Adam Zilberbaum | Crain's Connecticut

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Adam Zilberbaum

Background:  

Parking Panda is an online platform that allows people to find a parking space and book that spot in advance. The Baltimore-based company operates in more than 40 cities, including Atlanta, Austin, Baltimore, Boston, Dallas, Denver, Fort Lauderdale, Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis, Orlando, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Portland, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, Seattle, St. Paul, St. Louis, Tampa, Toronto and Washington, D.C.

The Mistake:

Our biggest issue was thinking we could scale when we couldn't.

Parking Panda started off as a different business than it is today. The initial idea was like Airbnb but for parking. We were going to sell people's driveways that were not being utilized.

We pitched the idea at startup week in Baltimore, we went to an accelerator in New York and then came back to Baltimore. We sold a few parking spaces and were like, "Woo, this is awesome."

A large investor wanted to meet us. They brought us into their suite at a Baltimore Ravens football game and one of their VPs thought our idea was interesting. He said, "You are making every house into a parking operator. That sounds kind of hard. Why don't you try doing this for one of the parking lots that we own and manage?"

At the time we were only selling driveways, but after discussing it we thought we should try the lot.

The biggest issue was thinking we could scale when we couldn't.

The Lesson:

Scaling and getting users was tough with the model that we had: one driveway and one parking spot. With a parking lot, we were selling 50 spots at a time.

So make sure your dream is big enough and your business is easily scalable.

That was a pretty eye-opening experience for us. We wish we would have made the change earlier in the business.

We were already nine months into the business when we made the transition to the model we have now, where we only work with private operators and locations. It was huge.

Follow Adam Zilberbaum on Twitter at @adamzilberbaum.

Pictured: Adam Zilberbaum. | Photo courtesy of Parking Panda

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