Driven by A Great Idea and Smart Advice
While checking out some high-end cars one day, a couple of guys met and became friends. Their idea for a mobile app eventually became reality, and today it’s a quickly-growing success. While their story had some unexpected detours, they found their way and are on the road to great things.
Just A Couple of Guys Who Love Cars
The regular “Cars and Coffee” event in Dallas is a great place for high-end car owners and fans to see some of the most beautiful automobiles in the world. Stephen Levin and Maximilian Von Brand would see each other there occasionally, viewing the Lamborghini section. The two men got to talking, and decided to start a Dallas chapter of the Lamborghini Club with Lamborghini owners.
Fully immersing themselves in the car community, Stephen and Max got to know many high-end car owners, and noticed something they all had in common — parking issues.
Stephen was inspired and had an idea for an app — one that would allow high-end car owners to reserve spots for their vehicles up front at participating restaurants and venues. It would give them peace of mind that their cars were being looked after by the valet service, and even allow them the option to park their cars themselves.
He shared this idea with Max, asking if he wanted to partner up and turn this idea into reality. Max said yes, and ParkUpFront was born.
Turning the Ignition
Neither Stephen or Max had a tech background, or had ever tried to develop an app. So the first steps were to find a developer (which can be hard to find, since they’re in such demand) and bring on qualified people to fill out the team.
After a lot of research via the internet, podcasts, books, and their network of friends, they began connecting with the startup community. They were pleased to discover that many startup veterans are happy to help each other, because they know the challenges firsthand and enjoy sharing their lessons and best practices.
Stephen and Max were able to build a solid team that brought a variety of skills, experience and unique perspectives. ParkUpFront still needed a developer — but their engine was running.
Hitting the Gas
They started sketching out ideas for the ParkUpFront user interface, while avowed “Do It Yourself”-er Max tried his hand at writing code — but soon realized that they needed to bring in the pros.
Stephen searched for “top app development companies in Dallas” and found Code Authority (among four others that he liked). After meeting with their five favorites, the partners agreed that they got the best feeling from Code Authority.
Because building an app can be very expensive, they had asked each developer if they would consider doing a part-equity build. Unfortunately, most development companies rarely take on those kinds of projects.
But Code Authority told them about their annual CodeLaunch competition, in which the top idea receives the possible opportunity of an equity build. Max and Stephen figured that even if they didn’t win, it would be helpful for them to go through the process and connect with other entrepreneurs in the same situation.
At the 2016 CodeLaunch event a few months later, the ParkUpFront team found themselves in the Winner’s Circle — taking home first place, and the fuel they needed to keep going down the road.
On The Open Road
Winning the CodeLaunch competition was just the beginning for Stephen and Max.
Since then, ParkupFront has:
- Raised over $250K with future investments of $500K or more
- Began their second iteration of their MVP — adding a social media function connecting exotic car owners and auto events producers
- Added more than 1,000 users throughout the DFW Metroplex, including about 1,500 vehicles valued at over $185M
- Expanded into the Houston market with mapped-out venues utilizing their MVP in April 2018
- Planned a Miami expansion for May 2018
A Look in the Rearview Mirror
The ParkUpFront team learned a lot on the road to growth over the past few years. And just like those startup entrepreneurs who advised them early on, they enjoy sharing their knowledge and experiences with other software startups. Here are two of their biggest takeaways:
Don’t Be Afraid to Share Your Idea
When ParkUpFront was in its embryonic stage, they were afraid to talk about it with anyone. “We had this idea that was magical and thought that everyone would want to steal it,” says Stephen. “Everyone had to sign to NDAs and we were afraid to talk to anyone about it.”
But Code Authority founder and president Jason W. Taylor explained to them that nobody would steal their idea — because “everyone is doing their own thing.”
Looking back, Max and Stephen wish they would have gotten that advice sooner, so they could have built an even stronger network of advisors. “Ideas are a dime a dozen, but execution is everything,” says Max. “Don’t be afraid to share your idea to get advice, because an idea is meaningless unless you execute intelligently.”
Run with It
While the original ParkUpFront app concept enabled owners of high-end cars to reserve spots in front of venues — which benefited both parties — they discovered through user testing that owners of these exotic cars had more interest in booking local events.
According to Stephen, “ParkUpFront has gained its own momentum, a life of its own — more on the social media community and events side.”
“Now the reservation of venues is more of a side feature with networking and events a focus,” he continues. “The community of exotic car owners is currently fragmented — if you have a Ferrari, then you have a Ferrari club. And they don’t always tend to mingle or mix with other car clubs.”
He also notes that “the car clubs don’t have apps — they focus on a digital presence with email blasts or social media.”
This has enabled ParkUpFront to grow at an exponential rate. Today, the application is marketable in all areas, and they don’t have to wait for venues to sign contracts for the user to have access to the reservation system.
The ParkUpFront team saw a gap, listened to their users, and adapted to fill that gap.
“Just get something out there and listen to your users’ feedback,” says Stephen. “We could have spent too much time perfecting our initial idea, only to discover that’s not what it’ll be used for.”
Set Your GPS for CodeLaunch 2018!
You can apply to CodeLaunch by submitting your app idea via online application here:
And text "CodeLaunch" to 63566 to pre-register to attend the 2018 competition on August 1 at the Dr Pepper Arena!