Anyone with a car in the city knows what a hassle it can be, when it comes to parking. After running the gamut of parking tickets, car towed (again), and the literal bumps and grind of street parking, Valet Anywhere CEO and cofounder Robert Kao decided, enough!
Enter Valet Anywhere, a parking app that completely eliminates the stress and inconvenience of parking in New York (well, Manhattan and Brooklyn, for now) with on-demand valet and long-term parking – all at prices less than garages. You just open the app, and request a pick up wherever you are, or wherever you are going, and a vetted valet shows up.
New York car owners certainly see the value of the service. As did investors URBAN.US, CyberVentures, AngelPad and prominent angels from AngelsList, which led to the company pocketing $1.35M in seed funding.
Kao tells us about it and gives us the road map for future expansion and services.
Tell us about your service.
Valet Anywhere is an on-demand parking service that allows car owners to request a valet via an app. Simply open the Valet Anywhere app, select your destination on the map and request a valet. A driver will meet you at your location, park your car and return it to you as soon as you need it. With secure indoor parking garages, experienced and highly-trained valets, comprehensive insurance and great pricing for both on-demand and long term parking services, Valet Anywhere is transforming the city driving experience into a more enjoyable one.
What inspired you to start the company?
After my co-founder, Lawrence, and I started receiving numerous parking tickets, having our cars towed and paying hundreds of dollars to get them back, experiencing car accidents due to street parking and more – we came up with the idea for Valet Anywhere.
While in the Spring 2014 AngelPad accelerator program, we rolled out on-demand parking at JFK and EWR airports in New York City, where we’d valet customer’s cars at the terminal, curbside. We soon realized the demand for this service and the impact we were making on customers’ lives were unimaginable. That’s when we decided to move Valet Anywhere into the city to help customers avoid typical New York City driving problems such as parking tickets, towed cars, unavailable spaces and more.
How is it different?
Compared to Luxe and Zirx, from a customer perspective, we are all about making the city driving experience much better for drivers, beyond just parking, which is why we have rolled out additional services to our Long-Term customers (such as car washes, car maintenance, fuel top-off, and more).
What market you are targeting and how big is it?
We are razor-focused on building a completely different business model that has a huge market with great margin. The immediate addressable market for monthly parking alone in Manhattan and Brooklyn is valued at $2.5B. and we’re seeing that many more cities (domestically and internationally) are more than ready for our business model.
What’s your business model?
So far, launching in New York has led us to a whole new business model, the Long Term Monthly Service. Our plan moving forward is to enter new areas with Long-Term Monthly services first, and then extend our service from Long-Term to on-demand. So, following our expansion into Park Slope and Downtown Brooklyn neighborhoods, on-demand valet services will soon be available there.
What was the funding process like?
Every startup has interesting stories while going through seed funding, and we are no different. I would say being persistant, never taking no for an answer, and a bit of luck was a big part of our funding process. In addition, AngelList was crucial during our funding process and we hit really good momentum because of AngelList. (I personally think AngelList is the best thing since slice bread for pre-seed stage company.)
What’s your favorite car to valet and why?
We love all our cars, but we do have a special attachment to the German and Japanese imports we get. There are a larger number of them that park with us.
Why do you think your investors were drawn to your company?
They’ve been interested in not only the size of the parking market, which is over $25 billion, but also the team’s ability and track record to execute. We’re also using technology that can be broadly used by consumers to solve everyday problems – which intrigues many of our investors. For example, URBAN.US invests in startups that are creating a positive impact on urban cities in areas such as mobility (which is where we come in), sustainable building, service delivery and more.
What factors about your business led your investors to write the check?
The fact that myself and my team had a proven track record of executing a business (I headed a startup call SmrtGuard Mobile Security that was profitable) and also the size of the parking market has influenced our investors.
What advice can you offer companies in New York that do not have a fresh injection of capital in the bank?
Even though every company will take a different funding path, I think speaking to someone who went through the process helps you to continue moving forward. Get advice from someone who has already been through the thick of it and keep pushing.
Where do you see the company going now over the near term?
The company will primarily be focused on growing the number of monthly users (from NYC and other cities), so I see us acquiring more long-term customers.
What’s your favorite NY bar, when you need to kick back and relax?
American Whiskey near our office is where we go!