/ By Yael Segev /
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Everybody has a bad habit. Sam Friedman, an L.A. native who was making his way in the local financing industry has always been late. After missing a number of crucial business meetings he finally realized that one of the main reasons that he was always to late was that he could not find a parking spot. The inevitable result was a pound of parking tickets under his name. One day, Friedman got tired of staring at the tickets and decided to do something about it. In fact, Friedman and his friend Alexander Israel reached the conclusion that what seemed to be Friedman’s personal flaw is actually a universal problem. From that moment on, the way to the foundation of the popular App “Parking In Motion (later became “ParkMe”) was short.
ParkMe, a free application, whose 3.3 version is available to iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. Requires iOS 5.0 or later , and has been optimized for iPhone 5 provides comprehensive data for parking in urban areas worldwide, including more than 25, 000 global locations in more than 500 cities, 19 countries and 3 continents. The app is being used by millions of drivers, speaking a variety of languages, such as English, Danish, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Swedish.
The Santa Monica-based venture indicates the cheapest parking for the driver based on the destination and the estimated parking time. Once the user is parked, he or she is able to note their parking spot on the map and set a timer for how much time they got left on their spot. The information is gathered from municipal parking meters and private and public garages. In order to help users search for and find nearby parking, availability and parking cost.
ParkMe’s huge success has led it to the signing of partnership agreements with big cities Like. L.A, Austin, Washington D.C and Santa Monica, On January 23. this year, ParkMe announced a new investment by “Angeleno Group”, a Los Angeles-based private equity firm, that usually invests in the energy and natural resources sector. A few weeks later, ParkMe signed a partnership agreement with the Parking Services division of ABM, a leading provider of integrated facility solutions. These new deals provided ParkMe with data at nearly 2, 000 parking facilities across the United States. Additional prominent investors are Fontinalis Partners, headed by Bill Ford, and IDG Ventures
– Tell us more about the early days of the company, At first you used to collect data on your Bike…
(Friedman Laughs) “That’s correct. A few years ago my Co-founder Alex Israel and I were heading to a movie in downtown Santa Monica, and ended up missing the show because we spend a good half hour circling around looking for parking. We both looked at each other and concluded that there had to be a better way. Technology was simplifying so many other industries, and parking didn’t seem to be included.
We started the company out of my garage and began reaching out to cities, private parking operators, and other vendors to the industry. We completely immersed ourselves in learning the ins and outs of parking management and enforcement, and eventually began collecting data ourselves. We used to go out for hours on bikes, taking photos and notes of parking information. One time we had to clarify to Santa Monica police officers that we were indeed conducting research, and were not burglars”.
– You changed the company’s original name. How long did it take and you to get to your current business success, and what more adoptions did you have to do in order to reach more almost 250 million users worldwide.
“First off, I’d say that number of worldwide users is slightly off. We’ll get there, just not for a few years.
True, we used to be “Parking in Motion” and changed the name to ParkMe nearly two years ago. We have made incredible strides in a short period of time and have seen our user base grow exponentially, due to efforts from every department in our company. I’m very proud of the fact that we’re applying technology to an age old problem, while also creating job growth within our community”.
– Again, at the beginning and a long time before signing the partnership agreements with American major city officials and giants like ABM, how did you manage to convince potential investors to park their money automobile in your innovative parking lot information business
“I don’t think there was much convincing, however, because everyone knows that parking in major US cities is no picnic. We started by courting a great investor group, Fontinalis Partners, which mainly invests in smart transportation initiatives. The firm, which was co-founded by Bill Ford (Ford Motor Company) seeks out companies and startups that aim to improve and enhance the way we navigate and transport ourselves. I think that Everyone realizes that parking is a pain. We showed them how we could improve this historically frustrating task by gathering data from cities and parking companies. It was an easy sell because everyone can relate to this problem”.
– What edge do you have compared to your competitors? Can you tell me more about you app’s extra features?
The ParkMe App, which is available on iPhone and soon on Android, is the most comprehensive parking and navigation tool there. Not only can we show you how full a certain lot is, but our can also tell you how full a metered block is around that parking lot. Compared to some other similar applications out there, I’d say that our coverage is what really sets us apart. We have great parking data in major cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, Austin, and Washington, DC, but you can also find our app extremely useful for comparing rates in second and third-tier cities across the U.S (and the world)!
Additionally, we offer the ability to reserve and pre-pay for parking in select locations (mostly airport parking facilities). There’s even cool features like the “Parking Timer” that lets you know when your meter’s about to expire, and the “Locate My Car” button that helps you track your vehicle in crowded garages.
– Where is the company heading now?
Well by no means is the work done, we have a long way to go. Later this year we’ll be announcing a major deal that will see ParkMe data directly embedded to in-car navigation systems. Getting live parking information and finding the cheapest spot will be easier than ever before!