CARMAnation offers San Franciscans good parking mojo

April 22, 2014 | 0 Comments

CARMAnation is looking to spur the sharing economy to help San Franciscans find parking more easily. [Image from CARMAnation]

CARMAnation is looking to spur the sharing economy to help San Franciscans find parking more easily.

Hoping to celebrate her birthday in San Francisco’s Marina district a month ago, Ashley Cummings and a guest circled the area for parking a little before 6 p.m. Finding none, they abandoned the plan and went elsewhere. The experience was all too familiar for Cummings, one of the masterminds behind CARMAnation, a startup that allows its users to share their unused private parking spaces.

“We were always really frustrated with not finding parking to the point that we were, like, ‘You know what? I’m just not gonna go out.’ And you turn around and you go back home,” she said in a phone interview.

So, along with Ilya Movshovich and Brian Wolk, Cummings began CARMAnation, which was officially founded last year but only recently came out of private beta testing. The company allows users to list their private parking spaces (think driveways) at whatever price for profit or to donate the money towards a local charity vetted by CARMAnation.

“If you’ve got a spot at your house and you’re not going to be there and you want to make some extra money on it, or you want to give it out to charity, rent it out!” Cummings urges. “Why not create that harmony and that community?”

The charitable component distinguishes the company from similar businesses like Park Circal and Park At My House, whose efforts have sputtered in the Bay area, though Park At My House has achieved success in the UK.

Cummings believes that CARMAnation’s competitors may have “tried a little bit too early. We needed the Air BnBs and Lyft and Getarounds of the world to come before and prime people to the idea that it’s totally OK to be in this peer-to-peer mentality,” she says. “Beforehand, people would never have thought of renting out their car, let alone their apartment.”

CARMAnation from CARMAnation on Vimeo.

Though the so-called sharing economy may be more mainstream than it was a few years ago, it still faces challenges from local governments scrambling to catch up to evolving business models. CARMAnation and its users may find themselves taxed and regulated in unexpected ways or eclipsed by ever-changing technologies, like driverless cars. “We’ll definitely adapt as that technology comes about, but we still see a real need for our solution,” Cummings says.

The numbers would seem to support her: San Francisco counts almost half a million registered vehicles but almost 30,000 fewer public parking spaces to house them. CARMAnation steps in and focuses on featuring privately owned parking spaces.

Don’t look for the company’s offerings as a mobile app, though. While its site is optimized for smart phone users, an app is still in development. Expect it some time in Q3, Cumming says in the parlance of entrepreneurs seeking funding from venture capitalists. (Translation: Look for the app some time in the fall.)

In the meantime, Cummings is aware of the challenges CARMAnation faces. “We know that it’s something that will need a lot of education,” she says. “We’re going to help our users understand that there are parking laws and everything associated with that, but we hope we can build a really great community around making parking easier and more affordable and just help neighbor-to-neighbor out.”

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