GoKid! Get This Carpool App!

Like many New Yorkers, Stefanie Lemcke started looking outside the city for schools for her children.

She and her husband took day trips here. When they realized “wow, people actually live in Westport!” they made the move.

Like many new arrivals, she loved the town. And — like many — she had to adapt to becoming a chauffeur. “No one told me I’d do so much driving!” she says.

Like no one else, however, she turned that mind-numbing chore into a flourishing business.

Stefanie Lemcke

On the Upper West Side, Lemcke walked her kids to school. Here, she had to learn to navigate carpools. Emails, Excel spreadsheets, texts — there had to be a better way.

Having worked for years with companies like Uber and Lyft, she thought instinctively of an online platform. She had not been involved on the tech side, but she became “obsessed” — her word — with her idea.

Her solution: a secure website that allows families to connect easily with others in their school, and identify carpool opportunities. She called it GoKid.

Lemcke hired 2 freelancers in California to write the initial code.

Techstars — a Detroit-based startup accelerator — accepted GoKid. That helped her raise over $1 million in funding.

She hired the best people she could find — wherever she found them. Lemcke’s team includes 3 developers in New York; 3 Argentines; a London COO, and one guy who travels in a truck.

Despite very little marketing, growth as been explosive. Over 50,000 carpools have been organized, in more than 25 countries.

But GoKid — which works on a desktop, smartphone and other devices — is very much a Westport company. Its official address is here, and visitors to the site see photos taken all around town.

Many of GoKid’s promotional photos were shot in Westport. This scene is at Staples High School.

GoKid fills a clear need. For budget and other reasons — one bus route averages $37,000 a year — over 50% of all school districts no longer use buses, Lemcke says. In California, just 17% do.

Of course, Lemcke notes, “Kids still have to get to school” — and their many other activities. GoKid allows users to organize carpools by neighborhood, grade, even kids’ interests. It’s a way to find trusted drivers beyond a small group of friends.

Last week, GoKid rolled out advanced features, like “recent participant” and “recent location”; the ability to set up return carpools with different participants, and customized alerts and notifications. It’s now available on Android devices. And it’s making its first marketing push.

The screenshot on the left shows text messages regardiing a carpool event. The one on the right shows a carpool map.

Lemcke knows the carpooling problem first hand. She lives on North Avenue — a few feet from Staples High and Bedford Middle schools. “Everyone drives their kids, even though we have buses,” she notes.

But the founder of an app that makes carpooling easier is not convinced that’s the only solution in her home town.

“It would be nice to create an initiative here around walking and biking,” she says.

“This is a progressive community, with great schools. But we’re backward when it comes to transportation.”

Of course, parents will continue to drive their children. That’s a fact of Westport life.

“Given the traffic and congestion, we welcome the opportunity to work with  Westport schools to help parents save time and reduce traffic,” Lemcke notes.

(For more information about GoKid, click here.)

 

7 responses to “GoKid! Get This Carpool App!

  1. I can’t help but laugh at the irony here. We all want to save the environment. by having mass transit. Instead Westport moms are driving big SUVs to drive their children to school. Save The Environment by sending your children on a School Bus!! We will start a new Trend!!

  2. Brilliant!

  3. Lori Winthrop Dockser

    goMom!!!!!!

  4. There was once a heady time here in Westport, when the schools didn’t provide bus service if you lived “close” to the school. A mile from your elementary, mile and a half from your junior high, and two miles from the high school. The result? Children WALKED to school. Through paths in the woods, through backyards, along sidewalks. It was a crazy time then.

  5. I only disagree with your 2nd to last line, Dan . . . that it’s a fact of life here in Westport. There is absolutely NO REASON why this town shouldn’t put in sidewalks and other pedestrian-friendly amenities that would and can take drivers off the road. This is a bedroom community. It is no longer the country. We have a huge community of children and older residents that do not need to spend so much time in a car. In a day and age when there is so much activism and organizing going on . . . let’s finally get this enhancement to Westport going.

  6. Congratulations on your success Stefanie – well done!

  7. Diane, Jaques and Melissa: Thanks for your comments. Maybe a bit of background and perspective: I come from Europe and biked to school my entire life. I walked my kids to school living in the city every single day. When I moved to Westport the driving I needed was mostly for after school activities (how many kids can walk to the Y?) While we here in Westport are lucky enough to still have school busses, 50% of all schools in the US no longer have busses for budget reasons (I lived in Detroit last summer – zero public transportation and very few school busses!). Our company does NOT want to replace school busses or prevent kids from walking or biking, but we want to help in those situations when diving is the only option. So for Westport parents: Early morning orchestra practices, after school clubs and the many sport events (at our schools) are a big cause for driving and traffic in this town. @Melissa I agree that the town should do more to encourage alternative means of transportation and would be happy to team up and promote these!

Commenters must fill out their real full names, and provide their real email addresses.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s