Sure. It's actually a pretty interesting story. Back in college — I went to Northeastern — a friend and I got together. We met in the entrepreneurship program, actually, and we were just exploring options. We both agreed that parking was annoying and a hassle, and, you know, no one argued with us there.
We thought, "Let's go try to find a way to fix it." Maybe we can't fix the whole parking experience, but maybe there's one thing we can do, maybe there's an opportunity we can find. We started looking.
We were actually leaving my apartment; we went to my back alley. I lived in the heart of Boston, right near Fenway Park. Parking is super expensive. We walk through our alley, and there are driveways that are completely empty. There's room for dozens of cars in this alley that just… they were vacant. That was kind of a moment where we both identified an opportunity. If a stone's throw away you can pay $30.00 to park, why are these all empty? We got into the driveway sharing business
. This was at a time when I don't think the driveway sharing concept was as ubiquitous. It was like an Airbnb for parking spots and driveways.
We wanted to go to property owners and renters of the apartments, and landlords and property managers. We wanted to go to them and say, "Hey, you could actually make some money from those spots. Rent them out for the day, for the hour, for the week, whatever, and we'll help you do it." We had a lot of people that were excited about using the service. A lot of people wanted cheaper parking. They wanted a place where they could park and not pay the rates that are at the garages. What we had trouble with, actually, was getting the inventory. This is something I've heard from a lot with people who've gone through the driveway-sharing experience. It's funny, because there are a number of companies that have tried it. The inventory is just really hard to get. Renters, the people who are actually living there in cities, tend not to own those spaces, so they don't really have the rights to go out and rent them. If you try to find the landlords, they are more concerned about renting out their apartments that make a lot more money than the parking spaces. The same thing is true with the property managers.
We tried for a while, but we just didn't have success in getting the volume. And the driveways that we could get a hold of, we'd have access to them for one or two days a month. It wasn't a regular thing. Then we started thinking, "I still like this parking space. I think there's still an opportunity." Let's try a different angle. Let's go to garages, where the real inventory is, where the real money is. Let's go find something there. So we started walking around garages. Sure enough, parking's expensive, but they were never full. Parking, people complain about it all the time. People are always saying there's nowhere to park. But parking garages very often have plenty of vacancy. Sometimes it's just the top two floors. But it's never like they're always full.
We started approaching the owners of these garages and then saying, "Hey, let's try to get these filled up. Let's do some unadvertised pricing. Let's let people reserve parking in advance for a lower rate." It's not going to hurt your revenue stream, because we're not going to publish these rates on your garage. We're not going to put up a big sign. Your customers that you are getting today are going to get the same amount they would and you'll get the same number of them.
We were just going to try to find people who are outside of their existing customer base. The ideas that we had, the marketing concepts, the business plan: it was all nice, it was all sound, and we had some people in people who owned garages who were interested, who wanted to go ahead and do it. Then the struggle became that we actually didn't have the technology to get people in the door. We couldn't get somebody through a gate. We tried working with some of the equipment manufacturers and some of the parks systems. It's a big hassle. They've got a big backlog of products, enhancements that they have already. It would have taken a year and a half and maybe $70,000 in development work on their side to get an integration in place where somebody could show a QR code on their screen and it would get them in the gates.
So, you know, we worked at this for maybe a year, a year and a half or so. Finally, one summer came, I said, "All right, Neil" --Neil is my business partner-- "We're going to work on this full-time. We're going to give it everything we've got for the rest of the summer. If we've lost traction, if haven't gotten anywhere, then let's throw in the towels. Go do something else and go back to class.” We had plenty in our favor. It's not like cards just didn't line up for us. We made a go at it. We went through some incubator program in Boston. Summer was over and we hadn't made much progress, so, you know, we just decided 'let's call it quits for now.'
We both went back to class. I actually wrote an article
about the experience I had been through, some of our successes and failures. It was like a post-mortem of the whole process.
The story got shared around a little bit. It was still pretty unique to see a story about somebody who had failed at a startup, instead of just hype about some of the great things that are going on. The story got picked up a little bit, shared around the Boston startup community, and around the parking community as well. That's actually how I got to be where I am today.
My boss, Barney Pell
, read the article. He wanted to get in touch. He said, "You know, Chris, we've got a trade show coming up. I want you to fly over here. We'd like to meet you. I read your story, and you know, I really like a lot of the ideas that you've had. We actually have the technology to make it work." That really intrigued me. So, I said, "OK, I'll take a week of from class." We'll go see what those folks have to say. I met them. I loved the team. I loved the passion. I've been full-time ever since. I dropped a few classes and took some extra time to graduate, meanwhile. I've never looked back. It's been really, really fun.
You know, it's funny, because one of the reasons that people probably find it dull is one of the reasons I find it so exciting. That's because it's an industry that for a long time hasn't progressed a great deal. All of the sudden, you have all these people innovating and trying to make it better. So, it's an industry that's just so ripe for innovation, and you see it springing up every day. Someone's coming out with something new. It's nice to be a part of that shift. Some really great things are happening to this really big industry. I get to be a part of it. We get to have a say in where it's going to go.
That's really exciting to me. The fact that there's an opportunity that so many people feel. An opportunity that so many people are pained by right now. We started off this conversation: parking, for a lot of people, is a pretty big hassle. We can be the people that make it better, and that's nice.
I have a puppy. We got a golden doodle. He's six months old now. We like going on hikes. We do a lot of hiking, my girlfriend, and I, and the dog.