REDWOOD CITY — Zūm, a company that is modernizing school bus transportation, has secured $130 million in Series D funding led by Softbank Vision Fund 2, with participation from existing investors including Sequoia and BMW i Ventures. Andrew Straub of Softbank Investment Advisers will join the board of directors.
Zum’s comprehensive bus service is designed to transport students safely, reliably, and sustainably with increased visibility and personalized care. The company will use the new capital to further its mission to reimagine student transportation by strategically expanding its service across new markets and districts while adding new electric vehicles to its platform as it delivers on its 100% EVs by 2025 commitment.
“While nearly everyone in the U.S. has an association with the iconic yellow school bus, student transportation is a problem hidden in plain sight,” said Ritu Narayan, CEO and Co-Founder of Zum. “We have developed the technology to reimagine this industry now, to do it safely, and to do it well. We are honored to have the support of Andrew and Softbank as well as our existing investors to help us take this vision to the next level.”
“Using data and technology, we believe Zum is modernizing school transportation by offering better services, efficiency, and sustainability — while increasing safety for children,” said Andrew Straub, Investment Director at Softbank Investment Advisers. “We are impressed with the immediate impact that Zum has made for school districts who have deployed its service across their entire network of schools over the past year, including significant cost savings. We are pleased to partner with Ritu, Vivek, and the team to support their mission of reimagining student transportation.”
Why Transforming a $28B Industry Needs to Happen Now
The U.S. yellow school bus fleet is twice the size of all other mass transit combined, including buses, trains, and airlines, transporting 27 million students twice a day and traveling more than 3 billion miles per year. Transportation is schools’ second-highest cost category, after salaries, totaling $28 billion a year nationwide. Yet the system is riddled with inefficiencies, from circuitous routes to under-capacity vehicles to one-size-fits all schedules that force students to spend too many precious hours each week in transit, rather than on critical learning and development. The industry — and any associated processes and procedures — hasn’t changed in more than 80 years, and runs primarily on diesel fuel, significantly impacting the health of the community and the environment.
Net Zero Initiative + Expansion of EV Fleet
In an effort to reduce the 8.4 million metric tons of greenhouse gas (GHG) that diesel school buses emit annually, Zum launched the Net Zero initiative, a program rooted in creating a safer, healthier, more sustainable planet. As part of the initiative, the company announced a partnership with AutoGrid to pilot a program with Zum’s electric buses and AutoGrid’s Virtual Power Plant technology (VPP), committed to transition its fleet to electric vehicles (EV) by 2025, and is offsetting 100% of the emissions for its entire fleet in 2021.
The new investment by Softbank will support the company’s plans to expand to 10,000 EVs on its platform, putting the company on track to achieve its 100% EV by 2025 goal faster than originally anticipated.
Growth to New Markets, Districts
Zum set out to address the challenges facing the industry over the last several decades with technology designed to infuse the nation’s school transportation system with flexibility, efficiency and transparency. The company has already helped 4,000 U.S. schools begin their transportation transformation, by providing the tools and technology to share infrastructure with other nearby districts, deploy appropriately sized vehicles, create efficient routes, and meet families’ changing transportation needs. This holistic approach helps districts save millions of dollars that can be diverted back into the classroom.
“Zum’s unique combination of technology and sustainability is driving change in an outdated and overlooked industry. It takes a special founder and team to fix a systemic problem that impacts schools, parents, children, drivers, and the climate all at once. We’ve been inspired by Zum’s mission since the Series A, and we’re thrilled to continue this journey with them,” said Bryan Schreier, partner at Sequoia and Zum board member.
Zum has experienced significant growth and expansion over the last year. In addition to making meaningful investments in sustainability efforts, the company signed multi-year contracts with two of the largest school districts in California, San Francisco Unified School District and Oakland Unified School District. Since beginning to serve these larger districts over the past year, Zum has increased its total contract value by 10X.
The company also plans to expand to 12 states, up from the current four.