Indy-based startup matches parkers with underused spaces

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An Indy startup wants to help you find a place to park in the city’s hippest areas for nightlife, while putting cash in the hands of companies and organizations with underused lots.

FlexePark has been rolling out its services across Indianapolis over several months after a trial run in Bloomington.

It currently has five lots—three in Broad Ripple, one in Mass Ave and the original lot in Bloomington—that are available to parkers for $4 to $10 during evening and overnight hours.

Drivers scan a QR code on a sign at the lot, enter a four-digit code and pay to use a parking spot. FlexePark takes a cut and sends most of the money on to the lot’s owner. A map of locations is available on the company’s website,

The key is that the system is simple and quick to use, said Michael Dowden, co-founder and product architect of FlexePark.

“There’s nothing to download,” he said. And there are no transaction fees. “It’s so fast. It takes under two minutes, including the creation of an account and entering your credit card number.”

It’s meant to also be easy for the owners of the parking lots, which are typically attached to buildings or businesses that only need the parking during the day. FlexePark provides the signs and handles payments.

 But FlexePark doesn’t police the lots. So unless owners do—and generally they don’t—payments rely on the honor system.

Dowden said that’s not usually a problem. “When there are signs, it automatically polices itself to a certain extent,” he said. “People aren’t interested in being towed. They’ll either not park there or they tend to pay.”

In all, FlexePark has about 80 parking spots available in its five lots, and the company has verbal agreements for another 100 spots, Dowden said. Eventually, the firm’s founders hope to grow their inventory to more than 1,000 parking spots.

They’re doing it by driving around the busiest nightspots in town looking for underused lots, and they’re searching Google maps and then tracking down the lot owners. Dowden said some parking lot owners want to try the FlexePark system because they’ve not done anything before to make money off their spaces. Others already charge for parking at night but are paying for an attendant to be on site.

“They like that this is more automated,” Dowden said.

He founded the company with a group that includes Marc Ebtinger, who had the original idea for FlexePark. His background is as an engineer and designer of solar-heat and wind-power systems.

Martine Dowden, a designer and developer, and Michael McGinnis, a software developer specializing in apps and Java, are also founders of the firm. The FlexePark project sprung from Andromeda, a tech company founded by the same four people that tries to combine technology and services to solve everyday problems.

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