Parking Payment Startup QuickPay Raises $3.5M, Powerset Founder Barney Pell Becomes CEO

QuickPay, a startup that helps drivers find and pay for parking, has brought on a new CEO — Barney Pell, the founder of semantic search company Powerset (which was acquired by Microsoft in 2008 for a reported $100 million). It’s also announcing $3.5 million in seed funding.

Pell (pictured below) isn’t exactly new to the company. He tells me he first met founder Carl Muirbook about a year ago in, yes, a parking lot in San Francisco’s Mission District, where Muirbook was showing off his payment technology. Pell joined the company as a co-founder and executive chairman shortly after, and now he’s stepping up his involvement even further. Meanwhile Muirbook, who was CEO until now, will continue to serve as QuickPay’s president.

The goal, Pell says, is to create a smarter approach to parking — and not just on the payment side. Particularly if you live in a big city, you can probably think of times you’ve been driving around, desperately trying to find parking. There may have been spots in a parking lot nearby, but there was no way to know until you drove over there and checked. And of course, if you did find a lot with open spaces, you had to fish around for cash to pay the attendant.

So when a driver downloads the company’s mobile app, they can bring up a map showing parking lots that accept QuickPay payments. Then they can check out the current rates in those lots, reserve a space for a certain period of time, and pay within the app. (Even if they don’t have a smartphone, they can still pay via text or voice.) When they arrive at the lot, instead of paying the attendant, they just show off their confirmation code.

barney pellPell says QuickPay is taking a fundamentally different approach compared to the other companies offering parking payment technology. For one thing, those other companies have focused on street parking meters. As Pell puts it, their customers are usually local governments and they’re trying to create “virtual parking meters in the cloud.” QuickPay, on the other hand, works with off-street parking lots, and he says, “We’re thinking about this as addressing the needs of local businesses.” After all, the parking lot owners are businesses.

For example, the app already allows lot owners to change the parking rates whenever they like, perhaps by increasing prices on a weekend or a busy day. They can also offer exclusive spaces to QuickPay users. Over time, Pell says the company could offer a more sophisticated approach to dynamic pricing, and more tools (such as coupons) that help parking lots promote themselves.

QuickPay says it’s now live in more than 100 locations across 12 cities in California, Colorado, and Nevad, adding up to 12,500 parking spaces. Those numbers should go up, because the company just announced that it now works at gated parking facilities, which supposedly account for 50 percent of all spaces. (The parking lot owners will need to install a GateKit at their entrances and exits in order to work with QuickPay.)

As for the funding, it comes from Fontinalis Partners, Andreessen Horowitz, Advanced Technology Ventures, and angels including Accelerator Venture Partners, David Jeske, Alfred Mandel, Louis Monier, Matt Ocko, Lior Ron, Ofer Ronen, and Ben Smith IV. This actually marks the completion of a round that was first announced in February.