Swoop Raises $3.2 M to Disrupt Group Transportation
Rachel Uranga covers the intersection of business, technology and culture. She is a former Mexico-based market correspondent at Reuters and has worked for several Southern California news outlets, including the Los Angeles Business Journal and the Los Angeles Daily News. She has covered everything from IPOs to immigration. Uranga is a graduate of the Columbia School of Journalism and California State University Northridge. A Los Angeles native, she lives with her husband, son and their felines.
Swoop is hoping to do for group transportation what Quickbooks did for accounting.
The platform service that tracks jobs for bus and limo drivers and their passengers just scored a $3.2 million seed round led by Signa Venture Partners, South Park Commons and other angel investors.
Started by chief executive Amir Ghorbani, Swoop aims to digitize business for the mom-and-pop companies that ferry people to corporate events, weddings and other group outings. Ride-sharing apps may be ubiquitous, but there remains a $40 billion U.S. market that's still largely analog in group transportation, according to the company.
"This whole business was run on pen and paper," said Ghorbani who grew up running around his parents' limousine dispatch center in the 1990s. He said his father, who immigrated from Iran, plastered the center's walls with pictures of the celebrity de jour — from Madonna to Tupac — who rode in their limos.
As a teenager, Ghorbani helped run his parents' transportation service, writing down job leads for them. After he graduated from college, he took a larger role and was struck by the persistent use of so-called "trip sheets" in the industry.
The info would tell drivers details of each ride, but in order to read it, drivers had to come into the dispatch center. Often pieces of information would get lost.
"Being around that, it became apparent — it was kind of an 'a-ha' moment — this industry needs a technical advancement from booking to dispatch."
Swoop co-founder and chief executive Amir Ghorbani at his parents' limo business.Courtesy of Swoop
The Los Angeles-based company will use the funds to build out its service, which is already being used by companies like Netflix, Nike and Airbnb.
Ghorbani had help from two longtime friends in creating Swoop: Co-founders Pete Evenson, a high school friend, and Ruben Schultz — whose parents came from the same region of Iran as Ghorbani's. Schultz, who runs operations, left Facebook to launch the company. Evenson focuses on sales.
Last year, the three-year-old service had 120,000 passengers with around 6,000 trips. Swoop caters both to providers and passengers.
"It's almost like what QuickBooks does for the accounting world we do for the transportation business," said Schultz.
The business management platform charges a flat fee for around $400 per month and works in conjunction with Swoop's consumer-facing business which matches transportation groups with companies, planners and other users looking from a group ride. Swoop takes a 15% to 20% commission for rides that it generates.
"It's a marketplace where we create more business for them," Schultz said. "Their vehicle utilization is at only 4.9%. So vehicles are standing around a lot of the time."
A Swoop driver inside his vehicle.
The application allows operators to track their vehicles, do payments through the service and communicate with customers. It also provides a single point of contact for corporate planners who regularly plan flights and other travel with online booking systems.
For Ghorbani, who as a child grew to know many operators, the business really provided him a way to help them. Many of the transportation owners were immigrants or working folks that didn't have the capital or tools to leverage technology in a way that would grow their business. Creating the company, he said, felt right.
"Being around (those operators) felt like family," he said. So this became — you could call it — a life calling."
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Julie Uhrman, Founder and President at WFC LA (Angel City)<p>Founder and president of Angel City, the consortium who received the rights from the NWSL to officially bring a women's soccer team to Los Angeles in 2022. </p><p>Uhrman was named head of media at Playboy in 2018 after serving as Lionsgate's GM of over-the-top ventures, overseeing the company's Tribeca Shortlist, Comic-Con HQ, Laugh Out Loud in partnership with Kevin Hart and Pantaya. </p><p>Prior to joining Lionsgate, Uhrman worked at VR vendor Jaunt as head of platform business development. She was the founder and CEO of OUYA, an Android-based game console for living room, which raised $8.6 million through Kickstarter and then went on to secure venture funding from Kleiner Perkins and Alibaba before the company was acquired by Razer in 2015. Previously Uhrman held executive roles in digital and game companies including IGN Entertainment and Vivendi Universal.</p>
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Kevin Demoff, Chief Operating Officer at Los Angeles Rams<p>Kevin Demoff is in his 11th year as chief operating officer with the Rams. In this capacity, Demoff serves as the team's top front office executive and liaison to owner and chairman, Stan Kroenke, on all organizational matters.</p><p>Demoff was recognized by the Sports Business Journal as one of its "Forty under 40" class members of 2016 and in 2010 he was named one of the "NFL's 10 Future Power Brokers" by Sports Illustrated.</p><p>Prior to joining the Rams, Demoff spent the previous four seasons (2005-08) with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, where he served as a consultant before being named senior assistant in 2006. In this capacity, Demoff assisted General Manager Bruce Allen in contract negotiations, salary cap management, strategic planning and both college and pro scouting. During his tenure with the Buccaneers, the team captured NFC South titles in 2005 and 2007 while posting a winning record in three of his four seasons.</p>
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Ben Bergman, Senior Reporter at dot.LA<p>Ben Bergman is the newsroom's senior reporter, covering venture capital. Previously he was a senior reporter/host at KPCC, a producer at Gimlet Media and NPR and produced two investigative documentaries for KCET. He has been a frequent on-air contributor to NPR and Marketplace and has written for The New York Times. Bergman was a 2017-2018 Knight-Bagehot Fellow in Economic and Business Journalism at Columbia Business School. He enjoys skiing, playing poker, and cheering on The Seattle Seahawks.</p>
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