Friday, February 13, 2015
CurbStand: Looking To Create A Valet Parking Network
Story by Benjamin F. Kuo
It's the wild, wild west out there when it comes to valet parking, with hundreds of companies, and not much brand recognition. Los Angeles-based CurbStand (www.curbstand.com) is hoping to change that, by offering up a mobile app which connects you with the company's network of CurbStand valet parking companies, which offers on-demand retrieval of your car, mobil payments, and on the valet parking operator side--lots of business analytics tools and reporting. We caught up with CEO Serge Gojkovich to learn more about what the company is up to, and to hear more about the company's acquisition of Curby this week.
What is Curbstand up to right now?
Serge Gojkovich: I came aboard in April of this last year, and we did a $3M raise shortly thereafter. We're now expanding very quickly, and we've had huge growth here in LA. We have now opened up CurbStand locations in Miami, Dallas, Austin, Fort Lauderdale, Boston, and Denver. We also have a few other locations in other markets, such as Houston, San Antonio, and Hoboken. We've got an emphasis on growing to as many Curbstand stands across the country as we can, as quicly as possible. We just recently brought in a CFO, a CTO, and also brought our technology team in house, so we are positioned to move our product forward, and grow and hire sales people in all of these different cities. We just acquired Curby, which has a robust enterprise solution. We thought of it much like a peanut butter and chocolate situation, because although we've been able to offer our free product to valet companies, they have a much more robust system which allows us to serve large hotels, hospitals, and institutional organizations which need a lot more bells and whistles, from the valet stand point. This is an opportunity for valet companies to get an enterprise solution, should they want it.
There are a lot of valet related startups around -- where exactly do you fit?
Serge Gojkovich: CurbStand gives customers the opportunity to go up to our valet stands, and know that those stands are there, and that they don't have to have cash, and we're just now launching on-demand services where those customers can request their car. So, a customer doesn't need to have cash, they don't need to pull out a credit card. They can do things like they want to do, and maybe they can do things like go hiking in Runyon Canyon, or go to their favorite place for dinner, and they don't have to worry about paying for a valet, and they won't have to wait for their car.
Your model relies on partners to provide the valet parking?
Serge Gojkovich The valet companies that are doing valet. We just added a level of technology for them, on top of their valet operations. We work with valet companies, make sure they are trained, provide them with better equipment, and provide promotional materials, bottles of water, mints, and sometimes we will even hire promotional people and give away free parking. Restaurants love that, because it drives traffic to those restaurants. We're also promoting the parking with our partners, with valets, with restaurants, all on social media, to show that we are all one happy family.
What's your strategy behind geographic expansion--has that been difficult?
Serge Gojkovich: We haven't found it that difficult to expand, and we've been able to expand very rapidly. We think we'll be in about 15 markets by the end of 2015, and we're on a very good track, and are more than halfway there. It hasn't been all that difficult to replicate this model across different geographic locations. We find we are able to get going very quickly and easily, because everything we've learned we learned in LA, which is the toughest market of them all for valet parking.
How do you handle branding with your valet partners?
Serge Gojkovich: We talk to the valet companies, and although they have restrictions on what we can put on their podiums, they generally have one of our yellow umbrellas, which our customers can see as they are driving by, so that they can automatically recognize a CurbStand location. We also have branding on the podium and sometimes an employee of the valet will be wearing our hats or t-shirts.
So how did this acquisition come about?
Serge Gojkovich: We actually were competing for business against Curby. But, after hearing what they had to say, we thought this would be very interesting for us. We were already headed in the direction of providing an enterprise solution, and we thought why reinvent the wheel? Plus, we later learned that two of the people involved in Curby were also involved in taking Boingo Wireless to an IPO, Niels Jonker and Colby Goff. We saw a lot of value in that as well, and it's great to have those folks as we grow. One of them is serving as an advisor, and the other will be joining our board. Our goal is to become the number one parking app, and having that kind of experience can do nothing but help us.
Finally, why do those valet partners work with CurbStand, and what do they get from working with you?
Serge Gojkovich: What they see, is an opportunity to bring some technology to their customers, without having to shell out a lot of money to be able to take credit cards. It also adds a lot of professional polish to their stands, which many need. Some are pretty polished already, but we think we are adding a sense of brand loyalty. We've been doing a lot of huge marketing events, which is building the CurbStand brand very quickly. That really helps our valet partners drive business to their stands.