We first came across Berlin-based startup ParkTag pitching their parking-space-swapping community at Disrupt NY’s Startup Alley back in 2013.
Today they’re announcing a seed investment of €500,000 ($680,000) from German’s High-Tech Gründerfonds (HTG), a semi-governmental VC fund whose investors include the Federal Ministry for Economics and Technology, the KfW Bank group, and six industrial groups: BASF, Deutsche Telekom, Siemens, Robert Bosch, Daimler and Carl Zeiss.
In addition to the €500,000 seed, HTG’s investment also includes €1.2 million reserved for a follow-on Series A round, which is the fund’s typical investment structure.
The ParkTag iOS and Android apps let users report when they’re about to vacate an on-street parking spot to other users of the app who can then swoop in and bag the space. It lets users either do a specific handover of a parking spot to someone else, such as a colleague, friend or neighbour who they might actively want to help out. But the feature is additionally incentivized to help anyone in the ParkTag community because users who trade their spots are rewarded with in-app credit that makes it easier for them to find a free parking spot on ParkTag in the future.
The app also includes an automatic parking-spot tagging feature that can be enabled to automatically detect when a user’s car is vacating a spot, using sensors in their smartphones. It then posts the vacated space to the community to help others find somewhere to park. Vacated spots identified in this way are displayed with a timer to let other users gauge how likely it is the parking place is still free.
The app includes other features designed to make motorists’ lives a little easier, such as the ability to find their car again if they can’t remember where they parked, and a reminder feature for when a parking meter is about to expire.
On the privacy side, ParkTag stresses that it doesn’t share the movement data of its users with the rest of the community — beyond the point of sharing a specific parking space that a user has just vacated.
The startup reckons its technology could have wider applications beyond the problem of motorists needing to find somewhere to park in busy parts of town — with CEO Silvan Rath noting it plans to use the new funding to develop additional urban applications.
“We have plans for innovative Smart City deployments aiding the work of traffic managers and city planners,” he told TechCrunch.
“ParkTAG is not just any parking app. We think of ourselves as technology specialists. Municipalities, mobility services and app publishers can use our technology to detect free parking spots,” he added in a statement.
ParkTag has been piloting its service in Berlin thus far, but Rath told TechCrunch it plans to partner to expand the service to “a number of additional cities” by the end of the year.
Commenting on the funding round in a statement, Marvin D Andrä, investment manager at High-Tech Gründerfonds, said: “With our investment we expedite the development of the complex Realtime Big Data System required to solve the street parking issue. There are many secondary applications of the technology in smart city environments. We are very much looking forward to working with the experienced team of international specialists.”