Onward raises $1.5 million to offer round-trip rides to older adults needing assistance

Uber and Lyft aren’t designed to transport people who need a little help getting out of the house or need someone to help get them from the doctor’s waiting room back to their home. While Uber, for example, has launched Uber Health to help patients get to their appointments, the drivers are not vetted with patient assistance in mind. This is where Onward comes in.

Onward, with $1.5 million in seed funding from Royal Street Ventures, Matchstick Ventures and JPK Capital, launched a few months ago in the San Francisco Bay Area to help seniors safely get from point A to point B. Unlike Uber and Lyft, Onward offers round-trip, door-to-door rides and aims to provide freedom for older adults who may feel isolated, Onward co-founder Mike Lewis told TechCrunch.

The idea for Onward emerged from Lewis’ experience with his mother-in-law who had Alzheimer’s. It got him and his co-founder, Nader Akhnoukh, thinking about the idea of aging in place and how older people may feel isolated as they become unable to do the tasks they’ve spent their whole lives doing, like driving.

“The minute you can’t do that, it’s sad and scary,” Lewis said.

Onward has three types of customers: older adults who are no longer able to drive, someone who can’t drive for medical reasons (surgeries, eye exams, etc.) and caregivers who are unable to provide transportation to their loved ones.

Similar to Uber and Lyft, Onward drivers are 1099 contractors, but a key difference is that they are paid hourly — at least $20 per hour. Currently, there are more than 25 drivers on board who are all trained in CPR, dementia, and have gone through a background check and car inspection.

Onward also ensures its drivers know how to fold wheelchairs, though, only some drivers have the ability to transport those in powered wheelchairs. This time next year, Onward expects to have hundreds of drivers. Lewis says he also expects the number of vehicles with the ability to transport people in powered wheelchairs to increase as the company grows.

For riders, they can expect to pay $35 per hour. The minimum charge for the trip is one hour, so this is definitely geared toward people who may need the driver to wait for them during a doctor’s appointment, for example. After the first hour, Onward charges by the minute.

That hourly fee gets riders round-trip rides with the driver waiting for you at the destination, door-to-door assistance at each stop and the ability to request favorite drivers.

Onward completed its first ride in March in the San Francisco Bay Area. For the rest of the year, Onward plans to focus on San Francisco as well as one other launch market. To date, Onward has completed more than 500 trips.

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