Need to get your kids from school to soccer practice in Santa Monica while you’re at work?

There are now a pair of services for that – and they’re not named Uber or Lyft, since it is the policy of those companies not to carry passengers under the age of 18.

Venice’s Sloop Inc. launched a product last month that allows parents to schedule rides through its website for passengers ages 8 to 18. Sloop only serves the Westside, and rides have to be arranged at least 24 hours in advance.

“It seemed like a really great place based on density of families,” said co-founder and Chief Executive Jay McClary on the choice of location.

The company defines its service area as west of the 405 freeway and north of Culver Boulevard, extending into Pacific Palisades. McClary said the company plans to expand down the line. Given its early stage, he declined to disclose its number of drivers or customers.

A Sloop iOS app is slated for release in the coming weeks, and an Android version is also expected.

McClary and his Sloop co-founder, software developer Derrek Long, previously worked together at taxi-booking and payment app Curb, formerly known as Taxi Magic, which is headquartered in Alexandria, Va. McClary served as the company’s vice president of product, marketing and operations.

In January, the Business Journal reported on a similar downtown L.A. startup in beta mode called HopSkipDrive Inc. The company, which serves customers ages 7 and up, had its official launch in March and is available on iOS, Android and through a browser. Its roughly 100 drivers cover much of the greater L.A. area, including the Westside, Pasadena and the eastern San Fernando Valley.

HopSkipDrive co-founder and Chief Executive Joanna McFarland, a former vice president and general manager of consumer finance at downtown L.A.’s, said 1,000 people have signed up for the service. The company has plans to expand its reach to the South Bay and other parts of the Valley soon.

McFarland co-founded the company with Chief Operating Officer Carolyn Yashari Becher and Chief Marketing Officer Janelle McGlothlin.

Like Sloop, HopSkipDrive also requires customers to schedule rides at least 24 hours in advance. Each startup received angel investment, though neither disclosed the amount.

Both companies have rigorous vetting procedures for its drivers, including personal interviews, background and reference checks, in-person training and 19-point vehicle inspections.

However, there are a few differences. Sloop has a minimum age of 21 for its drivers, while HopSkipDrive chauffeurs must be 23. Both recruit current and former caregivers, such as teachers, nannies and nurses, though HopSkipDrive mandates five years of child-care experience. It has also partnered with driving analytics startup Zendrive to monitor behaviors such as speeding or texting while driving.

Sloop is planning to launch a carpooling feature as well as introduce an option to select a specific driver.

McFarland said HopSkipDrive is developing a carpooling service and also considering a specific-driver option.

The services also differ in terms of how they charge customers. Sloop charges by time and distance, while HopSkipDrive charges a flat fee per ride. HopSkipDrive customers can also buy packages that lower the cost of each trip.

“We don’t want people to think about this as a taxi service,” McFarland said. “We really want to reward parents that use it frequently.”

Deal Flow

Los Angeles enjoyed a record 12 months of tech financing deals in 2014, according to data released last week by Santa Monica’s Upfront Ventures and CB Insights.

Total venture capital invested in L.A.-area startups hit $2 billion across 194 deals last year, a 25 percent jump compared with 2013, when VCs doled out $1.6 billion over 201 deals.

In the first four months of this year, more than $670 million has been invested across 37 deals. If this pace keeps up, 2015 is shaping up to be an even bigger year.

Impressive as those numbers are, Snapchat’s $485 million funding round in 2014 accounted for nearly one-fifth of the overall number, and its $200 million March investment from Alibaba Group has given a huge boost to this year’s first-quarter numbers.

Last year also saw 37 exits for local venture-backed tech companies, a six-year high. There were 24 in 2013.

The referenced data includes deals in Orange, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.


El Segundo sales software provider Velocify has hired Manoj Goyal as chief technology officer. Goyal previously held the same position at Venice YouTube video and music copyright management firm Zefr. … Santa Monica’s MD Insider, a big-data health care platform, has promoted Kingshuk Chatterjee to chief data officer; Eric Wilson has replaced Chatterjee as chief technology officer. The company also added Aasonn Chief Executive Randy Womack to its board.

Staff reporter Omar Shamout can be reached at or (323) 549-5225, ext. 263.

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