Written by Jay Fortner and edited by Richard MacManus

We’ve all been there. You’re in a rush, you need to find a parking spot - and there's nothing available! Well, how about finding a parking spot on your mobile phone; or maybe even reserving a spot from home via your browser? This kind of Web-based car parking solution is in its infancy, but we think this solution is going to change the way people park their cars - especially when in a rush!

So far, the early leaders in this space are the UK based Findacarpark.com, parkatmyhouse.com, peasy.com, the highly touted spotscout.com, and the Chicago-based ParkWhiz.com (although ParkWhiz has yet to fully launch their service).

Can these services disrupt the parking industry?

As a resident of a downtown metropolis, agonizing over parking spots is a re-occurring theme. I would find tremendous value in being able to secure and reserve parking, rather than driving around the block hoping for an open spot to appear. Additionally, I see great value in aggregating the costs of parking from various lots in similar areas, providing more transparency in the industry - especially if someone is relatively new to a city. Why park at one lot if you knew you could save a couple of bucks parking across the street? This could force parking lot owners to compete more smartly over parkers, providing lower prices to consumers. 

Another potential marketplace is that property owners could cash in and provide an easy online shop to rent their space for parking. This would be extremely lucrative to those who lived near stadiums and highly traffiked landmarks.

So yes, online or mobile parking solutions could be very disruptive to the existing parking industry.

Monetization

These services aim to take a small percentage of the parking marketplace and/or provide targeted advertising through the mobile phone and web browser. Also I think that layering in sponsored events and activities with searches, could be very powerful - if they can better target me by my previous search history. In addition, I expect these online parking services to be mashed in to e-vite services and event 2.0 sites, as an added-value tool - like we commonly see with Google Maps. For example I’d love to get a classified listing on Craigslist, and click a link to see a Google Map and nearby parking in that area.


SpotScout process

Potential pitfalls

Enforcement: As with any service that allows user-generated content, it is easily prone to gaming and fraud. I suspect that the feedback and comments features that have made eBay so successful, is also necessary on online parking sites - to maintain the integrity of transactions. Those with long histories of ethical transactions should get promoted to the top of search results for a given area, and power users need to be supported so that they continue to frequently offer parking inventory.

Use of mobile phone: If I’m in a rush, do I have time to type in coordinates on my mobile phone? Would it be too distracting to try and find the address to a parking spot and drive at the same time? Long-term to get around this pitfall, we may need these services to be integrated into the navigation systems in cars.

Where is the true value?

Does the value lie in the market, or the aggregation of information? I’ve been tossing back and forth for a while on this question. I think the true value that will make this service viral is empowering every home in a high traffic area to have the potential to make money. By matching up parking spots with consumers and making it easier for them to make reservations in areas where it seems impossible to find a spot, this is where the hidden value lies in this market. What do you think?

Can GYM enter this space?

If GYM (Google, Yahoo, Microsoft) doesn’t enter this space by developing their own solutions, then they will probably enter through acquisition. So in the US at least, ParkWhiz and Spotscout have to move fast - because my local search would be enhanced significantly if I knew where to park too!