By Susannah Lee | Yahoo Finance
How much would you pay not to have to drive around looking for a parking spot? Well, you may have to look no further because now, there are apps for that.
While Uber and Lyft are taking the world by storm offering cars on demand, several start-ups are hitting the market providing users with their own car valet. These new companies are trying to take a piece of the commercial parking industry and its estimated $11 billion in revenues, according to data compiled by IBISWorld.
Luxe, backed in part by Google Ventures, (GOOG) parks cars on-demand and offers similar add-ons. This valet charges $5 an hour or the maximum of $15 a day, not including services. Luxe currently operates in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Seattle and newly launched in Boston. The company has raised more than $25 million in the past year.
Competitor app Zirx, recently launched in Brooklyn, New York, currently operates in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, Washington, D.C. and San Diego.
“We came up with it about a year ago…like a good entrepreneur we figured we’d try to solve that,” said Sean Behr, the founder and CEO of Zirx.
“The way this service works is someone comes, you tell them where you want to go, they meet you at the front door, they take your car, park it in a secure garage, and when you want it back, tap the button and they bring it back in 10 to 15 minutes,” explained Behr.
The Zirx mobile app also offers added services like filling up your tank, electric vehicle charging and car washing. With its Care services more premium offers include oil changes priced at $60 and up to interior detailing starting at $125.
Small insurance brokerages can struggle to keep up with day-to-day business processes such as sending confirmation of coverage, policy details and pink cards and reviewing payments. When a broker’s day is made up of these transactional calls, it leaves little room for acquiring new business. On the other hand, consumers want immediate service. They no longer have the time to go in and talk to their broker or wait on the phone.
Sharp Mobile provides small brokerages with a web portal and mobile app that enables their customers to do everything online and on their smartphones — from accessing digital pink cards to making payments, viewing policy details, understanding coverage details, submitting claims and requesting changes.
Here’s more from our conversation with Sharp Mobile founder and president Sherif Gemayel:
How did you come up with the idea for your startup? Was there an “ah ha” moment?
The inception of Sharp Mobile was due to my insurance company’s rapid growth and need for tools to help alleviate the stress placed on brokers. After one year of testing, we witnessed a significant decrease in calls and were able to focus on qualitative service all while continuing to grow the business. We realized that this would be an effective tool to help other small brokerages compete with multi-million dollar direct insurance writers.
What has been the biggest challenge so far? What have you done to solve it?
Our biggest ongoing challenge that we have yet to overcome is the government’s acceptance of digital pink cards. Even with the growing demand for more online resources, the insurance industry remains behind the times by still using outdated paper methods for insurance proof. Paper insurance cards are easier to forge and open doors for insurance fraud, which will ultimately result in higher insurance premiums for everyone. Trying to convince the government to accept digital pink cards is our major focus right now.
What would like to share with others just starting out?
Our success has been our innovation. We observed a need in the market and developed the technology for it. The best advice we can give to new entrepreneurs is to continually evolve. Whatever your ideas are and whatever you want to do, keep developing it and evolving it. Most importantly just start. Take that first step and the momentum will carry you the rest of the way.
The most valuable resource for any startup is people. Whether it’s your best friend who is a successful entrepreneur, or an associate who has achieved the level of success you wish to emulate, ask questions, pick their brains, and let them mentor you and your startup.
Research is another key aspect. Know your market and know your competitors. What can you offer that others are not?
What made you choose to go down the path of entrepreneurship?
I have gone into business for myself once before. It was risky and it unfortunately failed. I went back to working in oil and gas making a fairly good wage until one day I saw a problem that I wanted to solve. My best friend at the time was working in sales for an insurance broker, making connections and acquiring new business from networking and word of mouth. I couldn’t believe how antiquated the insurance brokerage industry was at the time, and in many ways, continues to be that way. I saw that as a great opportunity to get back into the game.
What are your thoughts on our startup ecosystem?
Our province is very entrepreneurial and has many resources you can go to when starting up your own business. However, we need to diversify away from oil and gas and look at putting resources into the technology sector that has the potential of bringing in a lot of capital to our economy.
What do you and your startup need help with?
The most important breakthrough we want to accomplish is to finally have digital pink cards accepted officially by the Alberta government. This alone will save so many people so much time and money. It just makes natural sense to head in this direction. For more information, visit sharpmobile.ca.