SpotHero Saves The Day For Chicago Drivers
Where does the inspiration for a business idea come from?
Who knows how people find that million dollar idea, but Jeremy Smith 24, and Mark Lawrence 25, are two Chicago entrepreneurs who attribute the inspiration for their new startup tech company SpotHero.com to getting too many parking tickets, living across the street from Wrigley Field and trying to make an extra buck renting a parking space in their garage during Cubs games.
“Jeremy came up with the idea from living in Lakeview and seeing first hand what happens (with parking) during a Cubs game,” explained Lawrence about their new website which helps link drivers looking for parking with people looking to rent their parking spots and generate extra income.
Smith saw the opportunity to make quick money renting his garage parking space while living on Addison St. in the shadow of Wrigley Field. But, he found it difficult to wave potential customers into your parking spot with your hand drawn sign if you’ve go a full time job downtown.
In addition, both drivers both have a self-admitted parking ticket problem. Smith and Lawrence were continually frustrated with the lack of parking in hot night life areas of the city which would sometimes lead to finding a few of those bright orange tickets on their car windshields after the night was through.
“We’ve gotten a lot of parking tickets, ” says Smith shaking his head. “We like going all over the city but it’s hard to drive and find parking in some areas of the city.”
It was these factors, a perceived gap in the marketplace and some beer inspired brainstorming that pushed Lawrence to quit his job in finance at Bank of America, and Smith to left his position in finance at Motorola to start working on SpotHero.com last fall.
Essentially, SpotHero serves as a broker by allowing drivers looking to reserve a parking spot in a congested area of the city and renting it from someone who’s not using their parking spot at that particular moment and while also generating a little spending money.
“SpotHero lets you rent out your parking spot when you’re not using it,” says Lawrence. “Not on a monthly basis but on a temporary basis. ”
The two began building their inventory of parking spots by soliciting people looking to rent their garages or parking spots in early 2011, with emphasis on the Lakeview neighborhood. Their site went live to buyers in June with a focus on giving Cubs fans an easy and inexpensive way to reserve a parking spot before coming to the ballpark.
“If you’re going to a Cubs game you get your ticket ahead of time, so why not reserve your parking spot ahead of time?” asks Lawrence.
Smith explains the SpotHero concept is essentially the modern, tech savvy version of a guy in a Cubs hat trying to flag down customers to park in his garage or parking lot to make a few extra bucks during the baseball season.
“What about the people who have a space to rent, but can’t stand on the street waving a sign,” says Smith. “We’re standing on the corner for them…online.”
The website currently has about 11 listings per game, but not with the names of well known parking lots or garages, but with names like “Anne’s Spot” and “Brett’s Spot” from individuals with a valuable parking space to rent for the game.
“We have spaces listed for every single game and we’re adding more on a regular basis,” says Lawrence. “Just the other day somebody coming in for a game from southern Illinois found our website on the way up and booked a spot on his iPad two hours before game time.”
While SpotHero is focusing most of its energy around Wrigleyfield, the two men are working on soon growing their concept to cover the Loop, not only to include single privately controlled parking spaces, but traditional parking garages and lots as well.
“We’re working on expanding to downtown,” said Lawrence, explaining SpotHero has been in talks with a large parking lot operator. “With no effort, they can have pre-paid parking reservations as before they didn’t have this option.”
“ParkWhiz emphasizes sporting events (nationally),” says Lawrence. “Ours is different because we address a much broader market–we’re the broader solution.”
And while the mid-term goal is to be able to offer SpotHero parking near places like Soldier Field, River North, Comiskey Park, the downtown theater district and essentially city wide, their long term vision is to expand their concept to other major cities.
“The short term goal is to cover the entire city,” says Lawrence. “Long term our goal is to expand nationally.”