Like many Seattleites, Tov Arneson enjoys the growing riches of restaurants and shops the city offers. But he found that the cost of getting to these spots—in parking fees or via a rideshare service—was becoming a challenge. That’s when he and his friend Ian Lyman came up with an idea: Why not let businesses buy rides—or parking—for their customers? That idea morphed into Validated, an app Arneson and Lyman launched last year that allows a business to cover a portion of a customer’s transportation or parking costs, as long as users meet the retailer’s minimum spending requirements. “Our goal is to help cities work better,” says Arneson, CEO of the Seattle-based startup.
“As consumers, we’re frustrated with how much it costs to get around; as business owners, we know firsthand how getting around is an obstacle to our bottom line,” says Arneson.
App users can shop at Validated merchants, such as Arc’Teryx (downtown) and Pandora jewelry (Westlake Center), using their smartphone to scan a code from the store receipt that gives credits toward ride services Lyft and ReachNow or toward PayByPhone, a parking-meter service that lets drivers use an app to remotely pay for parking. Users can also transfer credits to their debit or credit card.
The amount customers must spend to get credit varies from business to business. Sullivan’s Steakhouse (downtown) and clothing store Ian (Belltown) credit customers $7 for every $100 they spend; Loulay restaurant (downtown) credits shoppers $2 for any amount spent.
More than 12,000 people had downloaded the app (available on both iOS and Android) at press time, and that number is bound to grow. Validated currently is working with more than 80 businesses in Seattle and Portland, with plans to expand to San Francisco and Los Angeles.