As is the case in many large cities, trying to find a parking space in San Francisco is an exercise in frustration. But two 19-year-old entrepreneurs want to make that experience as easy as opening an app on your smartphone and pressing a button.
Spot, the brainchild of Andrew Brackin and Kevin Wang, aims to provide drivers a new option for quickly finding a short-term parking spot, choosing from a pool of inventory offered up by homeowners and companies with spaces to spare.
Trying to solve the parking problem with technology isn’t new. But Brackin and Wang have come up with a unique spin: Spot doesn’t use reservations. When you pick out a spot, you start paying for it. Granted, that’s a double-edged sword. You won’t be able to ensure a week in advance that the parking spot right outside your favorite restaurant is available to you, but you also won’t miss out on a great spot because someone has an iron grip on it for the next month.
“The concept behind Spot is that parking is horrendous in San Francisco, and there’s a lot of unused space that, if done correctly, could be leveraged to let one side earn money from that space and the other side park easily for a short term without booking, without dealing with the owner,” Brackin said.
Brackin and Wang met as recipients of the Thiel Fellowship, an award bestowed by PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel to give 20 promising entrepreneurs younger than 20 years old the chance to drop out of school and pursue their ideas.
Unlike their competitor ParkPlease, which allows spot owners to set their own price, Spot will regulate the cost of parking through the app. They’re still finalizing the numbers, but Brackin says that parking in some areas will be cheaper than parking on the street, while other locations where spaces are scarcer will cost more. In addition, the company plans to use surge pricing for high traffic periods of time, which means that parking in SoMA during a Giants game will cost you a pretty penny.
The company is first focused on getting private garages and driveways in the Castro and Mission neighborhoods of San Francisco on the service. From there, they plan to expand to the rest of the city. But private driveways won’t cut it in more business-heavy areas like SoMA, which is home to many of SF’s startups.
However, Brackin cited examples such as startups and other small businesses that might not fully utilize their allotted spaces in parking lots. Even if they only have a couple of extra spaces, they could benefit from renting them out.
“We’ll be able to leverage some of those to add that inventory in areas like SoMA where there are fewer driveways, and on times like the weekend when they’re not being used,” Brackin said.
In addition, Brackin says that the on-demand nature of Spot means that owners can add inventory to the system on the fly. If they know they’re not going to be using a space for a day or a weekend, for example, they can just add the space into the calendar on that day, and it will be open for use.
“We’re building it so that it is easy for someone who owns the spot to just add more space to the system when they’re not using it, even if it’s a time when they would usually be at home,” he said.
But what happens if the spot you’re renting out is taken up by a parker who has overstayed their welcome? Brackin said his conversations with others who’ve tried concepts similar to this suggest that won’t be a problem.
“I don’t believe it’s going to be a daily or a common problem for us, but we are putting everything in place so that if something did happen, we’ll know exactly what to do and we can provide a service where we’re able to actually get involved and help. We’re not just a marketplace where we say it’s completely on the two parties. We want to be able to fix situations and help really engage with our customers, and provide something of really great quality.”
And if all else fails, Spot will be partnering with San Francisco-based tow companies.
Brackin says that Spot will be launching as an invite-only beta at the end of September. It’s just in San Francisco for now. If you want to get your spot in line, head over to parkwithspot.com and sign up.