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Here’s how valet parking apps are going to take over the world

July 1, 2015, 4:00 PM UTC
Photograph by Kymberly Janisch via Flickr

It’s Friday night, you’ve gone out to celebrate a friend’s birthday, and lo and behold, you’ve had one to many whiskeys. Driving home is now out of the question.

Instead, you pull out your smartphone and, a few taps and an hour later, a polite savior in a blue jacket shows up at your car and drives you and your car home.

Last week, valet parking app Luxe Valet unveiled new service that does just that for San Francisco customers. Its flagship service dispatches a valet that picks up a customer’s car in any location and parks it in privately owned garages for a fee.

But as good of an idea a designated driver service might be, what’s it have to do with a valet parking service? A lot. In fact, it’s the first glimpse into what Luxe and its small band of upstart competitors are likely plotting.

Sure, Luxe and other similar valet services like Zirx, Caarbon, Vatler, and ValetAnywhere are a luxury — even in big cities, where parking is a hassle. So are the additional services they provide like washing cars in their care and filling them up with a full tank of gas.

But the same can be said of Uber’s original black town car service, which caters to wealthier clients who wanted to ride in style. But it served as spring board to all sorts of additional options for transportation including rides in basic cars, SUVs and carpooling.

Other on-demand services followed similar strategy of establishing a core business and then branching out. Grocery delivery startup Instacart offers multiple tiers of service based on speed while delivery service Postmates added a special menu of restaurants it would deliver from for a flat $5 delivery fee in certain cities.

And that’s exactly what these parking apps will do — expand into other businesses.

A couple of weeks ago, Redpoint Ventures partner Jamie Davidson explained to me exactly this. Though Luxe, in which Redpoint invested, is currently focused on its core — valet parking — there’s no reason why it won’t eventually add lower and higher-end services, he said.

Last fall, I also spoke with Mark Lawrence, co-founder and CEO of SpotHero, a Chicago startup that lets customers book a parking spot in a garage or lot through the app and park themselves, explained the same thing. His company is sticking to self-serve parking right now, but it does happen to partner with some parking lots that already have valet stands. In fact, Lawrence has explored the idea of establishing valet service at temporary spots on street corners — like what Vatler is doing — and valet services like Luxe and Zirx that will pick up your car most anywhere and park it.

Self-service parking could easily become the lower-end option. So while these apps are still focusing on their core business, it’s only a matter of time before they start to expand to other services.