Passport, a North Carolina-based startup whose software handles parking enforcement and payment, is planning changes to its platform in the wake of a $65 million funding round.
According to a news release this week, key investors were Rho Capital Partners, H.I.G. Growth Partners and ThornTree Capital Partners, and two representatives from these investors are joining Passport’s board of directors: Habib Kairouz from Rho Capital Partners, and Scott Hilleboe from H.I.G. The money will go toward helping Passport’s software accommodate digital parking payments outside of traditional parking apps, such as through Google Maps, Waze or in-vehicle navigation systems. The news release said Passport will announce several private and public partners in this endeavor in the coming months.
Passport co-founder and CEO Bob Youakim told Government Technology that the fundraising haul will help the company create an ecosystem that makes parking transactions easier for both residents and cities. He pointed to the ever-expanding uses of urban curbs beyond just resident car-parking — scooters, bikes, Uber, taxi cabs, delivery trucks, self-driving cars, EV charging stations — and the demand they place on city governments to adopt new fees and regulations. For example, he said parking rate changes are complex to execute now, but by patching Passport into hardware pay stations and various mobile apps, a city could make rate changes across an entire neighborhood at once.
Where Passport has historically been just a mobile app, Youakim said, it’s now creating a set of APIs (application programing interfaces) so more businesses can incorporate its basic service of managing and facilitating parking payments. He said the democratization of payment methods via any number of applications could reduce how many people use parking spaces without paying.
“What we’re doing and building, and what you’re going to see us go to market with, is a true API-based platform that exposes those business rules so that a mapping company can inherently build them into their application … so you can [pay for parking] without downloading an app,” he said.
Youakim added that Passport is also piloting, in Charlotte, Detroit and Omaha, Neb., a way to charge micromobility companies for scooters or bikes when they’re taking up city sidewalks without being used. Besides revenue, he suggested this could help cities and mobility companies more closely track the demand for these services.
“If they dump 20,000 scooters on your sidewalk, they’re parking on government property that taxpayers support, so that shouldn’t come with some sort of compliance or fee for parking,” he said. “Lime was quoted in an article as supporting this model as something they want to take nationally, because it allows for true supply and demand, versus an arbitrary cap. What, particularly, we’re working on is an algorithm that allows cities to determine … the appropriate amount of scooters that you want to allow in your ecosystem based on usage.”
Youakim said Passport is also developing an algorithm to predict parking availability.