Startup develops technology to automate city parking
A startup is developing a way urban drivers can automate the way they pay for parking spaces.
Start Garden, the $15-million early stage venture capital fund, said last week that it will make an initial $5,000 investment in FetchPark, an in-development mobile app and in-car transponder, which communicate with related transponders in downtown kiosks.
FetchPark is designed to automate city parking, while reducing parking tickets and the time spent searching for parking.
The mobile app would have several features: search function for available parking; select duration of parking needed; reminder notifications; and automated payment.
While the iOS and Android apps would be free, the corresponding patent-pending transponder would cost roughly $10 to $20.
Tom Olson, founder of FetchPark, said the technology is “kind of like an E-ZPass.”
“You can just pull into a parking space, and it will automatically process your payment, sends you a verification text that you have completed the transaction and then it also sends you a reminder of when you need to be back if there is a time limit,” Olson said.
Although the initial target market for FetchPark is drivers between the ages of 19 and 35, Olson said the service is applicable to anyone who drives and lives in a city at least the size of Grand Rapids.
“You can be running around for hours just trying to get a parking spot,” Olson said.
He added that the service helps drivers make sure they “don’t make little mistakes.”
The idea for FetchPark developed after Olson visited Boston roughly six months ago and in four hours, racked up a parking ticket bill of close to $180.
“My friend Mark and I had gone out to breakfast,” Olson said. “It was Sunday, and we thought it was free parking. We didn’t double check the signs, and we had a $55 ticket. Then we drove downtown to visit his uncle. . . . And we had another ticket for parking in a loading zone.”
FetchPark will use the Start Garden funds to accelerate production of the transponders, finalize development of the mobile app and allow for a first market test in Providence, R.I., according to Olson.
“I am finishing the alpha phase,” Olson said. “I am in Providence and have the okay from the city to prototype the product here. I plan on doing that in a fairly small setting to work out all the bugs. It is definitely nice to be connected to investors who can help you along the way and the resources are really great. The financial boost is really great, so I can actually use it to test the idea more effectively.”
FetchPark will return to a monthly Start Garden Update Night event after a few months to present on its progress to be considered for further funding.