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Validated co-founder and CTO Alex Wilhelm, Director of Marketing Alanna Beckman, and co-founder and CPO Ian Lyman.

Entrepreneurs Tov Arneson and Ian Lyman spent two years developing an on-demand parking app before deciding to pivot. They wanted to avoid competition from startups like Luxe and Zirx and knew that retailers often validated parking to attract customers and realized that premise could scale.

Eventually they built Validated, an app that lets users recoup the cost of parking, Uber, Lyft, taxis, and public transportation if they meet the minimum spending requirements of the retailer.

“Functionally, the platform combines and applies the concepts of parking validation and free shipping to connect consumers and brick-and-mortar businesses, closing the loop and harnessing what connects them in real life: Transportation,” said Arneson, who serves as CEO. “I created Validated to make it easier for people to enjoy where they live and to help brick-and-mortar businesses thrive. Our goal is to help cities work better.”

Validated CEO Tov Arneson.
Validated CEO Tov Arneson.

We caught up with Arneson for this Startup Spotlight, a regular GeekWire feature.

Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: “Validated lets shops, restaurants, and other brick-and-mortar businesses buy their customers a ride or pay for their parking as a way to show appreciation, drive sales, and build loyalty.”

Inspiration hit us when: “Soon after being first-to-market with an on-demand parking app (a space now filled by Luxe and Zirx), I quickly realized consumer demand was less about convenience and more about cost: People don’t like paying for transportation. This reluctance cuts across all forms of transportation, and it’s only amplified by the ride-sharing boom. Validated remedies this rampant reluctance and also mitigates the current ride-share controversy surrounding driver pay. I realized that one way to lower the perceived cost of a trip downtown would be to let brick-and-mortar merchants participate in the transportation ecosystem they rely on to seed customers. I also realized that validating transportation, not just parking, would get us to scale. (We recently became the first company to offer ride-sharing validation through an integration with Lyft.)”

validated11VC, Angel or Bootstrap: “My co-founders and I have bootstrapped businesses in the past, but Validated needs early capital to grow so the company is raising from angels and micro VC’s with strategic interests. Validated is ultimately a platform that both serves and connects two markets — merchants (our customers) and consumers (our users) — so sales velocity and marketing reach/range are critical to our ability gain traction and scale. Seed capital will allow us to escalate these efforts and as a close-knit team that puts stock in intangible investments, we’re looking for a select few investors who appreciate how success is as dependent on people as it is on capital.”

Our ‘secret sauce’ is: “Our team. We’re a diverse team of creative problem solvers with a shared interest in city living. Our combined understanding of the urban ecosystem and related industries (brick-and-mortar business, transportation systems, mobile technology, and online commerce) allows us to identify problematic gaps, articulate essential needs, and rapidly build an intuitive, universally non-punitive system that serves everyone.”

The smartest move we’ve made so far: “Techstars. I’ve been resistant to anything that doesn’t directly or immediately move us forward. Techstars has catalyzed our progress and guided us through constructive reflection. Thanks to Techstars, we’ve gleaned exciting and vital insights on how to strategically (and most effectively) prioritize and optimize our efforts. We’re now decoupling our business model and product workflow from dependencies that were out of our control and focusing on user growth and traction.”

The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: “Not getting our story out there. Validated has a great value proposition for consumers and businesses alike. Who doesn’t want to recoup their transportation costs? What business doesn’t want to drive sales and increase customer loyalty? Our mission resonates with everyone, yet we’ve only just started to get our story out into the world. Product, business, and partnership development are all important, but ultimately don’t mean much if people don’t know about us. I now understand how our story is also essential to our success.”

Would you rather have Gates, Zuckerberg or Bezos in your corner: “Bezos, because he understands multi-sided platforms. In adapting the psychology of free shipping to brick-and-mortar, there’s so much we could learn from him.”

Our favorite team-building activity is: “Sharing in a nice whiskey at the end of a long day.”

The biggest thing we look for when hiring is: “Curiosity, mettle, an instinct to troubleshoot, and an inclination for action.”

What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: “Show up and be present in each and every moment. Start from where you are right now; look to the future but act in the present and do everything you can to make immediate progress. Identify opportunities and act quickly to seize them. Canny reflexes and swift decisions are what running a startup is all about. Add value consistently; too many people start out strong but fall off in the face of difficulty. Consistency and fortitude are key to being a successful entrepreneur and pushing through inevitable and constant ‘hard times.’ Be prepared to step out of your comfort zone and be a cheerleader for you and your team at all times in all ways.”

Editor’s note: GeekWire is featuring each of the companies participating in Techstars Seattle’s class of 2016 in the lead up to Demo Day on May 18.

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