Japan’s SoftBank Group has invested in ParkJockey, a US startup that deploys smart software and hardware technologies to monetize parking lots.
The Miami-based firm revealed the SoftBank investment in an announcement on Monday, without providing the financial terms or details of the funding round.
According to the Miami Herald newspaper, the investment took ParkJockey’s post-money valuation to over US$1 billion, giving the firm the “unicorn” status.
A CrunchBase report said the investment amounted to US$800 million, and that it was carried out by SoftBank Group, and not by Vision Fund, the Japanese conglomerate’s mammoth tech-focused fund.
Along with news of the Softbank investment, ParkJockey announced this week that it is acquiring two of the largest parking operators in North America, Imperial Parking Corporation and Citizens Parking, with help from Abu Dhabi-based Mubadala Capital and debt financing from New York-based Owl Roc.
Founded in 2013 by Ari Ojalvo and Umut Tekin, ParkJockey’s mission is to take the hassle out of parking for consumers, operators and landlords.
It developed an app-based parking management platform for property owners and operators to handle operations of parking lots and coordinate with other large enterprises to monetize parking spaces, offering features such as automatic license plate recognition and pay-by-app.
For instance, ParkJockey allows a landlord to host or stage Lyft or Uber drivers at their garage or parking lots. Its mobile app is also able to help drivers find available parking spaces more efficiently.
With over 100,000 parking spaces under management, ParkJockey now mainly operates in multiple US cities, including Miami, Chicago, New York and San Francisco, as well as all major cities in the United Kingdom.
In an interview with the Miami Herald, Ojalvo highlighted ParkJockey’s ability to help real estate landlords coordinate parking for autonomous vehicles as the platform’s major advantage in the future, targeting the business-to-business segment as its primary focus.
TechCrunch noted that SoftBank’s investment in ParkJockey can be seen as a bet on an automated future from present-day parking management issues like electric vehicle charging, designated areas for ride-hailing and automatic pay, as well as a day when vehicles are fully autonomous.
“The parking industry is a significant market but remains fragmented with many opportunities for technological innovation,” Michael Ronen, managing partner at SoftBank Investment Advisers, said in a press release.
SoftBank’s latest investment in parking management field comes after the group rolled out the shared parking service BLUU Smart Parking mobile app this July, which allows drivers to find, reserve and pay for parking spaces across Japan via their mobile devices.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Dec 12
Translation by Ben Ng with additional reporting
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