Four Drexel engineering seniors who are turning their senior design project into a business were selected to be one of 10 university startups participating in the Angel Venture Fair, taking place April 30 in Houston Hall at the University of Pennsylvania.
The four cofounders — Dakota Davis, Jonathan Davis (no relation), Diego Pinate and Niteesh Prasad — are trying to turn street parking into a 21st century affair with Hot Spot Parking.
Their product is like E-ZPass for parking, with “one post per parking spot. The post detects the car is there, it reads the RFID tag in your car, and charges your account for the exact amount of time that you were in the spot,” Prasad said. “You can just park and live your life. Everything else will come to you. You won’t have to interpret any crazy signs, and you’ll get the exact information you need for your spot.” They also plan to use the parking information to create a real-time map of available parking, saving drivers the headache of driving in circles looking for a spot.
The team thinks the time has come for street parking to move into the digital age and will target smaller cities first, ones that still use coin-fed meters, which Jonathan Davis called “20th century technology.” They hope to generate enough public interest in the new technology that municipalities will start calling them, but until that day comes, Hot Spot plans to go the old-fashioned route, offering a better product at a lower price. “With our system, we don’t take a cut [of the parking revenue]; we’re just there as a helping hand.”
“All the management goes through us. [The cities] only have to pay for the installation and any credit card fees. We handle the management, the maintenance, and it’s basically autonomous. If anything breaks, we fix it. They just sit back, collect the money, and everything is automatically deposited. We make money through analytics and advertising sales.” Jonathan Davis said. “So it’s a better business model than traditional parking companies, which gives us the advantage of helping the city out more. They receive 100 percent of the parking and enforcement revenue.”
Hot Spot is looking to raise enough seed funding to get the company off the ground and into a position where it could approach a city-level project.
“The Angel Venture Fair has a pretty good track record; something like 80 percent of participants will get meetings with investors to further talk about their project,” Pinate said. “As long as we can get the first meeting after the AVF, I think we can take it from there,” Jonathan Davis added. The AVF will be Hot Spot’s first real experience with investors.
Working out of a cramped apartment with a TV, an Xbox and some laptops, the four founders are the spitting image of a typical startup. They disregard formal titles, opting instead for monikers like “The Doctor” and “The Blacksmith.” The last few weeks have been spent finalizing the engineering for their senior design competition, and in typical Drexel fashion, taking exams right in the middle of everything. They have also been applying to incubators, entering the Baiada Institute for Entrepreneurship business plan competition and participating in events during Philly Tech Week.
Jonathan Davis is majoring in general engineering with a minor in business administration. Dakota Davis is dual majoring in computer and electrical engineering. Prasad is majoring in electrical engineering, and Pinate is majoring in computer engineering. Hot Spot Parking can be found on Facebook, Twitter and at www.hotspotparking.com.