Nick Miller is the co-founder and CEO of Parking Panda, a parking directory and reservation service. Parking Panda allows users to find, reserve, and pay for parking in over 40 cities and airports across the U.S. The app has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Mashable, and more.
Finalist: Nick Miller, Parking Panda
Everything we build is built for our customers. We believe in that so much that every new employee spends their first two days working with our customer service team. It doesn’t matter what you do—you could be an engineer, you could be in marketing. You spend your first days working with our customer service team, so that you really understand the problems that our consumers face.
Q. Tell us about your experience an entrepreneur.
NICK MILLER: Having spent several years working in the tech industry working at startups, I had gotten the feeling that eventually I wanted to start my own thing. I wanted to do something on my own. When I jumped ship from Living Social especially, and to some extent from Group Commerce, lot of people thought I was crazy. You have vesting stock options that could be worth a lot of money one day. I learned a lot at those jobs and I was never necessarily tying my future success either personally or financially to someone else’s company, or a company where I was one of 800 or a 1000 people making it huge, going public, things like that.
In retrospect, maybe there was a little bit of luck and a little bit of good sense in jumping ship early. My parents run their own business and have been doing that for years both while working other jobs. Independently, they were able to put my sister and me through college by running their own business and working 8- hour weeks and working really hard. I think that is what inspired me, and they were really supportive of me doing the same thing. When I said, “I’m going to quit my job,” a lot of people go, “You’re crazy.” But my parents were like, “Okay, do it.” So the fact that they have been so supportive of that and I have seen it my whole life, I think just really instilled in me those values—both work-ethic related, but also the willingness to take risks and be confident in those risks. My co-founder Adam [Zilberbaum’s] family are entrepreneurs also. We both have alwats had this sense that we were going to build something ourselves and make our own way, so when that opportunity presented itself, we could not resist. It was just what we knew we wanted to do.
Q. How did you find support in the early days?
A. The Baltimore Angels were one of very first investors. Up to then it had just been myself, my business partner, and whatever money we had in the bank. They participated as investors as part of a larger convertible note round. We raised $700,000 and used that to fuel the company’s growth for the next year, year and a half. We subsequently raised $4 million in series A that we have been using to continue to grow the company up until this point, but we are raising additional capital now to continue to grow to the next level.
Q. Describe the technology and the model.
A. We’ve gone from an AirBnB model to this new model. We do business in 40-plus cities, work with 20 professional sports teams and some of the largest brands in the world. Throughout we’ve continued to focus on that growth and that technology that we’re building. Parking is headed in a direction that is very much a combination of your car, your phone, and the parking garage. Eventually, as the connected car continues to become more popular and start rolling out at scale, you will be able to pull up to a parking garage, tap a button on your dash—maybe not even push a button—and the gate will open and allow you to drive right in. That same application will also live on your phone and will speak to one another. Think Google or Apple’s in-dash systems, which are coming very quickly. There has to be a unifying kind of technology or middleware that facilitates the ability for all of this to happen and that is where we envision building things.
There’s one app on your phone for parking: Parking Panda. So when you need to go on your phone and see where you’re going to go, you hop in your car and it recognizes that that is the lot you are going to, navigates you there, you can get out, you know, get a notification of how long you have been there, pay more if you need to—right from your phone. The discovery, the reservation (if it’s relevant), the payments, and even the access—the ability to let your car in and out of the garage—are all controlled by a single platform and that’s the direction we’re building towards. That’s how the industry will ultimately play out and we have an opportunity to be a big part of that. We want to be a part of that as much as we can.