Image: Joshua Huston

Busy mom Melissa Lehman was on her phone one day when she came to a realization: “I had seven different apps that could deliver a sandwich, but nothing that could help me manage home life and working full-time,” she says.

Helping other moms was at the top of her to-do list, so she started to think about the pain points that come with juggling motherhood and work. That led to the idea for Pogo, a parent-powered ride-sharing app that brings carpooling into the 21st century. 

While the yellow school bus might seem like the answer to transportation for kids, parents still do 45 percent of the driving to school and almost 100 percent of the driving to extracurriculars. Only 13 percent of kids walk to school, and the number of families where both parents work outside the home has doubled in the past 60 years. “It’s the perfect storm of very few options,” Lehman says.

Pogo works to match those who need a ride for their children with those who have an extra spot in the backseat. Although it’s easy to describe the service as an Uber for kids, Lehman says it’s more akin to Airbnb for carpools — a way to connect people in a community to each other. “Being a parent can be an isolating experience,” Lehman says. “The core of what we’re trying to do is grow people’s village for them and make that village a source of support.”

Lehman started her career doing strategy and operations for Deloitte, then transitioned to institutional fundraising and helping microfinance banks hone their strategy at Unitus. She also spent time consulting and doing international program development, traveling to more than 20 countries in the span of a couple of years. Now, as CEO and co-founder of Pogo, Lehman is responsible for working with the team to make the app as user-friendly and intuitive as possible, along with raising awareness of the product. “It gets a lot more valuable the more parents are using it,” she says. “I’m talking to schools and parents and getting into the community to let them know that Pogo’s a choice.”

Today, the app is largely used in the Greater Seattle area and several spots in California, but can be installed anywhere in the US. 

While startup life has its challenges, Lehman loves being part of building something. “There isn’t a trodden path that every startup can go down to be successful,” she says. “There’s a lot of trying things and seeing how they work. It’s that grit and perseverance and optimism to believe that if you keep trying new things that they’re going to result in a better outcome.”

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