April 19, 2024
Meet the newly minted unicorn founder who is transforming school buses for 27 million US students


Good morning, broadsheet readers! New research shows women are often judged negatively for having relationships with superiors Stanford researchers believe may have uncovered what puts women at risk for autoimmune diseases Why more happens, and there’s a new unicorn on the block. Have a relaxing weekend.

– Raise. In a tough market for startups, we’re hearing more about unicorns shutting down than new ones joining the flock. But a company founded by a woman joined the ranks of unicorns this week with an unusual business: school buses.

Founded and led by CEO Ritu Narayan, Zam raised $140 million Series E round with a new valuation of $1.3 billion. The round was led by Singapore-based investment firm GIC, with participation from Sequoia and SoftBank.

Narayan came up with the idea of ​​a school bus startup a decade ago, inspired by his struggle to get his children to and from school while working at eBay. “This problem is generational, it’s beyond me,” she says she realized. “I need to do something about this.”

What started as a way to improve pick-ups and drop-offs for parents has evolved into a complex business involving AI, electric vehicles, and public-private partnerships with school districts.

Ritu Narayan, Founder and CEO of Zam.

courtesy of zoom

The 50-year-old Oracle alumnus grew up in India and moved to the US at the age of 25. He identified student transportation as a $50 billion industry – “the largest mass transit system in America” – serving 27 million students that “had never been disrupted before.” “This industry hasn’t changed in 80 years,” she says.

Zam’s tech-enabled school bus fleet keeps parents informed of children’s whereabouts through an app and allows the buses to be used for purposes other than morning and afternoon transit instead of sitting idle the rest of the day . Zoom aims to “connect the buses back to the grid” to provide energy when not in use. The startup relies on AI to “optimize routes.” Narayan says Zoom reduced the number of school buses in San Francisco from 236 to 193 and reduced commute times for students.

Narayan did not have experience with EVs before building Zam, but he realized that the school bus was “the ideal asset to be electrified.” “This is the biggest battery on wheels,” she says. “It has four to six times the battery life of an EV car, and it has a very predictable commute pattern. It travels locally and is not used at peak energy demand during the evening or summer.

Currently, the Bay Area-based company has about 2,000 employees and provides transportation for 4,000 schools in the US.

Narayan advises other founders who are looking for their unicorn idea in a frustrating market to “always look for a real customer problem to solve.” This is how he founded his company – although about five years in he made the difficult decision to change its business model. “I was very tied to my personal story. That was my founding story,” she says. “But I knew the right thing to do for the company was to grow.”

emma hinchliffe
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@_emmahinchliffe

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even in the headlines

– Network lost. New research has found that when women develop strong relationships with their superiors they are often judged negatively by colleagues, but this is not the case for men. Building such networks is critical to personal success and is a necessary step in getting more women into the C-suite, but women who do so risk losing the respect of colleagues and experiencing a decline in status. wall street journal

– Problems with X. Researchers at Stanford University believe that the . Research suggests that a type of RNA produced by a woman’s X chromosome creates proteins that the immune system can attack when a genetic predisposition or other factors are present. Luck

– fallen angels. Women in the UK are frustrated by a new British law that requires a minimum income of £170,000 ($216,413) to become an angel investor, a threshold that disproportionately disqualifies women. Because women-led businesses are more likely to receive funding from female investors, the new floor – 70% higher than before – could squeeze out female-founded startups. bloomberg

– A stadium of their own. The first stadium in the country built specifically for a women’s football team – and one of the few stadiums in the world solely for female athletes – is less than two months away from its grand opening. Kansas City, MO. CPKC Stadium, which will be home to Kansas City’s current women’s soccer team, is scheduled to open on March 16 with a capacity of 11,500 and a total price tag of $117 million. Washington Post

– Running on EV. Cathie Wood’s investment firm ARK Invest predicted a coming boom in the sluggish electric vehicle market on Wednesday, just days after the ARK ETF picked up more than $141 million worth of Tesla stock. The firm pointed to the falling price of electric vehicle batteries in support of the forecast, which also predicts a decline in the market for conventional cars. Luck

Movers and shakers: minute media appointed jenna klein Global vice president of brand and athlete strategy at The Players’ Tribune.

on my radar

How the CEO of Barstool Sports built a $250 million media company Luck

The students reported to him for a lesson on race. then he taught it again Washington Post

The ovary is a puzzle that could unlock the human lifespan financial Times

parting words

“It’s not just a good thing that I’m doing, I think it’s also a really smart investment.”

-Aurora James, creator of the Fifteen Percent Pledge, which challenges businesses to purchase 15% of their products from Black-owned businesses. Four years after its creation, the pledge has generated $14 billion in revenue for Black-owned companies.

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Source: fortune.com

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