Company guarantees cheap city parking
Spothero founders, Mark Lawrence, left, and Jeremy Smith wanted to solve city parking problems for drivers | Jackie Pilossoph~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 30, 2012 6:13AM
WINNETKA — Easy and free parking are two huge benefits of living in the suburbs.
City parking, however is a different story.
A new service is saving divers from wandering around downtown searching for a spot, and then paying big money.
Spothero is an online parking service that was started last year by Winnetka native Mark Lawrence and his friend and business associate, Jeremy Smith.
“We both had personal problems with parking and tickets and things like that, and we came up with this idea because we thought we could make it a lot better for people,” said Lawrence, who worked in corporate finance for Motorola before starting the company.
Here’s how Spothero works. Drivers go to www.spothero.com via a computer or on their iPhone app and search available garage and outdoor spots by an address, an event, or a specific landmark. Choices of available spots then pop up, along with rates. Drivers pay for the spot online, and then print out a receipt, or show the garage attendant their confirmation email. The rates drivers pay are always discounted.
“We’ve got different deals with different garages that are trying to fill empty spots,” said 26-year-old Lawrence. “The garages welcome the business, even at lower rates because they would otherwise never fill the spots; $9 is better to them than nothing, even if the spot is worth $30.”
Lawrence said he and Smith secured deals with dozens of garages and lots before launching the business, and that a rate in the Loop can be as cheap as $6 for 24 hours in a high quality garage.
Andrew Razeghi lives in Winnetka and drives downtown several times per week for work. He heard about Spothero through some friends, and has had such a great experience that he is now an investor with the company, which is expanding to Milwaukee in the next few months.
“What Spothero realized was that there were all these spots that no one was using, and the garages had no way of marketing the empty spots,” said Razeghi. “The big thing for drivers is the convenience of knowing exactly where you’re going to be parking without having to drive around and look for a spot. Plus, you’re paying so much less.”
Spothero makes money by charging a commission to the garages for every spot they fill. The service is free to drivers.
“People drive into the city and they have no idea where to park and that can ruin the whole experience,” Lawrence said. “By using Spothero, you know ahead of time where you are going to park and how much it costs. It’s been so fun for us to solve such a big issue for people.”
“I’m saving money right out of the gate,” Razeghi said. “But cheaper isn’t even the real reason I use it. I set the GPS and I have peace of mind. I know where I’m going.”