MeterFeeder’s Jim Gibbs Helps Cities ‘Future-Proof’ Their Parking Revenues 


MeterFeeder’s Jim Gibbs Helps Cities ‘Future-Proof’ Their Parking Revenues 


Jim Gibbs has been pursuing software development practically his entire life. The co-founder and chief executive officer of MeterFeeder, Inc. — the Pittsburgh-based provider of digital parking payment and enforcement solutions — began writing code as a child, inspired by his love of video games. 


I realized there are people who make video games,Gibbs said. That’s what ended up getting me into software development. I’ve been writing software in one way or the other for about the past 40 years now.”  


His well-honed software skills and experience have helped to propel Gibbs to prominence in the parking industry, exemplified recently by his victory at the inaugural Accelerate! Parking Innovation Pitch Competition. Held at the Parking Industry Expo this past March, the Accelerate! Parking Innovation Pitch Competition featured six cutting-edge parking companies, each of which had 10 minutes to make their case before a panel of judges.  


Employee turned entrepreneur 

Gibbs studied artificial intelligence at Carnegie Mellon University, which is how the Long Island, N.Y., native ended up in Pittsburgh. Although driven to create software, Gibbs was not always an entrepreneur. After working for a handful of companies, including USA Today and American Eagle Outfitters, Gibbs realized that he would need to start his own business if he were going to achieve the type of success he desired.  


But it took some prodding from one of his bosses. He took me out to lunch one day,Gibbs said. We saw a really nice helicopter. He pointed up and said, Jim, I’ll bet you any amount of money that is not a software developer in that really nice helicopter.’” Gibbs could only agree. 


Enter MeterFeeder 

MeterFeeder got its start in 2015, after Gibbs and co-founder Daniel Lopretto saw an opportunity to apply their software development skills to parking, an industry in which neither of them had any previous experience.   


What Gibbs did have, however, was a frustration with traditional cash-fed parking meters. A husband and father of five sons, Gibbs jokes that a chronic lack of cash prompted the idea for MeterFeeder. The chance of me having dollars in my pocket is zero percent,he said. Whenever I would see a coin meter, I’d say, Well, guess I just have to get a ticket.’”  


Meanwhile, Gibbs and Lopretto — who now serves as MeterFeeder’s chief technology officer — had become aware of the challenges faced by Dormont, a small Pittsburgh suburb looking to upgrade its parking infrastructure to enable credit card payments. The town had determined that it would cost approximately half a million dollars to make the switch, Gibbs said, but its potential parking revenues would only total about a few thousand dollars a month.   


Although Dormont needed to update its payment methods to keep pace with consumer expectations, the planned change made little sense financially. That got Gibbs and Lopretto thinking. We thought, let’s build an app and enable people to pay for parking,Gibbs said.  


Armed with this concept, Gibbs and Lopretto entered and won a hackathoninvolving some 300 participants. This victory led to involvement with Y Combinator, the startup accelerator that invests in and mentors early-stage companies.  


Before long, MeterFeeder was up and running, offering an app that enabled simplified digital payments for parking in Dormont. We went live in, I believe, five months from when we cut the first line of code,Gibbs said.   


Ongoing expansion  

Since its start in Dormont, MeterFeeder’s technology is now in use in more than 1,500 locations across the United States.   


Individual users of MeterFeeders app no longer have to bother with physical meters. Instead, they can use their smart phones to pay for parking in participating locations and receive notifications alerting them if their allotted time is running out. Users also have the luxury of not having to return to the meter if they want to extend their parking sessions. In the event of a ticket, users can pay online via MeterFeeders website.  


After releasing their app, Gibbs and Lopretto quickly realized that some municipalities still used hand-written tickets to enforce. We couldn’t help municipalities accept digital payments, if there was no way to digitally enforce,Gibbs said. So, we built our own.”  


More recently, MeterFeeder expanded its services to fleets, which historically have struggled to ensure compliance for vehicles and pay parking violations promptly. Thanks to MeterFeeder’s Ticket Monitor solution, participating fleets can automatically pay for parking for individual vehicles and monitor and pay any parking tickets that are incurred, saving time and resources and avoiding costly escalations.  


With delivery services expanding rapidly, the fast-growing fleets sector is a key market for MeterFeeder, one that Gibbs aims to work with more closely. Partnerships with fleets is the plan,he said.  


Growth is the goal  

We’re focused on building a big business,Gibbs said. If that means for us to get more invested dollars, great. If it means buckle down and just get revenue, fine. But for right now, we are laser-focused on deployments.”   


This focus has begun to pay off for MeterFeeder, which has approximately 10 employees. Our revenues last year grew by 300 percent,Gibbs said. However, Gibbs has ambitious plans for his companys future. Three X is good, but we want five X or 10 X this year,he said. 


Looking ahead, Gibbs expects opportunities to arise from greater use of autonomous vehicles and the parking needs that are expected to accompany this development. We’re trying to make sure that cities are prepared for that,he said. At the same time, MeterFeeder stands ready to help ensure that future fleets of autonomous vehicles remain in compliance with parking requirements.  


Change agent 

Upon first entering the field of parking, Gibbs was surprised by the slow pace of technological change within the industry. Particularly striking was the lackluster adoption of improvements related to security, a key priority for MeterFeeder. 


Even after certain parking payment tools have been hacked, everybody still seems to be using them,Gibbs noted. It is really bizarre.In other cases, MeterFeeder cannot connect its servers to those of certain companies because of security concerns, he said.  


Gibbs eventually concluded that part of his role would be to help others in the parking industry adapt to ongoing technological changes. I’m there to help people understand the underlying technology, so that they can make the smart decision, even if I have nothing to do [with it],he said. 


Happy to help cities  

For Gibbs, a favorite part of his work at MeterFeeder involves helping municipalities “future-prooftheir parking payment systems and ensure timely collection of much-needed revenue, he said. Knowing that I have a part in helping [cities] achieve those goals, that is one of the things that makes me really happy about what I do.”  


As MeterFeeder seeks to establish relationships with more cities, the company is interested in building mutually beneficial partnerships, rather than simply selling a product, Gibbs said. However, this goal is not always understood by the people who Gibbs aims to reach.   


I’ve been calling a lot of cities lately in order to get introductions to their parking ticket vendor,Gibbs said. Everyone feels like I’m trying to sell them something. I’m genuinely not. I’m just trying to partner with parking ticket vendors, so that we can help our fleets find and pay parking tickets. If there are cities out there that want help collecting money from those fleets, we’re on board. We’re a hundred percent behind it.”  


Family is key  

Of course, all jobs have their downsides. For Gibbs, the least favorite part of his job is the travel it requires, travel that takes him away from his family. I like to see my wife every day,he said. I like to see my boys every day. Unfortunately, I have to travel a lot.” 


That said, his wife and sons are what help Gibbs remain centered as he seeks to maintain some semblance of balance between work and the rest of his life. A lot of people think that if they work for 15 hours a day, they get more done,Gibbs said. However, they end up experiencing burnout and a consequent loss of productivity, he noted.  


Time with his wife and sons is how Gibbs avoids burnout. I work until I realize that the efficiency is going down,he said. Then I spend as much time as I can with my family.Whether it involves playing video games or hide-and-seek with his boys, Gibbs uses the time to recharge.  


We enjoy ourselves, and I go to sleep very well,he said. I wake up in the morning and I do the same thing over again. 


Jay Landers is the Editor-in-Chief of Parking Today. He can be reached at 

Article contributed by:
Jay Landers, Editor-in-Chief, Parking Today
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