This article was originally published by Sunstone Management as “Founder Focus: Ethan Glass, CEO & Co-Founder of Ocra“. They also created the image associated with this post. You can read the original article, and check out Sunstone’s other founder profiles, on their blog.
Every day, he’d wake up and walk the blocks around the Los Angeles Coliseum, familiarizing himself with the neighborhood and how the area is impacted by the many events that take place there. While he walked, he’d talk to homeowners and local businesses.
And what Glass wanted to talk about was parking.
Today, parking is still what Ethan wants to talk about. He never tires of it. His friends, family, and colleagues can attest to his enthusiasm and the sincerity with which he speaks of an industry that’s “on the cusp of transformation.”
This transformation is something that Glass and his team have experienced firsthand. Before his company, Ocra, released its minimum viable product in October 2020, Glass was valeting cars and volunteering to sell parking for events. Recognizing the opportunity, he soon became an event parking operator himself.
As event parking operators, Glass and his team saw great success making their available spaces available through consumer parking apps. This was an effective marketing tactic to get inventory in front of customers who like to guarantee themselves a parking space by booking and paying ahead of time.
But each additional channel added more work, because each one must be managed independently through separate platforms. Tasks like setting rates and availability for spaces needed to be done four different times on four different platforms to go into effect for all customers.
Glass realized that he needed to be able to manage all these customer demand channels in one place to scale his business. Fortunately, he had engineers on his team with the expertise to build an internal solution.
And then COVID-19 hit. Events were shut down. The parking industry as a whole was massively impacted.
Hungry for an opportunity and unwilling to give up, Glass and his team asked themselves: Is there appetite in the parking industry for the management tool that we built for ourselves?
The answer, Glass discovered, was a resounding yes.
Glass and his co-founder, Nate Dunning, spent two years validating this with hundreds of parking industry professionals that they contacted on LinkedIn. Over and over again, parking professionals from a wide range of roles and a diversity of experience expressed that “parking is too fragmented” and “I need to be able to manage all of my technologies in one place.”
As the solution to the problem, Ocra was born.
Glass refers to Ocra as a “force multiplier” that “creates connectivity” between parking operators and their technology partners.
For the people responsible for operations in parking facilities, this means they have just one central command center for managing how much inventory they make available to online customers and how much they charge for it at any given time.
Operators can also get a birds-eye view of portfolio-wide performance so they can make profitable decisions (for example, charging more money for parking spaces when demand for them is higher).
And if you’re wondering about the name “Ocra”, it comes from “One Click Rate Adjustment (OCRA)” – the first of many parking management features that the company has since developed.
The company has its roots in the Long Beach Accelerator (LBA): a partnership between California State University of Long Beach’s Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Sunstone Management, and the City of Long Beach’s Economic Development Department. Glass applied and Ocra was accepted to the LBA’s first cohort.
The connections and growth opportunities afforded to Glass and his team during this program were incredibly valuable and remain so to this day. The backing of a renowned and respected public-private partnership helped the young company establish credibility.
Sunstone Management invested and then followed up with two additional rounds, enabling the team to go into high-growth mode: hiring parking technology experts and seasoned engineers to accelerate the development of the platform.
“Sunstone Management continues to be a big backer for us and is always reaching out to see how they can support,” says Glass. “They are the definition of a true partner. We’re tremendously thankful to have them in our corner.”
In response to overwhelming demand, Ocra issued a full bottom-up rebuild of its centralized demand channel management platform for parking operators in August 2022.
Ocra Version 2.0 is the result of two transformative years of in-depth market research and customer discovery. Built using the most advanced tech stack, the new version is free of tech debt, future-proofed, and modular from the ground up.
In Glass’s words: “We’re founded by former operators and fueled by technology experts. We know the hustle. We love the industry. And we’re uniquely built to solve the problem.”