Opportunites are all around you. While some entrepreneurs strain their brains to come up with the next best app, others are creating successful businesses from everyday challenges. Take for example, parking.
While it may seem on the surface that parking is straightforward, it turns out it is anything but simple. Here are four companies that are building businesses one parking space at a time.
Co-Founders Juan Rodriguez and Eliseo Diaz set out to solve the problem of having to pay cash for valet. If customers didn't have cash, the valets missed out on a sale and/or generous tips. Plus theft was at an all time high as it was easy to mismanage cash.
So they got busy creating a mobile, cloud-based valet and event parking solution. Customers could pay through their phone and operators gained a virtual platform that provided them with real-time insight and the ability to adjust pricing options. Many saw instant revenue increases of up to 35 percent.
Since starting five years ago, they have added a fully integrated suite of parking solutions such as hardware and kiosks to serve more than 900 locations. Their customer base has expanded from valet companies to also include garages and parking lots for hospitals, hospitality venues and more.
The anxiety of available parking is a major decision maker in how and even if people travel to a venue, especially in a large city like Chicago. Another co-founder team, Mark Lawrence & Larry Kiss, wondered if they could build a solution that enabled people to reserve a parking spot in advance.
They ended up creating a comparison tool that enables "spot shopping" based on location and price. Users can pre-pay, removing the hassle, increasing their payment security while also saving time. Spot Hero is now the #1 downloaded parking reservation app. Other solutions include ParkWhiz and ParkJockey.
Park Hub's approach is to provide a hardware solution called Prime that enables large-venue and event staff to accept credit cards and management payments. "Battle tested" at Super Bowl 51 and WrestleMania 32, their unique niche is to efficiently move massive amounts of people while monetizing along the way.
Extending the product line, they have also included Pulse, their big data play that utilizes low-cost sensors that can be installed in unique configurations to maximize surface area and provide instant data. Portal is a dashboard that helps management make smarter decisions in real time. For example, operators can maximize inventory in real time if they can see which lots are full or can handle more capacity. Their solutions combine to provide "a complete parking ecosystem with premiere enterprise solutions [reservations + payment + management]."
Ever wish you could know if and where there are available parking spots before you enter the lot? Parkeye, an ARS T&TT product, does exactly that through the seamless integration of cameras and virtual loop configurations. While this is a convenience for motorists, the system also allows parking lot managers to know which vehicles have been parked in what spaces and for how long. Reports show occupancy availability, time spent and zone usage.
Far from a startup, ARS is based in the Netherlands and has been in the business of managing and tracking fleet vehicles since 1997. Beyond parking, they provide multiple solutions for smart mobility from traffic control and monitoring to toll management to consulting practices.
They provide end to end parking solutions for the City of Amsterdam, including permit management, payment mechanisms, (machines, mobile, online), enforcement services, appeal processes and a customer contact center. They commit to payment rates of 90 percent and appeals of less than 5 percent, which may rival the performance of many US cities. ARS T&TT is expanding their extensive knowledge and experience into US markets.
Smart entrepreneurs learn from others and there are many chances to do that thanks to these four companies. Here are some of the key questions to ask yourself when looking to build a business based on your daily experience.
1. What are the real pain points instead of the assumed problems?
Flash Parking sought out to solve the challenge of cash at the valet stand. By asking the right questions and listening to their customers, they learned that they could fix that problem and also a few others. They learned that the technical side of mobile and online payment processing overwhelmed traditional parking lot managers. By providing PCI compliance and streamlining reporting functions, Flash was able to become a trusted advisor instead of a commoditized service provider.
2. What is your (very) specific niche?
No matter what business you are in, being all things to all people all of the time and right away is a recipe for disaster. Instead, smart founders solve one problem at a time and know their placement in the larger ecosystem. They understand their specific value and can then chart how they compete or even how they can you partner with other innovators in the industry. For example, Park Hub's special spot is large-venue events. Their solutions help to move long lines of cars and simplify the payment process. They understand that their customers want to enhance their visitor's experience and so by doing so from the parking lot, they become an integral part of the overall business.
3. How can you extend the product line?
Once you have successfully solidified what you do and are doing it well, it is time to look to how you can stretch into new lines of revenue. No surprise, the process for this is to go back to questions number one and two. ARS T&TT have consistently done this over their decades-long history and their next step is to look to new markets. The US is exploding with smart solutions for transportation woes but lacks the wisdom that comes with longevity. There could be interesting opportunities for US cities and startups alike.