Tech startup offers valet on demand

We’ve wrote about having virtual valets that could electronically control and park our cars for us, and while that technology is still under development, we have a mobile app solution (is there any other kind nowadays?) in the interim. What if you could use your smartphone to summon a valet (yes, a real person) to your destination, hand your keys over and then get him to bring your car back when you want to leave? The Luxe app allows you to do just that. The company employs pre-screened and trained valets who zip around town on fold-up scooters, skateboards or on their own light feet to pick up cars, park them and then return them to their owners. To appease worried customers, the app allows them to track their cars’ locations and speeds via GPS.

The service costs US$5 an hour, up to a maximum of US$15 a day. San Francisco-based Luxe is not the only valet app in the market – ValetAnywhere operates in New York City and charges US$6 an hour or a maximum of US$42 a day; Zirx, available in San Francisco and Seattle, charges a flat rate of US$15 a day. This concept fills a void that the popular car-hailing apps, like Uber and Lyft, cannot. While car ownership is becoming a less popular concept, millions of people still rely on personal vehicles to get from one point to another, but end their daily journeys in frustration while looking for a parking spot. “We’re a technology company first and foremost matching customers with valets,” said co-founder, Curtis Lee.

Investors must agree that there is a demand for such services as Luxe has announced that it has raised seed funding of US$5.5 million. The company was only founded last year when Lee had his eureka moment spending 30 minutes circling for a parking spot and almost losing his restaurant reservation.

The company’s major challenge is finding enough parking spaces to meet demand; it works with parking lot operators to help fill their less utilised spots. Lee said, “We smooth out their demand by better utilising parking spaces, because we have the opportunity to move cars around through our valets.” Luxe pays lowers prices for these spaces and the savings are passed on to the users, who can also enjoy additional services like getting their cars washed or petrol tanks filled for an added fee.

For owners of venues located in popular areas with limited parking spaces, this is a godsend. Ryan Cole, who owns Stones Throw restaurant on Russian Hill, told SFGate that diners would often arrive late for their reservations and the restaurant could not offer conventional valet service because of the cable-car line outside its venue and the unavailability of garages nearby.

“(Luxe) is a game-changer,” Cole said. “People haven’t wanted to come here because they don’t want to deal with parking. We think it will get us more reservations and help our business.”


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