By Nancy Dahlberg
Miami-based park-tech startup ParkJockey is reportedly in a deal to raise $800 million to $1 billion led by the tech-focused investment giant SoftBank Group of Japan, according to a scoop by Axios. The huge infusion will finance planned acquisitions of big parking lot operators Impark and Lanier, Axios said. Together, these operators reportedly own 4,700 facilities in more than 330 cities.
It’s a big bet on a 5-year-old startup with just 50 employees operating in four US cities (Miami, New York, Chicago and San Francisco) and in major cities across the UK, added The Hustle. “But for SoftBank, it opens up parking spots for its other American investments: ride-sharing giants and self-driving car companies,” the Hustle said. With its smart software and hardware technologies and over 100,000 parking spaces under management, ParkJockey helps consumers find and reserve parking spaces in garages and lots and through valet services. It's a fragmented market with a number of competitors.
In effect, SoftBank appears to be helping to create a park-tech giant and favors ParkJockey's technology. And it builds on the launch of SoftBank's app in Japan, BLUU Smart Parking, which has been helping drivers to find and reserve parking spots across Japan since July.
According to Axios, Abu Dhabi’s Mubadala and a lender are part of SoftBank's consortium and there are possibly more. One of its sources says the deal could total $1 billion, with ParkJockey CEO Ari Ojalvo keeping control of the company. Neither ParkJockey or SoftBank has confirmed or commented in the press.
SoftBank, of course, is becoming a bigger presence in Miami. Brightstar founder and now Miami soccer club co-owner Marcelo Claure, who is based in Tokyo but has a home in South Florida, is COO of SoftBank Group and CEO of SoftBank Group International (SoftBank is also a soccer club investor). Although not nearly at this level, an arm of SoftBank also led a $2 million investment in Neighborhood Fuel, another Miami-based startup that fits neatly into its ride sharing strategy.
If the ParkJockey deal closes at the levels reported, it could be South Florida's largest funding round ever for a startup company, perhaps exceeding Magic Leap's 2016 raise of $793.5 million.
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