Just yesterday there was a New-Startups.com team meeting at our local watering hole, but upon arrival each of our team members spent 10+ minutes driving in circles and from parking lot to parking lot to find a place with vacancy. A frustrating ordeal that we’re sure you experience as well from time to time. We covered a parking app in 2011 called ParkMe (formerly Parking in Motion): A Free App that recommends the cheapest and closest parking around you, and it surely would of came in handy yesterday for us.
Utilized in over 200 US cities, 30 Canadian Cities, and 100 cities, ParkMe, notifies users on parking rates, hours, entrance points and occupancy information. And since our initial discovery of the parking solution the Silicon Beach based company has realized funding, substantial growth, important app updates, and delivered an impressively fun guerilla marketing campaign at SXSW, check out the video below to see how it all went down.
ParkMe was started in 2009 with Co-Founder and current CEO Sam Friedman from his garage after getting fed up with the state of parking in Santa Monica. After being late numerous times for meeting due to the nuisance of looking for parking, he looked to revolutionize the problem for everyone. We were lucky enough to follow-up with Co-Founder and CEO Sam Friedman on startup life in Silicon Beach, ParkMe’s growth and tech in general.
Q&A with Sam Friedman: CEO & Co-Founder of ParkMe
What and where is the Silicon Beach Community?
Well that’s just one of the monikers that has caught on. There are others ie. Tech Coast, LATech, etc. Silicon Beach signifies the West Los Angeles (Santa Monica, Venice, Culver City) startup scene, and ParkMe is one of a large handful of companies making noise out here.
How does being a part of the Silicon Beach Community help ParkMe?
Parking is a major concern not only in our town, but in the greater LA area. I am a Santa Monica native, and the parking situation has gotten increasingly worse here every year. We are home to one of the most visited tourist destinations in the world, and parking problems and traffic is at an all time high. We work directly with the city of SM to get downtown visitors better parking information.
What does working out of Silicon Beach feel like?
We’re blessed to inhabit one of the world’s most beautiful places, mere steps away from the beach. Our company just moved offices to the famous 3rd Street Promenade, which is in the heart of downtown. There are so many other great startups that we work and carouse with, like Uber, BetterWorks, Wheelz to name a few. There’s a palpable sense of communal energies between these startups, and a genuine rooting interest for everyone to succeed.
Why did you change your company name to ParkMe?
It happened very naturally, once we started aggressively pushing our parking app towards users and away from B2B. Parking In Motion (PIM) is very much name we’re still fond of, but ParkMe more clearly states the value we give to drivers. Our app takes the thinking out of the annoying process of finding a space, and the shortened name really explains it all.
In your opinion how important is branding for a startup? And what should an entrepreneur be aware of when picking a name?
Branding is very important so long as you have a good product to back it up. Making consumers aware of who you are only works as long as they can depend on what you’re selling.
How has ParkMe, the app, been updated over the past year?
We started out by aggregating off-street parking lots and garages, and currently possess robust data in over 26,000 locations in the US, Canada and Europe. We also work with cities to provide live occupancy data to our app, just as we’ve done with the city of Santa Monica. Finally, we are starting to add REAL TIME on-street data, which determines the availability of parking on a block-by-block basis. We’re about to launch this system with the city of Austin, and couldn’t be more excited.
What place do you think RFID will have on the iPhone5 in relation to ParkMe?
Improvements to technology can only be viewed as an enhancement to the parking industry. When people don’t have to worry about getting a ticket validated, or having enough change to pay for parking, they can think about more important things. Being able to seamlessly find and pay for parking through a car’s intelligent dashboard is what we’re working towards.
How have you enticed users to crowdsource parking information?
Much of the data we get comes from crowdsourcing in our top cities. We’ll pay someone to go out and photo a given area, and this strategy has worked very well thus far. We encourage our users to send back data through their phone if they notice a lot has closed or a rate has changed.
How did ParkMe obtain and utilize Series A funding. What should startups learn and be aware of when receiving funding?
ParkMe (formerly Parking In Motion) received funding from two of the most prominent investor groups, Fontinalis Ventures and IDG Ventures. Our initial investment was in the low seven figures, and we are about to close a similar round (Series A ½ if you will). Most of funding went directly to software engineers and coders, as well as additional on the ground data collection.
Describe How ParkMe has grown and evolved since its launch?
My co-founder Alex Israel and I started this company in my garage as a response to our frustrations of getting ticketed and being late to meetings because of parking. In the past three years we’ve become the leading provider and static and real time parking data, licensing deals with navigation companies and third party app developers. We currently employ 15 people and have ample opportunities for growth.