Interview with Nick Miller Co-Founder & CEO of ParkingPanda – Part 3

This is Part 3 of my interview with Nick Miller, Co-Founder and CEO of ParkingPanda.  Click Part 1 and Part 2 for the whole interview.  If you did not see my article on ParkingPanda, check it out!

 

Nick Miller, Co-Founder & CEO

A: So you are looking for a big investment?

NM: We were in this tech accelerator, and the culmination of that was a demo day. All tech companies in the accelerator, we all gave 7-10 minutes pitches and demos to a room full of investors. In addition to all the people we were meeting with and talking to throughout the summer. That kicked off the process of, ok we are out here we are live now. Now we want to raise a little venture capitol to grow the business and expand. On day 1 we made money on our first transaction. We really need to be widespread to make a lot of money. So taking venture capitol will help us accelerate that process. So that's what we are in the process of doing right now.

A: Have you had a good amount of people interested in the business?

NM: Yeah, you know it's always a process and a time consuming thing of people digging into your business finding more about it, finding more about you. Your growth, and all of that stuff. It's going well so far. We are meeting with a lot of people interested in the idea and the space. Meeting with a lot of individual investors and venture capitalists. We are definitely hopeful, it continues to go well.

A: If I rent my space for $10, you guys take a 20% commission?

NM: Right, we take 20% and the rest goes directly to you.

A: You get a check?

NM: Right now we send you a check. We are working on integrating the ability to get PayPal payments or Direct Deposit payments in your bank account. So you will have the option to get whatever you want. If you want a check mailed to you, that's fine. If you want direct deposit in your bank account, that's fine as well. That 20% we take covers all the operating fees and credit card costs, all that maintenance. We want to keep that as low as we can, because we want the community to benefit from it. If people aren't making money on this, then we are not making money on this either.

A: How are you promoting and getting the word out about this?

NM: We love to talk to people like this. A lot of what we do is local focused, we want to build up Baltimore we want to build up DC. We go to commuter areas.  We talk to people, we go to football games, talk to people, pass out flyers.

A: So Guerrilla Marketing

NM: A lot of grassroots type guerrilla stuff, because buying Google Adwords for us, it's expensive and it's not relevant for us. Not too many people Google search “Where can I rent out my parking space?” not a big thing. Once you get out there and talk to people about it, they see the value of it. That's what really does it for us.

A: I assume you are trying to use Social Media?

NM: Of Course! Both Adam [Z] and I, and the company are on Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, everything. We encourage friends, people who use the service when you book space. “Hey I'm using this” or “Hey, I just made a bunch of money using this!” Particularly with our early users if you refer your friends or neighbors.

A: You get a discount?

NM: Right, you get a discount. So you know we really want to encourage people's friends to sign up. If they don't want their neighbors to sign up with the same spot, but maybe their friend on the other side of the city. The more spaces we have available the more we will focus on bringing people in. For most people with their parking spaces they have found money.  The Worst Case Scenario it's exactly the way it was before. The best case is you start making a bunch of cash on your driveway.

A: Since the Grand Prix, which was about a month ago, you have had no problems with people saying “Oh this person was causing problems in my parking space?”

NM: So far we haven't! We have built in as many things as possible, in our terms of service. We have backs-ups if there are any issues, we are there to handle them as quickly as possible. So far you know the community aspect of it naturally protects itself. It is bound to happen if we get big enough, there will be a bad experience for someone. We will do everything we can to protect from that.

A: Yeah, with Couchsurfing at first you think, “This is really weird. I don't know if I want to do this.” Then you try it out. You realize the community aspect does work itself out somehow.

NM: Even with Couchsurfing you can see if people have hosted before. We are building in reviews as well. You can see on both ends of the spectrum. So you can see this person has used our service 10 times and this person has 15 thumbs-up, it is a great space. A little thing goes a long way. Protecting people's reputation on the website. Providing that extra level of security.

A: Do you have anything else you want to tell me?

NM: I think we covered it! Working out of the accelerator with these other companies, our concept is simple. You can sit down with someone and in 2 minutes they know what we are doing. It is not some crazy ad-technology, where 2 months later they are like what are you talking about? How does it work? There is a community marketplace for parking. We want people to share their parking spaces with one another. It's straightforward!

A: Where did you come up with the name, ParkingPanda?

NM: We first built the prototype, the initial version of the product, at the Startup Weekend Baltimore which is a weekend long start-up business event, where you create a business, Friday night to Sunday night. Buying a domain name is very difficult, everything you think is cool or good is taken. We were looking and couldn't find anything. I don't remember who said it, but someone said, “You guys should get a mascot!” I think Adam [Z] might have been like “the ParkingPanda” and it became a running joke throughout the weekend. Then ultimately, we were like, this is fun, people love Pandas.  It fits with us, our attitude, the way we approach the business. It turned into a great marketing thing, people love ParkingPanda! When it gets out there people recognize it. So we just went with it. After start up weekend, we actually won the start-up weekend event.

A: Do you get money from that?

NM: We got a little money to help us incorporate. Once we incorporated the company got money.  Adam [Z] and I didn't collect anything from it, but the company did. So that led back into our marketing and building out the site.

A: Were there domains that you thought were really good, but they would not work or were not available?

NM: For the longest time we wanted ParkingSpace, we tried a million different things, but they were all taken. We didn't let ourselves linger. We went to check and if it was taken, we were like “Eh!” That's the way domain names work now, it is hard to get them. That is why you see all these ridiculously named companies. ParkingPanda is a little bit ridiculous but it is fun and it works.

A: It took a while for me to come up with my Blog name, Adam's Auto Advice. When I thought of it though it was like “Oh! That's great!”

NM: That's what happens when you build this out in a weekend. We are happy with it, it has worked out great. It is recognizable, we have our little logo which is a car Panda.

 

Click Part 1 and Part 2 for the whole interview

Baltimore Grand Prix Economic Benefit Press Conference

The Mayor, ALMS President, IndyCar Commissioner, and lots of people I don't know!

Yesterday there was a press conference regarding how Baltimore's economy benefited from the Baltimore Grand Prix.  I was invited and attended to hear what they had to say and even got to ask a question.  Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, the Mayor of Baltimore, and Jay Davidson, president of Baltimore Racing Development were in attendance.  To my surprise Terry Angstadt, the Indycar Commissioner, was in attendance as well as Scott Atherton, president of American Le Mans series.

The early numbers look good.  Hotel revenue taken from 11 hotels around the track had a 44% increase in revenue from last Labor Day weekend.  City parking garages showed a 119% increase in revenue.  (No shit!  They charged $40 for a parking spot.)  The media coverage is valued at 3.5 million, which I am not sure how that is tallied.  Jay Davidson said, “We spent more than 3 million dollars on local vendors.” which included D&T welding and Sparks Fencing.  So obviously a lot of money was spent with Maryland businesses to put on the event.

I thought there would be more numbers on how the weekend went.  More comprehensive numbers will be released by Forward Analytics on October 1st after Baltimore's Mayoral election on September 13th.  Mmm… I find that very interesting.  Don't you?  Rawlings-Blake, “I don't have any preliminary numbers.  As soon as I do I will make them available.”  It's early but with computers you can't come up with numbers faster?

After leaving and talking with several of the PR and Marketing bigwigs of the city, I realized this press conference was mainly to applaud the people who put on the Baltimore Grand Prix.  Nothing is wrong with that, since it did take a leap of faith.  I was expecting some better numbers though.  We will wait and see.