About us – Interview with founder Kai Rixrath
You have used McParking many times yourself and have seen how we have developed over the years. This part of our series looks at the founder and businessman Kai Rixrath in a short interview.
Kai, you founded McParking over 20 years ago. Did you always have that in mind or was it more of a coincidence?
The idea of offering cheap and safe parking close to the airport developed during our "Tegel time". Near the airport at the time, I had operated a driving range on Kurt-Schumacher-Damm. There you could learn to play golf relatively close to the city and on a simple course. Our customers booked a time slot and could then practise teeing off. We took over the tedious collection of balls, so that you could tee off a lot of balls in a short time. And you didn't even have to travel to the Brandenburg countryside to do it. At some point, a customer asked me if he could leave his car a little longer. He wanted to walk the short distance to Tegel airport and come back after 2 days. I then took the customer to the airport myself and we got chatting. He liked the possibility of parking so close to the airport and wanted to do it again. As a result, other golf customers came to us and wanted to park - some of them without playing beforehand. I then reduced the size of the golf course to make more room for parked cars. The whole thing was like a snowball system and word spread more and more. Eventually, I completely abandoned the golf course in favour of the car park and we operated an area for about 2,000 cars - about as many as the airport itself could offer on its premises. Parallel to the transformation of the site, we naturally also took care of the bookability, so we built a functional back and front end. Without an energetic team, however, I would not have been able to do that.
Why did you run a golf course at all back then? How did it come about?
I used to do a lot of sport. I was a ski instructor in Austria in winter and a golf instructor in summer. I had a lot of fun playing golf and even before I started running the driving range I could earn good money with it. But at some point I reached a point where my entrepreneurial spirit told me I had to do more with my passion than help individual players improve their handicap. And then, by chance, I came across the site at Kurt-Schumacher-Damm, which I was able to rent on a long-term basis at a reasonable price.
When airport parking became more and more in demand, you reoriented yourself. How did you come up with the name McParking?
At Tegel Airport, I actually wanted to call the company something else. I had thought of Airport Parking Berlin, for example. Unfortunately, I then found out that exactly this combination was already occupied by a competitor. So I went to McDonald's to eat away my frustration - of course that's where the idea of McParking came from. But it was still a difficult road to the introduction of the complete "McParking" brand; we even had to fend off a lawsuit from McDonald's, which we succeeded in doing. I think the effort was worth it, because McParking is very universal. By the way, we have McParking listed as a brand not only in Germany, but in the entire EU and also in many other countries outside Europe, e.g. in India, Singapore and Australia. In Chile and Argentina we also have McParking locations in the respective capitals. These are developing very well.
That's really an exciting story. But you weren't always in Berlin. What did you do before you came here, where did you grow up?
I was born almost 56 years ago in Guayaquil / Ecuador. My father is German and was working there at the time as Head of South America for Bayer/Schering. He met my mother there, who is Ecuadorian, so I grew up in Ecuador, Peru and finally Argentina. I feel at least half South American - and very much so. I then came to Germany for my banking training and subsequent business studies and finally stayed in Berlin. Even though I miss South America and especially Argentina very much, especially in the grey Berlin winter, I appreciate life here very much.
McParking is not your only mainstay. Not only since the Corona pandemic are you broadly positioned, and as a prudent entrepreneur you are not only active in the parking industry.
Exactly, McParking suffered greatly during the Corona years. Our business is very much linked to passenger numbers - if a lot of passengers fly, not only the airlines and airports do well economically, but also us. That was not the case during Corona. That's why my goal has always been to not only stand on one leg in business. In addition to the parking business, one focus is real estate and project development. In terms of content, this is not so far removed from parking, because an essential prerequisite for a stable parking business is to have a parking area - i.e. a property, be it with or without a multi-storey car park - available in the right location/near the airport. But I am also active in the development of residential buildings, which is currently in great demand. In addition, I'm involved in completely unrelated sectors, for example in an IT & marketing start-up and in a go-kart track in Denmark. In short, there are many different projects that interest me.
Corona, war, price increases - these are developments within a very short period of time that put worry lines on everyone's forehead. Describe the current economic situation from the entrepreneur's point of view ...
We should not make everything worse than it is. The war in Ukraine is bad for those directly affected and - as everyone knows - it has an impact on the global economy. But the economic situation in Germany is better than it is often portrayed. Germany's GDP is expected to be reasonably stable this year, after a minus at the end of 2022. The energy crisis is leading to significantly higher energy prices, but here, too, it can be seen that prices skyrocketed after the outbreak of the war, but have currently settled back at a somewhat lower level due to lower consumption and diversified supply sources. Inflation will also remain below last year's peak at around 6% for this year, and is even expected to return to a level of around 2% in 2024, i.e. within an acceptable range.
...and what possibilities for action arise from this.
One thing above all: do not panic. It is important to keep a clear head and maintain liquidity reserves if possible. We saw that during the Corona pandemic. Those who were sufficiently liquid got through this crazy time reasonably well. And those who can afford it now should use the difficult economic phase for investments. It may sound paradoxical, but at the moment you can profit from falling building and land prices, for example.
Let's get back to you personally. What do you do to switch off from business? What can you recommend?
As an entrepreneur, I'm always on the go. When I do want to switch off, I still like to go golfing. Even if, or perhaps because, the ambition is not as strong as it used to be, the mixture of fresh air, nature and physical exercise relaxes me.
Last but not least, the question that comes to mind at McParking: Where do you prefer to spend your holidays?
I try to fly to my family in Argentina as often as I can. There I can see them and long-time friends and enjoy the relaxed South American life at the same time. Of course, the trip is quite time-consuming, so for a shorter duration I also like to travel to Mallorca. Thanks to my mother tongue Spanish and a nice little circle of friends I like to spend time with, I also feel very much at home there.