Hangout with SpotHero
TechFaster: Okay so, why don’t you start us out by introducing yourself and talk about SpotHero a little bit.
Mandy: Okay, well my name is Mandy Yoh; I’m the community manager for SpotHero. As in all startups, we wear a lot of hats so I too wear a lot of hats, however my main goal is communicate with our customers. So I handle all the customer engagement, a lot of the client relations, I do the public relations, and I also help out with operations. So it’s fun though, I love it. So SpotHero, what are we? We are a web and mobile base parking Reservation Company. We have the two platforms on the Android and the iPhone where you can reserve parking beforehand at a discounted rate. Also we can do it any day on the computer, that works just as well. We launched in 2007 in July so we have been on for a couple of years so we’re really trying to get our start going. We are headquartered out of Chicago here but we have been able to expand out, right now we are currently serving parkers in Milwaukee. And also our newest one which is D.C., so yeah, we’re really excited about that. Right now we have about 150 locations here in Chicago, we have about 20 in Milwaukee and about 40 in D.C. Something lese along the way, you know my two co-founders, actually there’s three of them, we always forget about the Californian out there, he’s our CTO, he’s also a co-founder. And then the two co-founders here are Mark and Jeremy and those three really bootstrapped this company from the beginning. And then we were chosen to be part of Excelerate labs which is and accelerator here in Chicago, they do an excellent job in doing the startups in Chicago, gaining visibility and really polishing them as entrepreneurs. So with that experience we’ve been, you know very fortunate to expand our business and to really find what it is we want to get out there as the service that we have so, that’s my blabbering right now, I feel so that’s kind of the gist of it I guess. Kinda just a summary of where we’ve been. You know anything specific you’re looking for?
TechFaster: No, I think that was good, good background information and I have a couple questions about SpotHero. I think I understand in how it from the consumer’s side as far as application goes. Can you tell me about the garage management side, how they deal with yield management and how they update the system and how that works a little bit.
Mandy: Definitely, those are great questions because I think everyone kinda gets what we do for the customer you know, easy, reserve, discounted. No as far as the garages go they’re considered like our clients you could say. And basically how we decide what we do for the business is, we want to help them maximize their sales. So we’re really trying to get them customers in there for the times when they’re not having as much traffic in there. Now there is going to be some operators who don’t necessarily need that. They’re amazing they’re doing well, but there are some who would like some more cars brought in and that’s what we are here to do. O basically how we design who we will, who needs our help is based on those typed of things. We do a lot of research though depending on, is that area gonna work? We work with the garage managers, we do the research together. It’s a very tight knit partnership we have, just because we want to make sure we’re doing everything together. Another thing that we do for them is we offer to maximize their sales; we also do a lot of the work so they don’t feel overwhelmed with bringing on customers and things like that. Which is another thing they worry about because they have their plates full as well. So we do a lot of the customer tracking, we have our own accounting system that we take it into consideration on which we run by them. We do a monthly process. We work with all different types of companies, large scale and small scale. You know, there are going to be different needs for different types of companies. Yeah, that’s pretty much how we track it. We really do a lot of it manually so we really have an understanding on how it works. And every person in our team takes the time that they know that. If the garage manager is concerned about something or they need information they have about four different contacts so they can always reach us no matter what. That’s really important for us that we have and engagement with our customers but it’s very important that we have that with the garage managers as well. Just so they know the customers are having a good experience as well, we really try to make, we’re like the middle man, but we really try to make it as solid and as one as we possibly can.
TechFaster: Sure, cool. Are you working with the cities at all?
Mandy: Another good question. We actually don’t do any street parking which is pretty much where city authority lies. So we just work with the parking companies, we work with some pretty big names, but again we do work with those smaller companies, that something, we cherish them just as much. And we really, really try and make it a relationship to where we can call them whenever we need something and where we become friends. I’ve met many of the managers we have and they’re awesome people and I love talking to them and you can joke around with them just like you can joke with customers. We try to make it, it’s a very serious environment, very business-like, we do like to have fun with them and make it a good time for everyone. So city parking, we really, we don’t work with the cities or anything like that.
TechFaster: Good deal. Can you, obviously you’re in quite an expansion phase, any plans to expand into other metropolitan areas or is that all confidential information?
Mandy: Well of course some of it is confidential, however, every entrepreneur says this, we would like to take over the world. It’s just a joke between us entrepreneurs. Definitely the expansion is something we have in mind. From the very get-go we definitely are in our mind that we want to expand, however, we are not gonna be, we want to do it slow. We want to start in a place, make sure it’s solid, make sure it works well, make sure the people are happy and then we’re gonna move. We’ve been around in Chicago for quite some time, Milwaukee was our close neighbor, we had connections there. And D.C. is pretty big for us so doing all of that and kind of getting acclimated with the city in general because their street names are totally different than here in Chicago, we really want to get that down, want to fine tune that. Make sure it feels good there and then we’re kinda off. In an expansion sense there’s not necessarily any place we’re not looking at. So definitely you know, if the need is there then we will go add we’ll do what we need to do.
TechFaster: Understood, well the lead is here in Charlestown, Carolina, so start looking into it. Desperately need a service like this.
Mandy: I can definitely tell you we’d like that weather.
TechFaster: Can you talk a little bit about the experience at Excelerate, how that helped you guys along?
Mandy: Definitely, so accelerate is a company, it’s actually, they just changed the name, it’s actually going to be TechStar Chicago. Which TechStar are around in the US, I’m not sure if you’re familiar with them as much, I figured you guys probably were. But yeah, so now it’s TechStar Chicago but with accelerate. It was an amazing experience, you can’t really say anything bad about it, it was much needed. I would recommend it for absolutely anybody. And you know the two cofounders they were pretty much spearheading everything. You come in, you’re actually chosen. There are hundreds of people that apply for this program and they can take you to the top percentage of that. They only accept ten companies and it’s per summer. It’s been three summers that they’ve done this and taken ten companies in. So you get chosen to do this so basically it’s a really extensive, intensive, mentoring program. And what they do is they invite in amazing entrepreneurs to come in and really help to fine tune the kinda green ones in here of the ten companies. And it is just meeting after meeting after meeting whether it’s sharpening your skills at giving your pitch. Whether it’s changing and doing a pivot in your plan, fine tuning that business motto. Whatever it may be they really put you together with those people to where you are with them every single day for three months. So not only are you really forming this new ideal and getting your grant really put together, you create these friendships and these connections that are just unreal. So it’s just kind of flattering that these people you know who have created these companied to take the time and come in to do this. So it’s a great opportunity, like I said I would recommend it to anybody and then you do the three months of the mentoring program then you have a day where you give your pitch. I believe that there is 500 investors there that actually get to see this. So it’s go big or go home. I know for us it has really helped in our success. I don’t think we’d be where we are if we didn’t have the help with accelerate, TechStar Chicago now. And actually we’re still here, we’re actually still in the accelerate space, the other companies are here and we still get to see those entrepreneurs, they’re our friends, they say hi to us. It’s a really genuine experience and it’s amazing. I can’t say no good things about it.
TechFaster: Well we appreciate it Mandy. It’s a great concept, I see quite a few startups as you can imagine. And every now and then this being one of those times, I come across one of the light bulbs that pops on like god why didn’t I think of that five years ago? This is certainly one of those types of products. So we wish you the best of luck. Is there anything you’d like to tell us about the near term or long term for SpotHero?
Mandy: It’s a lot of stay tuned, I’m always saying that to people. But just stay tuned, I mean we have a lot of big things in mind and we basically just want to bring a better parking experience to everyone. The operators, the customers, everyone so stay tuned, that’s all I got for ya.
TechFaster: That’s fair enough, we really appreciate it, Mandy your community manager at SpotHero and thank you Mandy very much for joining us.
Mandy: Thank you guys, we really appreciate it. Big fans of you guys too by the way.
TechFaster: Well thank you, Thanks very much.