Fixed, the mobile app fights parking tickets on your behalf, which has been before today only available in San Francisco, is now expanding to the neighboring city of Oakland. It then plans to add on a new city at a rate of about one per month, the company says.
The startup is also announcing an additional round of $650,000 in seed funding from a number of investors including Dave Morin’s Slow Ventures, Structure VC, Paul Buchheit and rapper Nas. Combined with Fixed’s earlier round, that brings the company’s total funding to date to $1.8 million.
The idea for the Fixed mobile application is clever. Customers snap a photo of their parking ticket using their smartphone’s camera, and the app checks for a variety of common errors before writing a customized contest letter to the city on your behalf. But it does more than that, too, explains Fixed co-founder David Hegarty, the company will even tap into Google Street View to determine if the city has the proper signage in place in the area you received the ticket.
He says that Fixed home base of San Francisco hasn’t been all that receptive to the way the startup has helped automate the ticket contesting process for locals. “Over 50% of tickets have an issue or error that makes them invalid,” he explains. “But we get frustrated because the SFMTA [San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency] doesn’t play by the rules of what’s valid versus invalid. They’re a complete stickler for the rules when issuing the ticket…but they have a very lax interpretation of the rules when it comes to arbitrating disputes,” he laments.
Fixed’s “win” rate on tickets it contests is only 20%-30% today, but Hegarty thinks it would be higher if the city honored the rules. He says the team is even thinking about taking further legal action to make that happen.
After all, Hegarty notes, using parking tickets to generate revenue for the city, like San Francisco does, is the “most regressive form of taxation,” he says. And it impacts those the most who can’t afford private parking or a garage.
But for now, the plan is to expand Fixed’s dispute system to other cities across California, starting first with Oakland then heading to L.A. in March. Over the couple of years, Fixed wants to brings its app to the top 100 cities around the U.S., starting with major markets like New York and Chicago before working its way down.
Hegarty says that expansion to new regions is easier now that it has worked out the kinks in the system, and has time to process the data. For instance, though San Francisco has some 119 different violations on the books, the data shows that the top 10 violations account for around 90% of tickets.
Since last July, Fixed has grown its customer base and is now processing around 700 to 800 tickets per week, which represents $4 million in annual parking fines. The company only generates significant revenue when it beats a ticket – by charging a “success fee” of 25% of the original fine. If it doesn’t win, it charges a small convenience fee for handling payment of the ticket on your behalf, but that alone wouldn’t be enough to sustain its business. Fixed needs to beat the system more often than 20% of the time to survive and become profitable.
The company today has 10 people working full-time and a number of contractors. The new funding will help Fixed expand into new markets, debut new application features focused around improving automation, and ship its app for Android, which is due next month.
Fixed for iOS is a free download on iTunes.