Thursday, September 10, 2015
Interview with Alexander Israel, Co-founder of ParkMe
Story by Benjamin F. Kuo
Santa Monica-based parking data and mobile app developer ParkMe (www.parkme.com) was just acquired this morning by traffic and telematics giant Inrix. We caught up with co-founder and COO Alexander Israel late yesterday, ahead of the announcement, to have a quick chat with him about the acquisition and his experience--along with co-founder Sam Friedman--of starting up and selling his company.
How'd the acquisition come about?
Alex Israel: ParkMe has been working with INRIX as a partner for the last three years. They're the largest, connected navigation and connect automotive information players in the market. It was a very natural collaboration. We've been gathering all of this data, and through this acquisition, they're effectively bringing our data to millions of their users. The acquisition effectively changes the paradigm from navigating users from door-to-door, but instead, allows them to direct users to the parking lots associated with their destination, and even allows them to pay for parking, using their smartphone or their in-car navigation system.
What's the biggest lesson you've learned over the past few years as an entrepreneur?
Alex Israel: That's a great question. The biggest lesson, I would say, is that hiring is everything, and that ideas are a dime a dozen. Hiring and execution are everything. You need to surround yourself with the best team you can, and it's all about executing on your vision. It's been quite a roller coaster.
A roller coaster?
Alex Israel: It's been quite a learning experience. I think, for most entrepreneurs, this is one of their biggest aspirations. Sam and I started this in a garage, and we have now been acquired, have 25 employees, and raised a very significant amount of funding from Fontinalis Partners, IDG, and Angeleno Goup. The acquisition really has brought things to fruition. I know it's a cliche, but it's really a dream come true, and we think we've found a good home for ParkMe at INRIX. We're really quite ecstatic.
We see you'll be sticking around in Santa Monica?
Alex Israel: Yes, our offices will continue to be in Santa Monica, and the brand will remain ParkMe. Our 25 employees are all coming with us to INRIX, and Sam and I will become part of their executive team.
As an entrepreneur, is there anything you wish you'd knew when you started this process?
Alex Israel: (laughs) There's so much! I think, one of the hardest things for us, as when you're starting a company, you're very concerned, fascinated, and fixated on raising capital, and how to reach out to venture capitalists. The truth is, they're out there wanting to hear about you. VCs want you to reach out to them, they want to hear about your ideas, and they want to see you execute on your vision. My advice would be, reach out to those venture capitalists, reach out to advisors, and talk to everyon eyou can about your startup. There are very few reasons to be stealthy about what you're doing. Tell everyone about your ideas, and get their feedback. The more people you talk to, the more people you might find partnerships with, more customers you mind find, and investors who might want to fund you, or even just people who can give you advice. Talk to everyone and anyone about what you're doing.
Thanks, and congratulations!