A Wall Street banker who racked up $5,000 worth of parking tickets reveals how misfortune fueled a $1 billion business idea – which YOU can also benefit from
- Mark Lawrence was working for Bank of America when he was bombarded with fines
- But Lawrence turned his frustration into a business idea called ‘SpotHero’ – an app that connects free parking spots to drivers
- SpotHero has now booked over $1 billion in parking reservations
A 37-year-old entrepreneur who once racked up $5,000 in parking tickets has revealed how he turned his frustration into a billion-dollar business idea.
Mark Lawrence was working as a financial analyst at Bank of America when he grew tired of having nowhere to park in downtown Chicago.
After being laid off in 2010 during the banking crisis, he launched the SpotHero application which allows people with private parking spaces to rent them.
Last year, the company hit the milestone of booking more than $1 billion in online parking reservations – although SpotHero declined to say how much revenue it made during that time.
It has been used by over 10 million drivers in 300 cities in the United States and Canada.
Mark Lawrence, 37, racked up $5,000 in parking tickets while working as a banker on Wall Street
He used his frustrations to fuel his billion-dollar business idea – an app that allowed individuals with private parking spaces to rent them
“The idea was that there were not enough parking spaces, [and] how to facilitate parking? Laurent said CNBC.
But he added he soon realized the problem was not a lack of parking spaces, but that most people “just don’t know where it is”.
In all, there are about two billion parking spaces nationwide, by some estimates — enough space to pave the entire state of Connecticut. This also corresponds to seven seats for each car.
As a Wall Street banker, Lawrence said he was often too busy to remember to move his car – which is why he hoarded so many tickets.
He had already started using his spare time to find a solution to the problem when he teamed up with two friends – Jeremy Smith and Larry Kiss – to co-found SpotHero.
CNBC said it invested $6,000 of its own savings in start-up costs.
Owners of private parking spaces effectively advertise their spot on the app for a fee. There is no flat rate, which means users can effectively charge whatever they want.
But the app can advise a reasonable rate to charge for the spot depending on the location and time of day.
On its website, it lists the average rental price for a space during commute hours and a large event is between $12 and $25.
A weekend seat costs on average between 12 and 24 dollars, while a seat for the night costs between 24 and 28 dollars.
For a year and a half, the company struggled to stay afloat with 100 parking spaces before launching a partnership with a car park.
Lawrence, right, is pictured with his co-founder Larry Kiss, left. The duo teamed up with Jeremy Smith to launch the company in 2011
Last year, the company hit the milestone of booking more than $1 billion in online parking reservations.
In 2012, SpotHero was bringing in $100,000 per month in revenue.
Lawrence said his biggest challenge was bringing garage and parking lot owners into the digital age, as many still only dealt in cash.
He would then visit lots at different times of the day and take pictures of empty pitches to show owners how much money they could make.
A 2019 study by CarRentals.com found that 16 major US cities accounted for $1.4 billion in fines per year.
Fines vary from state to state. Last year, a report by Investopedia found that San Francisco imposed the highest taxes for parking violations, as obstructing traffic could cost motorists up to $1,000.
It was followed by New York – where drivers can expect a $65 fine just for parking at an angle to the curb – and Chicago respectively.
His app is one of many parking rental apps that have exploded in popularity in recent years.
Rival company Parkopedia, for example, is used in more than 90 countries around the world.