The sharing economy is on the rise. We've seen a big shift in the markets of public transportation and accommodation because of the likes of Uber and Airbnb respectively. We're going to continue to see new services being disrupted by similar models. One of the spaces being penetrated by a similar model is the valet parking space.
ZIRX is the first of its kind on-demand parking service with a goal of making the parking process quicker, safer and much more seamless. With a tap of the ZIRX application, you get a personal valet waiting to park your car. For $15 per day, a valet will pick up your vehicle, park it in a secure garage and then return it when you're ready. ZIRX currently has its operations in San Francisco, Seattle, Los Angeles, and Washington DC.
We recently got to talk to ZIRX CEO and co-founder Sean Behr who has worked in 3 different startup companies in the last 15 years, helping the first two grow and get acquired before deciding to start ZIRX. Behr shared with us his journey of how he got started, along with lessons he has learned.
Behr's entrepreneurship and startup journey started out with him being an early employee at Shopping.com where he spent 7 years in, working in human resources, sales, product strategy and pricing. Through that experience, he got to learn about a company from many different angles. Shopping.com eventually went public in 2004 before being acquired by Ebay.
After his stint at Shopping.com, Behr became employee number one at Adap.TV, where he helped turn the company from no revenue to a very big company with several hundred of employees and hundred of thousands in revenue. AOL would then go on to acquire the company in 2013.
From Adap.TV, Behr learned the importance of focusing like crazy on your customers. He recalled, "At Adapt TV we had a mantra which was, 'Make customers successful.' If you focus on your customers, you have a much higher likelihood of building a successful company."
The Birth of ZIRX
At this point, Behr knew that he wanted to start another company and take something very small and turn it into something really big. He decided to leave AOL and take some time off to think about what was interesting and what types of products or services were needed. That's when he and his cofounders came up with the idea of ZIRX, which has been running for 9 months now.
Behr explained how, "Driving in a big city can become quite a hassle. Parking in a big city is even worse. You've probably experienced circling around, trying to find a space, worrying if you're going to get a ticket, worrying if your car is going to get towed, trying to find a garage, getting a piece of paper, before finally walking a couple of blocks to where you wanted to go."
"I'm very interested in creating something brand new. ZIRX was something where I felt that we were creating something brand new, something that was not going to happen if we didn't do it." He added, "We didn't really spend much resources in marketing. The biggest part of our marketing is one customer telling another customer. We started with very few people but every day it has grown. It's slower this way but it's a stronger growth pattern."
Lessons and advice on building a successful company
Behr shared a few of the most important lessons he's learned in building a great company: "Be obsessed with your customers, solve a real problem, and hire a great team."
While the biggest challenge for ZIRX is shifting customer behavior, Behr believes that it can be done. He expounded, "It's not an easy thing to do but remember a couple of years ago, you never would have used Uber. If a couple of years ago, somebody would tell you, you would get in a car of a stranger, you'd say you wouldn't do that but here you are doing that. But there was a shift, there was a change in behavior."
In regards to hiring, Behr values hiring risk takers and people who get things done. He explained, "You know that these are people you can count no matter what's going on, whether it's easy or hard."
His advice to aspiring entrepreneurs is to "Just do it. Start the smallest thing that you can start even if you have a few users or customers. The experience just taking something from an idea into something real is an extremely valuable experience. Even if the only people who use it is you and your friends, try it."
He explained how, "Even if the startup doesn't work, you'll learn so much in a short amount of time, you'll learn so much that the experience will be invaluable. If you focus on the fact that you'll learn so much, the benefits will outweigh the risks."
Behr also shared a few of the greatest advice he has been given in the past 15 years. "In any situation, no matter what situation you're in, you're 100% in charge. When it goes really great, you're 100% in charge. When things aren't going well, you're also 100% in charge. I don't know if this is the truth but I know that it's a good way to look at things. So that even if things aren't going well, you know you can step in."
He also added, "Breathe. When in doubt, breathe. Just take a moment, take a breath, you sometimes learn something there."
In the next 24 months, Behr hopes to expand ZIRX geographically and vertically. Behr said, "Today, when we have someone's car, we fill it up with gas and do car washes; you will see us add services of that nature." It's Behr's goal to build a global company that makes a difference all over the world, and he hopes that ZIRX becomes that company.
He ended by explaining what drives him, "I get to build something brand new that impacts people. I love working on this everyday. This is a privilege, and I get to do it with a great group of people. They push me and I push them, and if you can put these things together, it's pretty awesome. No reason not to get up early every single day."
*Photos taken from ZIRX
David Ongchoco is currently a freshman from the Philippines studying at the University of Pennsylvania majoring in LIFE. Here in college, David hopes to continue fueling his passions in technology, social impact, entrepreneurship, and education. He is currently working on expanding his organization YouthHack and social impact startup ThirdEye. It's David's goal to make an impact in the lives of as many people possible while constantly learning new things every single day. If you have any interesting stories, feel free to email him at email@example.com.