Parking a car on the street in NYC collectively accounts for millions of hours per year for New Yorkers. Between the alternate side parking, fines, and simply searching for parking, you may just never want to park again or get rid of your car. If this sounds like you, DropCar is the new app for you. A valet service that will not nickel and dime you, the service charges you a flat rate for either an on-demand option or a monthly membership to park your vehicle.
AlleyWatch chatted with CEO and cofounder Spencer Richardson about the startup and how they plan to expand the service.
Tell us about the product or service.
DropCar is a technology company that solves one of the largest problems of modern urban centers – parking, moving and maintaining automobiles. As garages disappear and gas/service stations are demolished to make way for more development, DropCar has emerged as a one-stop solution for car owners, renters and manufacturers to deal with their vehicles in New York City and, soon, beyond.
How is it different?
The current market only offers fragmented individual services, all of which cost an astronomical amount. Our full-service “Vehicle Support Platform” (VSP) allows users at the click of a button to have their cars picked-up or delivered, parked and/or maintained as desired at an accessible cost.
We are focused on building a great product in one market first, instead of racing to expand a mediocre one across many. For us, quality of service is always front-of-mind. Thanks to our 2 main features – “WILL”, an on-demand valet service anywhere in New York City for a flat fee of $15 per hour and “STEVE”, a monthly parking membership and car delivery & pick up to you by a DropCar valet (complete with air freshener and mints) – DropCar is an unparalleled service.
Not only is our service a standout, but so too are the people that drive it. DropCar valets and drivers are put through a rigorous training program named the A Method (pioneered by Geoff Smart and Randy Street) to ensure only the safest drivers are selected. In addition, to ensure valet efficiency and safe practice, we use Zendrive technology, which uses sensors on a smartphone to measure and improve driving behavior, adding an extra layer of oversight of our valets while on the road.
Our team culture is also an important aspect of how we differentiate. Our family vibe, “promote from within” ethic, and diverse set of cultures and backgrounds help us to attract entrepreneurially minded people that are passionate about providing customers the kind of personal and professional experience they would tell their friends about.
What market are you attacking and how big is it?
Parking maintenance and support is nearly a $100B industry in the US alone. Currently we are focused on car owners, renters and shares in urban areas that represent the most concentrated portion of this market opportunity.
According to the 2012 Census almost 46% of households in New York City owned vehicles, spreading over Manhattan, Brooklyn, The Bronx, Queens and Staten Island. Our customers are busy professionals, families, early adopters and cultural influencers of all ages that expect the products and services they use to exceed high quality and reliability standards. They are often homeowners and travelers who prefer to interact with their car only when heading to their destination, and take relief in leaving all the other details (like storing, fueling, washing, repairs, inspections etc) to us to take care of behind the scenes.
What is the business model?
Our business model is a full-service “Vehicle Support Platform” (VSP) for both individual car owners and car manufacturers/dealers, allowing users to – at the click of a button – have their cars picked-up or delivered, parked and/or maintained as desired. Utilizing cutting-edge mobile app technology, well-trained valets and complex logistics alleviates the burdens associated with owning a car in a crowded city.
What inspired the business?
Looking for parking is consistently the most cited complaint for drivers in almost every city across the globe. So much so that culturally, the problem is ingrained in our movies, jokes and urban observations.
As car owners, we’ve felt the frustration first hand so parking has always been a topic in the back of our heads. For David it was during a trip to LA about 20 years ago, he asked himself why there isn’t valet parking in NYC when it’s everywhere in LA. For me, it was about 10 years ago when I had my first car in the city, I brokered a deal with my then roommate to let him use the car in exchange for handling the alternate side parking (wondering if that in itself might be a service people would pay for). Then, about a year and a half ago David and I met through mutual friends, and decided to explore how we could get something off the ground to address the burdens of owning a car in a crowded city center.
The tipping point for us was when we read that approximately 30% of all traffic in the streets is cars looking for parking which seemed like an unnecessary cause of traffic, pollution and noise.
My background building tech companies and David’s background in parking development helped us to turn the idea into a minimum viable product and build a team to support the initial client base.
How do you plan on competing with larger competitors that have significant funding and traction?
At DropCar, we are not just providing a service but a whole experience. By creating a full car concierge amenity we are eliminating all pain points and friction associated with vehicle ownership, renting and sharing. This includes support for vehicles in the evolving rental, car share, taxi and public transportation space. Our services, such as our WILL service, are completely unique to us.
What are the milestones that you plan to achieve within six months?
Since July 2015 we have been providing the best solution to owning cars in NYC. It is our aim to continue to grow and maintain our leading reputation by making it our mission to help our customers with their busy work and family lives in any way we can.
We have just introduced a new feature on the app, DropCar 360 – allowing users to outsource all of their auto-related needs at a significant time and cost savings – which we anticipate to be a tremendously valuable feature for customers. At the click of the button, customers can request for their car to be washed, serviced, filled up with gas or repaired, achieving our goal of providing management for every stress point associated with owning, driving and maintaining a car in New York City.
In the next six months, it is realistic that we will enter a few more key city centers such as DC, Boston, Chicago, etc. Looking further down the line, garages will continue to disappear from city centers, as will traditional gas & service stations, creating a need in urban planning efforts for such services in outskirt areas that DropCar will fill. Eventually as vehicles become fully automated, DropCar will be integrated directly into vehicles as an onboard storage & support logistics layer, directly communicating with buildings, flights, service partners, etc. ensuring vehicle utility and passenger experience is fully optimized.
What is the one piece of startup advice that you never got?
Don’t just wing it. For every challenge, think of at least 2 solutions. Then, for each solution, think of at least 2 challenges to it.
If you could be put in touch with anyone in the New York community who would it be and why?
Michael Bloomberg. Would love to get his birds eye view on what he thinks the top 2-3 forces shaping cities like New York are over the next five years, and any advice he has for companies trying to build on these trends.
Why did you launch in New York?
New York is the largest parking market in the US. As New York becomes more built up and garages disappear people are looking for other suitable and affordable options. In a city that values time above all else with a penchant with quality, we knew that DropCar would quickly become the accessory of choice for busy professionals living in NYC with a weekend or daily use car.
Where is your favorite bar in the city for an after work drink?
Brandy Library has long been a favorite. Casual enough to kick back, formal enough to feel productive. Beware though; the Gruyere cheese puffs are addictive!