Pittsburgh has a new way to pay for parking, and it was built in the local tech scene.
Meter Feeder, a parking payment app founded in 2015 by CEO Jim Gibbs and CTO Daniel Lopretto, officially launched its platform with the Pittsburgh Parking Authority at the beginning of August.
Though this marks the company’s first official presence in the city limits, Meter Feeder has been in the Pittsburgh area since 2015, with its initial rollout in Dormont. Following that first location, Braddock-based Meter Feeder has gone on to bring its app to local municipalities like Homestead, Sewickley, Carnegie and Brentwood. The company also has operations in locations across Rhode Island, New Jersey, Ohio and in Philadelphia, with plans to continue that growth into larger cities.
Meter Feeder’s full launch in Pittsburgh earlier this month is significant for the homegrown company, as the deal fills in the center of the company’s first operations network, and reinforces the growth of a company made from Pittsburgh talent. Gibbs went to Carnegie Mellon University for computer science, and worked as a software developer for locally headquartered companies like Slaymaker Solutions, American Eagle Outfitters and Branding Brand. In teaming up with Lopretto, who also has software experience at some of these companies, Gibbs looked to apply his technical skills to an everyday problem he experienced.
“When the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail,” he joked.
Aiming to be easier and more secure than other payment options on the market, Gibbs and Lopretto built an app that uses GPS to find a user’s parking location and allows them to make payments without having to first create an account. Prior to launching the company, Meter Feeder’s cofounders took their idea to the NoSQL Mobile App Challenge hackathon, a competition with nearly 300 participants, and won the grand prize for $10,000. Soon after that, the company joined startup accelerator Y Combinator’s W16 batch, propelling the technology forward even more. So far, Meter Feeder has raised over $1 million in seed and pre-seed funding, and is a portfolio company of Innovation Works.
Gibbs said Meter Feeder had initially finalized negotiations with the Pittsburgh Parking Authority in 2019, but the pandemic delayed progress on the full launch until now. Since then, Meter Feeder has worked hard to cater its services to the city more than other available apps. Some of that means incorporating local vernacular.
“Instead of searching for ‘Margaret Morrison,’ you can also search for ‘Maggie Mo,'” Gibbs said of a CMU campus street and building. “There’s little things we’re doing to make sure people understand we’re the home team.”
"We're making sure that every dollar we make from Pittsburgh, we just sow it right back into Pittsburgh so that our economy continues to grow."
Even the smaller details of the app have a local emphasis, he added, noting that pictures used in the app are taken by Pittsburgh photographers: “We’re making sure that every dollar we make from Pittsburgh, we just sow it right back into Pittsburgh so that our economy continues to grow.”
To that end, Meter Feeder has plans to expand its team, and work on new potential features for the app as the parking and transportation industries continue to change. In particular, Gibbs mentioned that the company is planning for ways to adapt to the autonomous vehicle industry, and address needs around passenger pickup and dropoff points for that technology. Having the opportunity to assess data and eventually launch early forms of that tech in Pittsburgh will help make the city a model for others as disruptive innovations like autonomous vehicles become more widely available.
Gibbs has hopes that Meter Feeder’s Pittsburgh presence will do more than just help the company support the local startup ecosystem. David Onorato, the executive director of the Pittsburgh Parking Authority, is also the chairman of the board for the International Parking and Mobility Institute.
“Big cities come to Pittsburgh in order to find out what we’re doing as far as parking is concerned,” Gibbs said. “So this is a huge deal, being able to work with the city of Pittsburgh.”
Sophie Burkholder is a 2021-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Heinz Endowments. -30-