Chauffeured community transport — the cars used for business trips, social occasions, and even weddings — is a fractured sector, with hundreds of independent operators dependent on analog networks to book clients. Many operators are now being squeezed in this age of COVID-19 when transportation and leisure have dwindled and firms have chosen to get workers operating from home.
A Los Angeles-based transportation booking startup named Swoop aims to carry these small, local operators into the digital age with a new software-as-a-service stand which it claims lets them adapt in this COVID-19 era. The startup, armed with a cash investment, is ramping up its SaaS offering aiming to tap into a competition where consumers spend $40 billion annually.
Swoop raised $3.2 million for seed funding led by Signia Venture Partners, South Park Commons and several angel investors including former Uber CPO Manik Gupta; Kevin Weil, co-creator of Libra on Facebook; Kim Fennel, former Uber executive; and Elizabeth Weil, former Andreessen Horowitz partner, and 137 Ventures.
“I’m intrigued by how operators tend to operate the bulk of their market with pen and paper,” said Swoop CEO and co-founder Amir Ghorbani in a statement. The limitations of these small operators were encountered first hand by Ghorbani. Ghorbani helped with his parents’ limousine company through high school and college. The encounter inspired him to try to find a solution.
Ghorbani began by developing a community transport booking website that was used by businesses such as Uber, Google, and Nike. Via such bookings, the businesses saw an incentive for vehicle operators to develop business management tools.
SaaS software from Swoop lets companies book and dispatch rides, manage vehicles, and connect with customers. This also serves as a central billing center for other bookkeeping facilities. The platform is intended to smooth out the booking process as well as improve car use, which according to the company is currently at 4.9 percent. Swoop also uses its SaaS tool leads from companies that use the booking platform to move on to operators.
Right now, the priority is on commuter airlines, not mass transport, which is a market that Uber is pursuing.
COVID-19, which has suspended several party trips, has taken these urban transport providers up to date. Swoop claims the software has been modified to help those operators survive.
Swoop said COVID-19 could gradually boost its sales trajectory as operators are pressured to review their operations and look for new ways to generate revenue and cut costs.
It has been advised by the organization that it lets operators repurpose their cars to transport goods, rather than individuals. Large vans previously used for business events, for example, can now be sold to grocery wholesalers or to businesses that require local package distribution.