Sunday, February 08, 2015

Setting a street parking app apart from its competition

Setting a street parking app apart from its competition

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Gerhard Boiciuc, Parknav's vice president of business development - MANUEL MARTINEZ
MANUEL MARTINEZGerhard Boiciuc, Parknav's vice president of business development
A street parking app aiming for the B2B market
THE COMPANY: Founded in 2011 by Eyal Amir, 44, an associate professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Sergei Kozyrenko, 32, a software developer who previously worked at UBS and Argonne National Laboratory, Parknav guides users to those coveted street spots in congested cities.
"We think hoping to get lucky in the 21st century is a caveman strategy," says Gerhard Boiciuc, Parknav's vice president of business development. "We save you 70 to 80 percent of your search time."
Today, the company has 100,000 users in Chicago and San Francisco, with another 20,000 in Germany. The seven-person team, which received undisclosed seed funding from German incubator You is Now, is raising $2.5 million to expand.
The problem: Potential customers don't immediately understand how Parknav differs from other, more established parking apps such as SpotHero and Parking Panda. Those services let users pay in advance to reserve spaces in lots, garages and valet areas, while Parknav focuses on street spots. The distinction between on-street and off-street parking is easily missed, Boiciuc says.
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That's a roadblock, since Parknav is trying to grow by proving itself to individual consumers—even though the long-term plan is to make money by selling its services to businesses. The b-to-b pitch to companies such as real estate firms: Cut the time agents spend driving in circles looking for a spot, and you immediately increase productivity. But as Parknav prepares to roll out its U.S. b-to-b service, it needs to keep the b-to-c vertical alive to spread interest and fuel growth.
THE RECOMMENDATION: Experts including Amy Grabow, a former VP of marketing at Chicago-based Hillshire Brands, and Maria Keevins-Kogan, senior director of marketing strategy at Lake Forest-based W.W. Grainger, suggested Parknav invest in quick instructional videos for its site.
"We're so focused on investing in the technology that we questioned whether the efforts in marketing would generate the ROI," Boiciuc says. But the experts assure him it is money well-spent.
THE RESULT: The Parknav team is in talks with several production companies to create a video.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Parknav should invest a small sum in videos that differentiate the brand.

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