Don’t pay the ransom, I’ve escaped. I know blogging has been nonexistent over the past 10 days. It seems my hosts in Israel have kept me moving from dawn til late and there was just no time. PT was a deadline…well you don’t need to hear all the excuses. Time to catch up.
Sunday is the beginning of the work week in Israel and for me it began with the renewing of my friendship with Amit Kedem, CEO of Central Park, an parking operator and consulting firm that runs 30 locations in Tel Aviv.
Amit attended PIE a few years back and proudly shows back issues of PT where he has annotated many stories that he says ‘are the basis of his company and his professional life.” He his comments were a great birthday present and left me humbled.
Here he is in the control room at his offices. He says he doesn’t spend a lot of time watching his staff at work. “Only if I think there is a problem.”
“I purposely keep the company small,” he says. “What value is there to have a lot of locations and make no money on them. I would rather bring value to my customers. I spend most of my time working to fill the garages during off peak hours. We market the garages every day. I see money that comes in during those times ad ‘found money.’ It costs us little and even if we offer big discounts, it means a lot.
He also spoke with great pride about his “bank card” marketing ploy. He cut a deal with a local bank. Any bank customer entering any of Amit’s locations after 4 p.m. can park for free. The bank pays the parking charges.
“It’s terrific. They swipe their bank-issued card (debit or credit) and the system goes to the bank’s database and finds out if they are a customer. If yes, the gate opens and they can park. They exit the same way. I have a record of the transaction and bill the bank (at a discounted rate) at the end of the month.
“The bank loves the program,” Amit said. “They spent millions advertising it with my logo and telling folks that if they sign up for a card, they too can park for free. They are playing on the understanding that everyone wants something for nothing. My bills to the bank aren’t small, but they love it. You would be surprised how many people sign up just so they can park all over Tel Aviv for free.”
At lunch later in the week Amit bemoaned Israel’s youth and how they are ignoring the country’s rich heritage and traditions. We were sitting in Caesarea, an ancient ruin that dates to the Second Century BC (Its hard to say BCE when you are sitting in Israel). The place looked like this:
Its an ancient port that started with the Phoenicians, then Jews, Romans, and well…It was a weekend, and the adjacent museums, restaurants, and really terrific ultra high tech descriptions of the area were empty. I could see his point, but frankly could make the same one about the US.
Amit introduced me to Inbal Mor Asayag, CEO of Pink Park, a company that enables merchants and individuals with very small parking lots (3-10 spaces) to sell their space on a daily basis to folks who want to park in the area.
That’s Inbal in one of the spaces her company controls. The box at the bottom is a sensor that communicates with her office to let her know if the space is available or not. If it is taken during a time when it should be empty, or when it has not been reserved (by an app on your smart phone), she will descend on the space and the driver won’t like the result.
This woman is a hard working CEO, handling issues and customers virtually 24 hours. She spent most of our dinner with Amit tapping on her phone and approving spaces, and dealing with customers. She has 250 spaces under contract with many more to come.
She is the face of entrepreneurial Israel — smart, hard working, dedicated.
On Monday I visited HTS, a license plate recognition system manufacturer located in Yaqneam, about an hour north of Tel Aviv. I was hosted by Meta Rotenberg, their VP for Marketing and Business Development and Igal Dvir, the VP for Vehicle Recognition Systems. Here they are with one of their newest products:
We talked extensively about the market and how they approached it, both singly and as an OEM with parking manufacturers. They also have a large business in security, and in the recognition of containers in shipping operations world wide.
As the meeting drew to a close, Philip Elovic, the company’s CEO joined us for a few minutes. He’s an impressive guy — an emigrant from the US, he, like Meta, who hails from Canada, came to Israel as college age adults and basically never looked back. Philip’s company is in a new, ultra modern facility, halfway between two offices that were combined into one facility in the past year or so.
Keep you eye on HTS, you will be seeing it more and more in the US, particularly on PARCS systems. The ability to read our myriad of license plates (there are more than 50 designs with different colors, fonts and structures) is in their capability, and with read rates in the high 90s, they are a company to watch.