By Rebecca Heilweil
Dallas-based Bubbl is just one of several startups offering rideshare services tailored to kids. But unlike the other companies in the rideshare-for-minors game — the space is already crowded with HopSkipDrive, Kango, and Zum in the lead — Bubbl drivers are generally off-duty and honorably discharged first responders.
Uber and Lyft might compete with one another to provide the lowest prices to consumers. But in the kids-rideshare field, companies compete on security and safety (minors aren't technically allowed on Uber and Lyft, though many still use the service).
Bubbl's drivers include police officers, veterans, firefighters, and medical professionals, according to its [website] (https://www.bubbl-rides.com/drive/). Other services tend to advertise that their drivers are parents themselves or former babysitters.
"They've spent years being a civil servant, and that has bore itself out of what our employee is expected to do," Paul Adams, the CEO of Bubbl, told Cheddar. "We wanted to shift the pendulum in rideshare from this sort of deregulated industry to more regulated."
The services typically require background checks and have more stringent standards for driving that adult-targeted rideshare services.
Rides tend to average around $30 according to the CEO. "There's a premium. We aren't intending to be everything to everyone," Adams says.
Like other kids-tailored rideshare services, rides are pre-scheduled and cannot be booked on demand. However, drivers are part-time and full-time employees, and not independent contractors, which differentiates Bubbl from comparable services, as well as Uber and Lyft.
Bubbl originally launched back in 2016 and is now in its first full round of fundraising. In addition to transporting minors, the business has expanded to serve the elderly and individuals with special needs.
"We're in the midst of shifting some of our model more to healthcare because there seems to be a large gap in healthcare. And we've recently picked up several contracts, and that seems to be working well for our business model," Adams said. For instance, through its expanded service in Austin, Bubbl works with a healthcare facility to transport patients to therapy. "That's something we're really looking to expand as we move outside of Texas."
In addition to its rides, the company also has an advertising business. Bubbl advertises local businesses on its cars and through its social media and promotional materials. While it's not a significant source of income, Adams says that the ads "generate a lot of goodwill in the community by partnering with local businesses."