HopSkipDrive, the ridesharing company for kids and one of Los Angeles most visible startups, laid off staff Tuesday as the pandemic ravaged growth plans.
Co-founder and CEO Joanna McFarland would not say how many of the 100-plus employees she laid off but told dot.LA that after delivering the news to the group affected over Zoom, managers held one-on-one meetings to review benefits and severance pay. Several departments were impacted including operations, branding, sales and customer support.
The latest round of layoffs follow an earlier one in March in which the company cut 10 percent of its staff, according to layoffs.fyi, a website tracking job loss.
"One of HopSkipDrive's core values is 'feel it', meaning empathy," McFarland said. "It was very important to us to show empathy to all employees and to communicate directly with both employees who were impacted and those that were not impacted."
The six-year old company, that's raised roughly $98 million, spent the summer building COVID-safe standards to prepare for an abnormal school year. Then, one after the other, school districts across the country changed plans from in-person or hybrid classes to a completely virtual curriculum.
"Schools closing has a direct and significant impact on our business," McFarland told dot.LA by email.
"These reductions are not in any way reflective of work performance but were unfortunately necessary due to the impact COVID-19 has had on our business, like many others," McFarland wrote on LinkedIn in announcing the decision.
Companies have been careful about letting go of workers remotely after startups like the e-scooter service Bird soured relationships with former employees after a poorly planned layoff round.
McFarland said that demand for this service will surge once schools reopen because it offers socially-distanced, safe transportation for schools looking to limit bus capacity.
"Schools will need to prioritize the students we primarily serve more than ever — students with special needs, students experiencing homelessness and students in the foster care system," she said. "These are the students who are likely to have the biggest learning gaps due to Covid."
LAUSD begins its entirely virtual school year on August 18.
"Schools will come back, and when they do, we are poised to take off. We will be in a position to create more opportunities for kids, for CareDrivers, for families and for our team than ever before."
Until that happens, McFarland says the company will continue operations with its partners in markets that have opened schools. It'll also support seniors with mobility needs and partners looking to use the service to fulfill meal and technology deliveries.
McFarland and two other L.A. working moms founded HopSkipDrive in 2014 to help parents juggling hectic schedules. Unlike rideshare companies that bar underage riders, HopSkipDrive was designed for children as young as six.
In February, HopSkipDrive announced a $22 million funding round to expand its operations in new cities, dot.LA reported. Months before, in November of 2019, the company relocated its office to ROW DTLA and began a sizable hiring push across departments.
The service, now offered in 14 markets across eight states and Washington D.C., is expanding to Midland, Texas this coming school year to support Midland Independent School District.
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When now-former SpaceX Dragon mission director Erin Beck became pregnant with her first child roughly four years ago, the company's "generous" benefits were just not enough.
She wanted to be home full time with her daughter and arrange her work life flexibly so she could raise her, but with the loss of income from leaving her day job she couldn't afford to.
That's how the Wana Family Network was born in 2017. Beck, who's founder and CEO of the Los Angeles-based public benefit corporation, looked to the parent-helping-parent, cooperative kind of childcare she was raised on as a kid. But she couldn't find any such app.
Beck's child during a virtual playdate
Erika Metry is trying to figure out how to pay the mortgage on the tidy, three bedroom Inglewood home where she and her mother run a small childcare center that's now looking after kids of frontline workers.
The children she took care of pre-COVID-19 no longer come, but she's one of the lucky small-business owners who can keep their doors open during the pandemic. Metry has stayed afloat thanks in part to her partnership with WeeCare, a Marina Del Rey, venture-backed company that has been connecting essential workers to childcare providers.
As the pandemic has worn on, about half of the nation's childcare centers have closed and about a third of childcare homes have shuttered, according to a survey by the National Association for the Education of Young Children. Meanwhile, half of the employees that made up the industry are furloughed or out of a job.