Anyone who has ever been in charge of organizing a group trip is familiar with all the planning that goes into it, and executing the most basic plans like how to get from point A to point B can kickstart a flurry of activity that includes hours of Google searches and phone calls with various vendors. Swoop, the group transportation company, simplifies this entire process. Swoop partners with licensed transportation operators to provide a variety of vehicles (party buses, luxurious shuttle vans, etc.) tailored to customers’ specific needs. All customers need to do is download the Swoop app and enter in trip details to discover the best vehicles available at optimal prices. The current landscape of the group transportation industry is fragmented and made up of many mom-and-pop businesses. Swoop’s platform empowers these small businesses by helping to increase sales and grow customer networks by leveraging technology. As a result of the pandemic, Swoop helps its partner transportation operators adapt by using vehicles to transport essential workers, food, and goods. Swoop is available in cities across the United States such as LA, NYC, Chicago, SF, Austin, and more.
LA TechWatch caught up with CRO and cofounder Peter Evenson to learn more about how Swoop helps the group-transit industry modernize on all sides, the company’s inspiration, and recent funding round.
Who were your investors and how much did you raise?
Swoop just raised $3.2M in Seed funding. Alongside Signia, a number of high-profile investors participated in the financing, including South Park Commons led by their two managing partners – Ruchi Sanghvi (the first female engineer at Facebook) and Aditya Agarwal (the former CTO of Dropbox), and 122 West Ventures. Additionally, Manik Gupta (former Chief Product Officer at Uber) Kevin Weil (Co-creator of Libra), Kim Fennell (former exec at Uber), and Elizabeth Weil (former Partner at Andreessen Horowitz and currently at 137 Ventures) joined as angels.
Tell us about the product or service Swoop offers.
My cofounder, Amir Ghorbani, had experience helping out his parent’s limousine business during high school and college. With this domain expertise, Swoop built a group transportation marketplace, collaborating with companies like Google, Nike, and Airbnb, and individual passengers. Through these bookings, we saw an opportunity to build SaaS/business management software for vehicle operators who were historically taking orders with pen and paper. Swoop’s SaaS tool saves time, money, and increases efficiencies. This includes automated vehicle tracking, dispatching, bookkeeping, expense tracking, analytics, and customer communication and follow-ups with leads.
What inspired the start of Swoop?
Amir’s realization that most of the work in the space is still done by pen and paper or outdated software that is not made for the industry.
What market is Swoop targeting and how big is it?
There are 400M passengers in the US that spending $40B on chauffeured group transportation every year. This industry is dominated by small local mom and pop shops, who own 5-6 vehicles on average. It’s an extremely fragmented market with no vehicle operator capturing more than 1% market share.
How has COVID-19 impacted the business
We’ve been working hard to increase our operators’ vehicle utilization (tapping into the vehicle inventory to help small operators). This ties back to our mission of making the vehicles accessible to anyone to then increase utilization for our operators from the current mere 4.9%.
The key things we are doing are:
- Repurposing the vehicles to ship goods rather than people (think grocery deliveries or packages)
- We are providing transportation to shuttle essential factory workers. This is also crucial for our operators, who are seeing very limited demand, and now they are moving goods/workers instead.
- We see many operators re-evaluating the way they run their business, the tools they use and the people to hire. The pandemic has almost been like a reset button for an outdated industry, making this a unique time to provide our SaaS. So far, the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.
What factors about your business led your investors to write the check?
We have very close ties to the industry and 3+ years of our own experience in the space through our group transportation marketplace. Additionally, they value a strong founding team that has been friends since high school and is committed to making group transportation accessible, affordable, and more seamless for everyone.
What advice can you offer companies in Los Angeles that do not have a fresh injection of capital in the bank?
Having the money in the bank is great to accelerate your trajectory and get you closer to your mission. At the same time, it shouldn’t fundamentally change your mission or the way you make decisions. Work on your concepts and market fit. We see many entrepreneurs raise capital too early. Instead, they should keep grinding for a couple of months, show better results, and get better terms for yourself.
We see many entrepreneurs raise capital too early. Instead, they should keep grinding for a couple of months, show better results, and get better terms for yourself.
Where do you see the company going now over the near term?
Providing safe and clean transportation to everyone. We hold ourselves to the highest cleanliness measure to ensure everyone stays healthy.
We are also working to move more goods instead of just people, providing more rides to our operators, who have been hit especially hard during Covid.
What is your favorite restaurant in LA?
Tacos Y Birria La Unica, food truck in East LA.
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