Metropolis, a startup building payment infrastructure for parking facilities, today announced it has raised $167 million in a Series B round co-led by 3L Capital and Assembly Ventures with participation from Dragoneer, Eldridge Industries, Silver Lake Waterman, UP Partners and former Deputy Mayor of New York Dan Doctoroff. CEO Alex Israel told TechCrunch via email that the proceeds will be spent on product development, expanding the company’s team and expanding into “new mobility adjacent verticals.”
Israel argues that the infrastructure for parking payments is generally outdated. Parking garages are stuck in the pre-internet era, he argues — disconnected from the digital payment ecosystem (e.g. schemes like Apple Pay and Google Pay). Sure, there are on-demand systems like: SpotHero† In the meantime, FlashParking† Passport† AirGarage and REEF technology (formerly ParkJockey) have raised hundreds of millions from SoftBank and others for technically advanced parking management. But these don’t create the same experiences that Metropolis can, Israel claims.
“Metropolis is a mobility trading company that is building an infrastructure that allows us to transact in the physical world with the seamlessness and ease we experience online,” Israel told TechCrunch via email. “Our platform powers more than 600 parking facilities, we have more than 1.8 million users, and we connect both to thousands of surrounding restaurants, coffee shops and retail stores in more than 60 cities.”
Israel, a serial entrepreneur, sold his latest company, ParkMe, to Inrix in 2015† He said the experience drove him back to the drawing board to develop a new kind of parking payment and management service.
“Metropolis was founded in 2017 with the vision to lay the foundation for future modes of transport that would enable seamless transactions and movements,” Israel said. “To realize a future with cars that are electric or autonomous, you have to build the infrastructure in which they can operate, and that starts with bringing physical locations online. Parking and traffic within urban environments have not changed in the last 70 years and we wanted to change that.”
To that end, Metropolis, which equips existing parking garages with its systems, allows customers to “drive in and out” without having to use a credit card or pay cash. Using computer vision systems trained on an internal data set, the platform can recognize cars through cameras equipped with Metropolis software, automatically charging the customer’s associated online bill. (To use a Metropolis parking facility, customers must provide their name, license plate, phone number, and payment method.)
From an app, customers can view their visit and know the price in real time. Metropolis emails the receipt after they drive off.
That’s a convenience, to be sure. But Metropolis is investing heavily in the analytics, sales and marketing side of the business, where it sees a larger addressable market. According to Israel, the owners of high-rise and parking structures and municipalities with which Metropolis does business can better inform pricing, personnel and maintenance with the insights from the platform. And local businesses can become more visible – promotions and discounts from supermarkets, coffee shops and other local merchants who choose to partner with Metropolis appear in the aforementioned app.
“Our data provides real-time, accurate and reliable insight into asset usage and revenue in the built environment. It is vital for commercial real estate companies to understand both individual real estate performance and portfolio-wide trends,” Israel said. “We have only scratched the surface of the economic opportunities within our cities. For companies, Metropolis can bring them into contact with new customers and revenue opportunities. For people moving around our cities, Metropolis provides a checkout-less, just drive-out experience, facilitating a remarkable journey and connecting them with the local businesses around them.”
Metropolis was gearing up for expansion and recently acquired Premier Parking, a Nashville-based company that operated hundreds of parking garages and parking lots across the US. And last November Metropolis announced a partnership with Uber, Uber Park, that allows Uber drivers to use the Uber app to access locations within the Metropolis network.
Israel says Metropolis plans to increase its workforce from 2,000 to 2,500 by the end of the year to support the expansion. It seems to have the capital to do that; to date, Metropolis has raised a total of $226 million.
“Parking, while historically recession-proof, was not COVID-proof. So commercial property owners and operators turned to Metropolis during the pandemic to find efficiencies and opportunities; as people go back to work and travel, we are experiencing a major upswing,” Israel said. “Metropolis built its core business in the midst of a global financial crisis, so while others are stepping on the brakes to reduce the fire, our business is built on solid foundations, which is why we have sparked so much interest from such a range of investors.”