Streetline is Back!
Streetline is back! Service has been restored and customers are returning The once darling of the parking industry and what some had described as a unicorn abruptly shut its doors over 2-years ago in January 2020, pre-pandemic. The shutdown of Streetline had a ripple effect on potential customers who took a pause when courted by other firms offering similar services. Would they too unexpectedly close their doors? Why did Streetline stop service? What happened? And what’s next?
It all began 17-years ago – back when the phrase “Internet of Things” had not yet been uttered.
In 2005, Tod Dykstra was co-founder and VP Engineering at Dust networks, a company formed by UC Berkeley engineers to make large-scale, battery-powered sensor networking into a reality. He founded Streetline later that year, along with his brother Scott, on two core principles: parking, - especially on-street parking - is a high value resource for cities; and that cities ought to be able to manage it using the kind of concrete data and visibility to be expected of an inventory management system.
Together with a team of hardware and software engineers, including co-founder and current Streetline CTO Peter Leiser, Tod and Scott went on to develop groundbreaking applications in the areas of on-street parking management, including guided parking enforcement, analytics based on precise measurements of actual usage, and parking guidance. Most important, the company’s innovations were understood and appreciated by experienced managers among its customers: “Streetline was way ahead of its time,” says Peer Ghent of the Los Angeles Department of Parking. “They were really paving the way for the industry to look at how technology can improve on-street and off-street parking operations.”
Along the way, however, venture investors began to gravitate towards larger and larger markets, sometimes at the expense of Streetline’s original mission and core capabilities. While Streetline’s practice had been to develop and grow relationships with individual customers, there was increasing pressure to “go global.” Over the years, the mantra evolved: “google for parking,” “waze for parking,” “uber for parking.” But the idea was that Streetline could use its domain and signal processing expertise to bypass the need for dedicated sensing and provide “good enough” parking guidance data based on publicly available data along with data from the cell phones of drivers.
In 2015, Streetline caught the attention of a large global firm based in the EU, which then acquired the company. While the company continued to service traditional customers for its dedicated sensing systems, the goals of the new ownership were entirely oriented towards the “big play”: Streetline would eliminate all dependence on dedicated sensing systems and seek to capture global markets for parking guidance based on partnerships with app providers and auto companies. The die was cast, and some of Streetline’s senior members, skeptical of this new mission, began to feel a loss of entrepreneurial drive and fire.
In the fall of 2018, a longtime senior business developer at Streetline decided to leave to pursue a new career opportunity. Concerned this could have a dire immediate impact on current and prospective customer relationships and accounts, Streetline’s parent company went searching for a replacement. Following up on a referral, they contacted a local Silicon Valley consultant Taso Zografos who had a 35+ year track record of leading and delivering innovations for the parking and transportation industry.
Taso Zografos joined Streetline as a part-time business developer and immediately began digging into every aspect of the business. Zografos quickly perceived the split between Streetline’s native business and the goals of its current ownership. He saw that operational expenses had been consistently outpacing revenues largely due to strategy investments divorced from Streetline’s core capabilities. He quickly recognized that the internal organization was not fully aligned, nor optimized, and somewhat deflated. It was obvious that this was not a sustainable business model and that changes needed to come hard and fast for Streetline to remain afloat.
Zografos energized a team within the company to preserve these customer relationships and realign company innovation with concrete business goals. “Taso jumped right in and asked all the right questions,” recalls Dykstra. “It was clear from the start that Taso was a disruptive change agent and he acted swiftly with a sense of urgency and purpose.”
Despite all the progress that was made in a short period of time to correct course, unsurprisingly, the parent company remained committed to its objectives and decided to close the company in late 2019, leaving customers for Streetline’s traditional services stranded. Having built relationships with both customers and with key Streetline personnel, including Dykstra and Leiser, Zografos decided to reach out to the parent company with a proposal to acquire the Streetline assets. The negotiations took over 18 months, but finally a deal was struck.
“Today, Streetline is bringing its unparalleled experience and technical innovation back to the practical solution of industry and customer problems” says Leiser. “The team is re-energized, and the recovery of a spirit of mission is well represented by the fact that Tod Dykstra, Streetline’s principal founder, has rejoined the company as SVP in charge of product innovation. The company is recovering its previous accounts and contracts and trailblazing new paths and new customers.”
The company is on a path to launch new innovative parking and mobility solutions for state and local agencies and commercial enterprise customers. Such new initiatives include meter-less parking and machine learning guided enforcement, 5G Private LTE infrastructure electronification for an interconnected connected curb, parking analytics-as-a-service for municipalities, an asset tracking application using machine vision learning for the global intermodal and supply-chain market, and a parking guidance and payment application tailored for airport landside operations.
We are excited about the new vision we have for Streetline and the measured steps we are taking to improve mobility and transportation. We are forging partnerships and our team is preparing to drive innovation forward for the benefit of our customers as well as for our partners and parking industry peers. We are all uniquely interconnected and aligned in the same mission and cross-collaboration is key to our mutual success.
Taso Zografos is CEO of Streetline. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.