ParkWhiz, a Chicago-based discount-parking-spot finder, has raised $10 million from heavy-hitter investors so it can double its workforce and boost big-name partnerships to become a key part of the “smart car” future.
Drivers can use ParkWhiz’s free app to find the cheapest parking in real time, download a mobile pass and wave their smartphone at the entrance to park.
ParkWhiz CEO Aashish Dalal
They automatically get a discount, which can be as much as 50 to 70 percent off the standard daily rate, including at parking facilities near Midway and O’Hare airports.
More than 1 million customers have used ParkWhiz’s 2,000 parking venues nationwide since the company started eight years ago.
The $10 million in Series B funding, led by Chicago-based venture capital firm Jump Capital, includes well-known investors from the first funding round: Hyde Park Angels, Hyde Park Venture Partners, social-news site Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, former Technology Crossover Ventures partner Henry Feinberg and former Nokia/Navteq chief technology officer Amreesh Modi.
The new money will enable ParkWhiz to hire 25 people in sales, marketing, engineering and business development by year’s end, and another 25 by the end of 2015.
“We want innovators — anyone interested in changing the parking experience and who understands how to build and sell a product,” said ParkWhiz co-founder and CEO Aashish Dalal.
ParkWhiz currently employs 25 at its West Loop headquarters. It locates real-time, discounted parking spaces in 300 parking facilities, or 80 percent, of Chicago’s mostly downtown parking lots and garages. Its long-term goal is to partner with big-name companies such as Google, Apple and Nokia to become part of the next-generation “connected” car that automatically senses when a motorist needs to find parking.
“The concept is that, as you are driving and using your favorite mapping device, [the mapping function] will detect that you need parking,” said Dalal, 36, of Roscoe Village. “It knows your preferences — that you want to save money or that you cannot afford to be one minute late — and would recommend rates at one to three parking facilities where ParkWhiz does business.”
Dalal foresees such technology becoming a reality by spring.
“In the next 24 months, you’ll see fascinating things from [us], yet our focus will remain giving drivers one-touch access to the lowest-priced parking option,” Dalal said. “We are only beginning to scratch the surface in terms of our growth and the services we provide.”
The company is committed to Chicago.
“We love the West Loop,” Dalal said, citing the neighborhood’s easy access to city and suburban public transportation. “We’re content to be here for the long haul.”