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  • Writer's pictureSydney Notschaele

Roadside Revolutions: The Origins of Offstreet

In 2016, after countless negative experiences trying to find and register for parking in downtown Regina, SK, two friends, Matt Fahlman (who serves as the CEO and Co-Founder) and Kyle Smyth (who serves as the CTO and Co-Founder) came together with the vision of a simple parking registration solution that would ultimately become Offstreet.

6 years have passed, and Offstreet is now the leading validation solution in the parking industry; Providing institutions and operators across North America with a simpler way to manage visitor parking. Offstreet’s license-plate based parking management software gives parking managers a user-friendly platform for administering and managing visitor and guest parking permits.

Unique to the industry, Offstreet specializes in unpaid permits, or those being billed to a third party. Typical permit types include those for special events, sponsored/VIP guests, contractors, clinics and more.

We thought it would be fun to let you see the faces behind Offstreet, while diving into some burning questions.

Let’s dive (or should we say ‘drive’) into it!

What inspired you to start Offstreet, and how has the mission evolved since then?

"The inspiration really came from the frustration as a consumer. I know that’s kind of vague, but basically, we had experiences trying to find parking downtown and registering for parking. The technology that was in use at the time was not ideal and I just thought a little bit opportunistically that there’s probably an opportunity to do something a lot better here. So although the product has involved a ton, the actual mission of trying to make a simpler parking experience for people hasn’t changed at all." - Matt Fahlman

Can you provide an overview of your role as the CTO and how it contributes to the overall strategy and success of the company?

"As CTO, I guess my role has evolved over time. It was at one point just Matt and I kind of building the software, and when that was the case it was just the two of us, we did pretty much everything. These days perhaps I don’t necessarily have more of the traditional CTO role, rather I think of myself at the end of the day as a problem solver. I tend to solve problems throughout the organization, whether it be with operations, processes, our development team, the product, or with the problems that our customers are having, I’m architecting solutions to those problems through product. So I still to this day have my hand in a lot of things." - Kyle Smyth

What does Offstreet focus on today and what is your vision for the next few years?

"Today our focus is really on a guest and visitor parking experience, and making that as simple as possible. For a lot of commercial real estate, we help with parking validations, for universities, we help with special events, but at the end of the day what we’re trying to solve is to make it as easy as possible for guests and visitors to register and receive parking permits. Whether they’re entering in their own license plate number or administrators are entering them on their behalf, our job is to make it as simple as possible for that person to get a permit and make sure that they don’t get a ticket. Longer-term, our goal is to build a more robust permitting solution that is designed for repeat parkers, as well in addition to your one-off, guests and visitors. We think that we can build a comprehensive parking permitting solution that I think would be a really big win for the industry." - Matt Fahlman

How do you approach the balance between implementing new technologies and development while maintaining the stability and security of existing systems?

"One of our number one priorities is reliability, so if Offstreet goes down, that’s a big problem. Even if it’s for a short amount of time, that means that potentially hundreds or even thousands of drivers won’t have valid parking, their vehicles might not have made their way into the system, or on the other hand, those valid plates might not have been sent to our integrations partners. We practice fairly modern software development practices, we do something called zero downtime deployment, and that means when we need to make changes and updates to our systems and our software, we don’t go down, not even for a few seconds. When we do make changes, we have a vigorous testing suite that runs against all of our software. You can think of it like a robot. Whenever we make a change, the robot goes through every single page and button and text built into the application. That gives us a lot of confidence when we are making changes, so we’re not breaking things that already work fine. It’s super important, we want to be continuing to deliver on new and modern solutions to a customer's problems, and being able to do that in a very fast manner, while still being reliable and not going down and keeping everything intact." - Kyle Smyth

What makes Offstreet's product unique and how do you stand out from competitors?

"I think the one major thing that separates our application from other software parking apps, is that ours was designed with the guest in mind. We don’t ask users to download an app, we don’t ask them to create a user account, and they don’t have to enter their payment information. It’s really like a streamlined guest checkout process, and as far as I know, we’re one of the only ones that focuses on that. One thing we learned really quickly, working with different commercial lots, universities and health authorities is that no two parking lots have the exact same rules and restrictions. Simultaneously building out a super easy-to-use user-facing side, we needed to have a really robust rules engine to basically accommodate all these different rules and restrictions in the backend. I think our product is a cool combination of super flexible but also extremely easy to use for the end-user, who just needs a simple parking permit. And that ties into what Kyle was saying when we were discussing what we focus on with the product, we have three pillars, reliability, flexibility, and ease of use - that is what we focus on." - Matt Fahlman

How does Offstreet handle security and privacy concerns related to the data collected

from parking transactions?

"We take security and privacy extremely seriously. As users of our own product, we don’t want our data to be leaked, we don’t want our privacy to be impacted. We are SOC2 Type 2 compliant. What that means is we get an independent third-party audit of all our processes, infrastructure and policies every single year. They observe us over the course of the year to see if we are following all the best practices, standards, and staying true to everything we say we’re going to do. It's important because while on its own, a license plate for example isn’t necessarily personally identifiable information but when you attach that license plate to something like a name, a phone number, an email address, or even payment information then it becomes classified as PII, or personally identifiable information. Basically, that means someone could figure out who you are, where you live, or what your phone number is. Certain markets like Europe, Canada, and California, have some of the most strict privacy and security laws and regulations. To operate in this market we pretty much have to follow those high standards. Once you’re following those high standards, it doesn’t really make sense to have multiple sets of guidelines for yourself, so it’s easier to follow that across the board and across all the markets. At the end of the day, Offstreet is in the business of making tools to manage parking operations, we’re not in the business of data and we don’t plan on being in the business of data, because that’s not what our customers want from us. Our customers want safe and secure tools to manage their parking infrastructure and that’s what we plan on delivering." - Kyle Smyth

What has the experience of building a startup in Saskatchewan been like?

"I think building any startup is going to be challenging. It’s really hard, most startups fail. The stat I saw said most startups are out of business within five years. We have hit the six year mark so we’re out of that stat which is really nice. I think Saskatchewan has some strengths relative to other markets and some weaknesses. On the weaknesses front, I just think startup culture is a bit new. The tech industry isn’t as mature as it is in other business centers. On the strength side of things, there’s been a ton of growth in the startup and tech scene in Saskatchewan in the last five years even. You see a lot of community support with the Cultivator in Regina and Co-labs in Saskatoon, and I think there are a lot of talented people who are getting into tech. From our perspective, Saskatchewan has been a great home for the business. I think we’ve been able to kind of punch above our weight class in regards to talent acquisition, and finding smart, motivated people who are ambitious, which is what you're looking for in a startup. So that’s been really fun, we have basically got nothing but good things to say about Saskatchewan, people are learning quickly and there’s a lot of interest in tech." - Matt Fahlman

Have some questions we didn’t answer? Schedule a call with an Offstreet team member today!


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