logistical stressor for so many, and it even impacts the kids, because they know that they need to get places, whether it’s practice, tutoring, music lessons, they need to be there on time,” Butler said. “One of the things that we’re striving for is teaching our kids time management, and then also being a trusted resource for busy families.”
Drivers in the system, Butler said, undergo a verification process that includes a Motor Vehicle Report; county, federal and national criminal searches; a sex offender search; social security number trace; and a Global Watchlist search. Drivers and parents also have a way to contact 911 through the app, if necessary, and RubiRide manages all communications so drivers only have access to the information they need to complete the trip. The four-person company has 120 drivers in its system who have undergone the background check.
RubiRides was founded in 2017 and held beta testing in the DMV for the past few years, though it had to hold off on its launch until now due to the pandemic. But Butler said it was actually a good thing for the company, as it was able to expand its system and offer rides to more than just kids.
“For any of our riders, whether they’re minors, adults [and kids with disabilities] or seniors, we are providing them a safe way to get to someplace where they truly need to go,” Butler said.
Rides can be booked on the app in advance, and Butler said 99% of rides on the app so far are reoccurring, such as weekly pickups from school or rides to extracurricular activities. The drivers have the advantage of consistency and predictable revenue.
Following the official launch in DC, Butler said RubiRides is in the process of building a rider app, launching in the coming months. It also has plans to scale nationally, with expansion into new markets on the East and West coasts through the rest of the year and into 2022. She added that the company, which has done friends and family as well as angel investing up until now, plans to launch a Series A round in the new year.
For now, though, Butler said she’s focusing on the core mission of the company: a safe transport option for families.
“One of the biggest things that at Rubi we strive for every single day is the safe, trusted rides that we’re providing the community,” Butler said. “You know, it takes a village, and we really understand that and so we really do work together to make safe trusted rides happen for those that need them.”-30-