Russ:Hi, I’m Russ Capper and this is BusinessMakers USA, brought to you by Insperity, inspiring business performance. Coming to you today from Indianapolis, Indiana, and I’m pleased to have as my guest now, Michael Dowden, Co-Founder of Andromeda. Michael, welcome to the show.
Michael: Thank you, Russ. It’s a pleasure.
Russ:You bet. Tell us about Andromeda.
Michael: Andromeda was started about three years ago as a software company and our goal was to create digital products and eventually spin those products off as their own companies and help them scale up.
Russ:Have you been successful? Have you spun one off yet?
Michael: So far, yes, we have. Our first big product is called FlexePark. And FlexePark is a digital parking application, it is a mobile web app that you can use to check into a parking space and pay for that parking space from your mobile phone.
Russ:That sounds real cool. I mean, there’s a lot of technology looking at parking these days. What’s unique about yours?
Michael: What’s special about ours is that we’re not trying to manage commercial parking lots, we’re not managing reservation systems. What we’re doing is partnering with small businesses and helping them resell their parking after hours, evenings and weekends, so that they can make additional money, they can reach additional people with advertising, and it improves the overall availability of parking in that neighborhood in that high traffic time of the evenings and weekends.
Russ:Ok, so you’re talking about maybe like a retail establishment just open during the daylight hours but that’s located in a happening neighborhood that might have restaurants and bars that come in and always encroach and use the guys parking lot.
Michael: Sure, and medical offices, potentially churches, non-profit organizations, a lot of possibilities there.
Russ:It enables those people to make a little money off their parking.
Michael: That’s right.
Russ:Where did that idea come from?
Michael: That idea actually came from one of our founders. He was driving here in Indianapolis along Mass Avenue, which is a really popular spot, and he was going to be photographing a show, and so he had all this camera equipment in the back of the car and wanted to park really close and he drove by three lots that were empty on the way there, but they were posted no parking. He ended up having to go three blocks away and come get people to help carry the equipment through and everything, right? So, he had the idea, “Hey, there’s these empty parking lots, what can we do with them? How can we make those available to people like me that want to park here on Friday night?”
Russ:So, I guess the people that have empty parking lots at nighttime because they say no parking, as well as those people that have full parking lots because they don’t threaten to have you towed away, are both prospects for your application.
Michael: That’s right.
Russ:How does it work?
Michael: How it works is we put up signs that tell you what to do when you park. We announce the fact that there’s parking there, and so people who are driving through the neighborhood, they’ll see that there’s a place to park, pull in, and then they’ll use their smart phone to either scan the QR code or they’ll go to FlexePark.com and punch in the four-digit number for that parking lot. You can sign up with either Google or Facebook accounts or just with your email address, enter your license plate number, and you can pay with either PayPal or with your credit card.
Russ:Do I need your app, too, to actually download it or not?
Michael: There’s actually nothing to download. It’s all web based. One of the advantages is that it’s very, very quick to get up and running. We find that a lot of times people are able to, for the very first time they use our app, get all the way through that check-in process in about the same time it would take them to download an app.
Russ:How are you doing? Do you have some paying customers already?
Michael: Absolutely. We’ve had paying customers for seven months now, and the last three months have been really strong as the weather gets better an as we expand.
Russ:Is it difficult to go call on an owner of a business that has the parking lot and get them to understand it?
Michael: It really varies. We do have a lot of initial, “Wow, that’s really cool.” Sometimes the hard part is just convincing somebody to give it a try. I think, honestly, a lot of times the biggest obstacle we have is, “Wow, it sounds too good to be true. You’re going to come into my parking lot, you’re going to help me make money, and I don’t have to do anything? What’s the catch?” There’s no catch. We pay for all the setup costs and help the business get started and give the business a percentage of the profits.
Russ:So, essentially you go out and put up a sign or two, and create an account for the guy, and that’s it. Done deal.
Russ:That sounds like it could move pretty fast. There might not be big barriers to entry for competitors unless you just go and grab all the parking spots you can real fast.
Michael: I’d say there are some pretty big barriers to entry because one of the things that we have focused on from the very beginning is building an application and system and a process that is as simple and easy to use as possible. Building software is not always as cheap as you would think, and if you’re not already in the parking industry, there’s a lot of zoning and ordinances and regulations that you have to deal with and be aware of to build a business like this.
Russ:Ok, well it sounds like it could grow pretty quickly. Do you have an exit strategy planned?
Michael: Our exit strategy right now, is of course to try to find a larger company to buy us out. Pretty simply, there’s a lot of major parking companies, there’s a lot of major tech companies, and then there’s companies like Lyft and Uber that are very active in managing transportation within cities, and so we think those are all possible candidates in that area.
Russ:Alright, well, good luck and we might check back with you to see how many parking lots you have a year from now.
Michael: Sounds great.
Michael: Thank you very much.
Russ:You bet. And that wraps up my discussion with Michael Dowden, Co-Founder of Andromeda and also Co-Founder of FlexePark. And this is BusinessMakers USA.
brought to you by