ParkX Co-Founder Talks Future of Meters, ‘Geo-Tagging’ & Company Name Change
It’s a busy time for three University of Arizona graduates who developed a mobile application, first launched in Tucson, which allows motorists to pay for parking with their smartphones.
Austin Weiss, Thomas Maguire and Ross Shanken last month rolled out a company name change to ParkX (previously Park Genius) to reflect the trio’s expansion plans. Among other things, the “X” will serve as a placeholder for future clients, such as its newest one – The City of El Paso, Texas – which recently launched Park El Paso.
The company earlier this year was recognized by the Arizona Commerce Authority as a leading early-stage technology venture and was a winner of the agency’s competitive Arizona Innovation Challenge.
TechConnect recently chatted with ParkX’s Weiss, who discussed the reasons for the name change, upcoming plans to deliver “geo-tagged coupons” to customers and what he believes is the future of parking meters, which – our tech-savvy readers might find interesting – have been around since the Great Depression.
Question: What inspired you and your partners to develop ParkX while you were students at the University of Arizona?
Answer: We were students in the McGuire Entrepreneurship Program during the 2011-2012 school year and brought the ParkX concept from idea to actuality during this time frame. We came up with the idea when Ross was complaining about having to leave restaurants to go "feed the meter.” We now had a problem - the next step was finding an intuitive, cost-effective solution to answer the problem. We sat down as a team and worked with our mentors at the McGuire Center to develop the ParkX Solution - which we presented at the end of the year - and eventually launched into a full-scale business.
Q: Why the name change from Park Genius to ParkX?
A: After careful deliberation, we realized that the name Park Genius didn't accurately capture the many facets that ParkX has to offer. Backing ourselves out from the pin-point solution of parking payments, the ParkX name describes the many new, all-encapsulating features that the ParkX solution brings to our partners. The "X" is acting as a placeholder, meaning that whatever variable you need solved ("X") ParkX can deliver. In addition, the placeholder meaning also carries over to the new "white label" trend we have been seeing in the industry. For example: If a city such as El Paso, Texas wants ParkX to build a customized "white-label" application that specifically addresses their unique needs – the "X" would then represent El Paso – as the new "white-labeled" application would be called "Park El Paso," which will continue to act under the umbrella of ParkX solutions.
Q: What other services are you looking to roll out in your mobile app?
A: As we receive funds and hire more talented developers, ParkX is looking to add several exciting new features – the most intriguing being geo-tagged coupons. Because ParkX knows where you parked, when you parked, and when you are likely coming back to your vehicle, we can use this information to provide you with exclusive deals to participating businesses in your immediate vicinity. For example: if you parked your car in front of “Joe's Coffee” and you selected to park for 1 hour - in 55 minutes ParkX will send you a coupon directly to your phone allowing you to get 50 percent off Joe's Coffee as you walk back to your car. This is a win-win-win – Joe is getting access to hyper-targeted client that he knows will be walking past his store front, the user gets the added benefit of receiving a discount just for parking and using the application, and ParkX gets a happy and more loyal customer base.
Q: Where do you see parking meter technology going in the next five to 10 years?
A: Parking meters are one of the last antiquated technologies still used by the mainstream public and I think they will soon begin to resemble the pay phone. As technology gets better and better the need for expensive hardware will continue to go down. Right now municipalities are buying the newest meter hardware as soon as it comes out, similar to buying the latest smartphone. However, when the newer technology comes out a year later, the city already wasted its budget on the old technology. What the city should be doing instead is investing in software. Adding new software to a city costs hundreds and takes days to install (but) adding new hardware to a city costs millions and takes months to install.
I believe in 10 years a motorist will pull-up to a meter-less location that will only be marked by a zone and space number. The motorist will have an interactive dashboard in their car, similar to the home screen of a smartphone. From the dashboard they will open their ParkX application, which will intuitively know their zone and space number based on location. From there, they can select their desired amount of time, hit “pay,” turn off their car and carry-on doing what needs to be done. Total transaction time being less than a minute.
Q: How will the Arizona Innovation Challenge grant help to grow your company?
A: Winning the Arizona Innovation Challenge (AIC) could not have come at a more opportune time for ParkX. We are ready to deliver on several contracts we have been awarded and the fund award ($250,000 when specific benchmarks are met) will help us ensure that we not only reach our deadlines, but that our solution is above and beyond what our partners are expecting. The AIC will allow ParkX to hire talented young professionals in Arizona who want to be part of the ParkX vision – helping our team grow internally. Externally, the AIC will provide the necessary funds we need to attend this year’s top expos and trade shows as well as have the proper amount of promotion and marketing to get visibility out to future partners and clients.
Photo Credit: Jeff Kubina