It seems as though valet parking tends to be reserved for restaurant patrons and residents of Los Angeles. While many cities may not be able to accommodate valet parking, an “Uber of X” business is focused on doing just that.
DropCar is the “Uber of valet parking and other car services.”
DropCar, founded in July 2015, was launched by two friends: one who worked out a deal with his college roommates on who could use the car but pay for parking and the other who visited Los Angeles and wondered why valet parking wasn’t more prevalent. Now 150 people strong, the company has about 2,500 users in the city of New York. DropCar allows users to pay by the hour (the “Will service”) or by the month (the “Steve service”).
Cofounder Spencer Richardson spoke with PYMNTS about the founding of DropCar, the pain points of building a startup and why it’s important to reinvent a market, rather than create one.
PYMNTS: What is DropCar?
SR: We’re a vehicle support platform. The idea is we’re offering a suite of services to consumers and businesses related to the support infrastructure and connected cars. That can come in the form of parking — which is really where we started — that is short-term or long-term.
We have a service called “Will service” where we wait with the car — we’re distancing from the garage entirely. We also have a monthly subscription service called our “Steve service,” which stores your car and brings it back to you whenever you need it. So, people park in the city and are paying $500–$1,000 per month for a garage, when they’re really using their car just on the weekends. Quite frankly, there’s no need to pay those kind of rates anymore when you’re buying overhead for the real estate, when that shouldn’t be the case any more. So, we have these parking solutions. Those are kind of the platforms that we build the rental services on top of. Also, we offer vehicle inspection, maintenance and our 360, which covers repairs, replacing windshields, basically any other pain point on the vehicle, just the general integrity of the vehicle and also the gas, a wash and stuff like that. And then, there are more complex offers, like repair work.
So, that’s all our consumer offerings, and that’s all accessed through our mobile app — on Android and iOS — so you can schedule or do on-demand, which is where the Uber of X tends to come in.
We also have another platform where we sell into manufacturers, dealers and so forth. The idea there is to provide a software for logistics and transport of their vehicles. We’re able to help their commercial suite.
PYMNTS: Have you always been in the car space?
SR: My background is tech. I’ve been doing technology for little over a decade now. I got in originally as a founder and CEO of a company called FanBridge for quite awhile. We built that company out pretty significantly, and I moved over to DropCar, and it kind of seemed to be where things were going.
PYMNTS: How does DropCar work in terms of payment?
SR: Payment is all integrated into the application. We use Stripe. The idea is, if you tip or if you have a subscription or if you have one-off jobs or you have repairs, we do everything through Stripe.
We also have a payroll provider that manages all the direct deposits.
PYMNTS: How much funding have you received?
SR: We’ve raised just under a few million dollars.
PYMNTS: What is the history of your founding?
SR: Both my cofounder and I had different experiences that combined and became DropCar. On my end, back in college, I had a car in Brooklyn. The deal that I had with my roommates was that I’ll pay for the vehicle and you can use it, but you have to take care of all the side-street parking. We were kind of trying to avoid paying garage parking. So, they were willing to get up at six or seven in the morning and get the car, and in exchange for that, they could drive the car. At that moment, I started realizing — I didn’t do anything at the time — but I thought to myself, “I’m sure there’s a lot of people in this situation, and parking is a huge pain, and I’m sure more people would be willing to do this kind of service if it was a decent price.” But I didn’t act on it until a year and a half ago. My other cofounder, about 10 years ago, was in Los Angeles and was wondering why there is no valet parking in New York. Which is kind of a simple question, but I think it struck him and stuck with him his entire time. One day, we started talking, met through friends of friends and started thinking through the bigger question of where is city and urban planning headed in terms of how cars are supported — from maintenance, parking and all the things people deal with. And yet, people do love their cars. So, we started a framework and brainstorming, and it became clear how parking seemed to be the most systemic and the one that we could build a platform on top of.
PYMNTS: What does Uber of X mean to you?
SR: It’s interesting. I think Uber of X means to me: convenience. I think it’s about a very liquid experience that covers you end-to-end, where you’re building products that save people time, as well as overhead. It allows for compartmentalizing and breaking down little details that people might have to sift through on their own, and you start to turn it into a simpler, more direct experience that ultimately yields something that feels like you’re getting more than it costs you. And so, I think the pinnacle where most of the companies I’ve seen that are the Uber of X or the Uber of Y, it’s about on-demand applications and real-world services that make life easier.
PYMNTS: Where is an area that the company has improved since starting?
SR: I think it really would be accountability. That’s an area where we’ve grown up the most. When you’ve got 10 guys in a startup who all sit in the same room together, it’s very different from when you’ve got 150 people across four different departments communicating from dozens of locations. The ways that communication has to happen become more complex. From what I’ve seen, that communication typically has a big impact — when done incorrectly — on any one person feeling responsible for whatever their role is. Early on, we kind of assumed that, if you got a verbal affirmative from somebody, that they understood something — a goal or something. When you get out into the wild, when you’ve got new customers and existing customers and random forces, they become their own decision-makers. And so, to make them efficient, or more so effective, decision-makers, it’s really about teaching them how to be their own leaders and to be accountable for those decisions and creating processes in the background that actively monitor the results of the decisions. It could be as simple as “Do I wait for a client for 15 minutes? What do I do?” So, now, we have more advanced protocol than we did in the early days. But we believe that “where there’s a will there’s a way.” It was all about teaching, about going the extra mile for the client. That was a big one. Accountability and leadership as the team scales.
PYMNTS: Where do you think the Uber of X trend is headed?
SR: For all of these Uber of X, it’s just important to establish where we fit into everyday life. There’s a lot of people who have an Uber of X, but they’re kind of inventing a market. Sometimes, that’s a good thing. But sometimes, there’s an unclear line between what they do and the everyday problems. I think that’s something that Uber nailed from the start. They didn’t invent an industry. They reinvented an industry. That’s what we’re looking to do. We didn’t invent parking or vehicle maintenance. We’re just trying to bring them into the mobile and on-demand age.