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Passport Buys Complus, a Competitor in City Parking Tech

With its second acquisition in eight months, Passport is expanding in the northeastern U.S. It will look to Complus' 200 customers to improve its customer feedback operation while developing its offerings.

Passport, a North Carolina-based SaaS provider of parking enforcement tools, last week announced the acquisition of Complus Data Innovations, one of its oldest competitors.

Marking 33 years in the parking ticket management business this spring, Complus is the second acquisition in eight months for Passport, which launched in 2010. Passport bought NuPark and its license plate recognition (LPR) technology in October 2018 after receiving $43 million in funding, all from Bain Capital Ventures, in 2017.

Passport Chief Revenue Officer Khristian Gutierrez said the acquisition of Complus had more to do with staff expertise and market share than the integration of proprietary technology, as Complus has customers in 20 states, most of which are in the northeastern U.S. where Passport has little market penetration.

“We’ve now strengthened our ability to support not just their client base but our client base, given the expertise that we’ve just brought on board with their 40 team members,” he said. “But it’s also … that we’ve just gained 200 new customers that can participate in our product-development life cycle in order to further improve [our products].”

Where Complus was focused on parking tickets, Passport’s growing platform supports separate products for mobile parking payments, permits, real-time enforcement, mobile transit ticketing, cashless tolling, and back office and reporting functions. Passport also offers an app for citizens to pay for parking.

Gutierrez said that by providing a holistic view of all parking payments coming into a city, Passport can help agencies monitor supply and demand for parking, then change prices to pressure citizens into parking in different areas as needed.

Passport also signed an agreement in March with micromobility providers to apply the same lessons of supply-and-demand dynamics to bikes and scooters, launching pilot programs in the cities of Charlotte, N.C., Detroit and Omaha, Neb.

Gutierrez said competitors in the parking enforcement industry are everywhere, but they’ve struggled to build tools flexible enough to cross state lines, which is exactly what Passport aims to do.

“You’ll find 20 companies out there, and a lot of them are very fragmented. You’ll see Turbo Data in California, Data Ticket in California, Clancy out in Colorado, UP (United Public) Safety up in the northeast. A lot of the reason these companies were built and thrived but never really extended beyond hyper-local or tri-state areas is because of the complexities that might come from a lack of a federal standard on enforcement operations,” he said. “We have stared that thing right down the barrel to say, ‘We are confident that we can do this, because the way that we have grown our business has been by keeping our ears to the ground and listening to the transportation professionals we support.’”

Gutierrez said more acquisitions are “absolutely” on the horizon, with an eye on the uses of real-time data. Where governments used to shy away from this data due to security concerns about ownership and access, he said, Passport wants an open discussion about how it can make cities more efficient.

“As I think about the next five years, 10 years … it’s about the convergence of some of these industries which have historically been very siloed, and leveraging some of the powerful information that might be flowing through our system in order to improve that community’s experience,” he said. “As cities embrace the idea that real-time information is important to their operations, as opposed to potentially being frightened at some of the ways folks have used this stuff in the past, we really see some powerful opportunities.”

Andrew Westrope is managing editor of the Center for Digital Education. Before that, he was a staff writer for Government Technology, and previously was a reporter and editor at community newspapers. He has a bachelor’s degree in physiology from Michigan State University and lives in Northern California.