Grad Students Launch ‘Park Genius’
A Week at 2012 PIE, and a New Company Is Born
Thomas Maguire, Ross Shanken and Austin Weiss
Three students in the University of Arizona (UA) McGuire Entrepreneurship Scholars Program used the 2012 Parking Industry Exhibition as a research laboratory and came away with an idea for their school project. Editor
We have seen the future of the parking industry, and it is “Park Genius.”
We are three determined students from three different backgrounds, growing up on opposite ends of the country: San Francisco, Chicago and Miami, respectively. Despite the distance in both miles and backgrounds, we shared one thing in common: students at the University of Arizona with a love for entrepreneurship. It was on this common ground that we met in the McGuire Entrepreneurship Scholars Program at the UA in Tucson. This is where our journey into the world of parking began.
In conjunction with the dry desert heat, parking continues to be a nuisance both on campus and throughout the city of Tucson. Our professors in the McGuire program, being experienced entrepreneurs, saw a problem and assigned us to research the parking industry. Specifically, our goal was to find an innovative and sustainable business concept that would be applicable both now and well into the future.
However, we had one major hurdle: None of us knew anything about parking or the parking industry in general, let alone how to come up with a clever concept to present to our class. And so the research began.
Amid our investigation into the parking industry, we stumbled upon the Parking Industry Exhibition (PIE) website promoting a conference and expo where the top minds in the parking industry would be convening to share ideas and experiences. So, we thought, what a great opportunity this would be for us to learn from the experts!
A combination of a UA grant and the generosity of Parking Today magazine allowed us to attend the 2012 PIE March 18-21.
After the excitement of being in Chicago wore off, we got down to business, planning out the days to come: which seminars to attend,
what booths to visit, and where to find the extra drink tickets for the evening mixers!
We have to admit, coming from a college atmosphere, we thought PIE might be a bit boring, but that notion could not have been further from the truth! From the inaugural “opening of the gates” to the end-of-the-week re-cap, we were thoroughly impressed and entertained each and every day, and honestly couldn’t wait for the day’s activities to start.
Though we were probably the youngest people at the expo, that didn’t stop anyone from being overly nice or helpful to us throughout the entire conference. All the attendees were excited to see some fresh faces
interested in the parking industry, and we were equally excited to listen and learn all we could from them.
It was probably easy to see our “deer in the headlights” reactions when we first showed up at 2012 PIE, but after the week was over and many friendships were made, it was clear that we shared the swagger of parking veterans. We left with our heads held high and suitcases full of business cards, fliers and pamphlets from every registered attendee at the event, and even some who weren’t.
We arrived back in Tucson with a wealth of information that needed to be refined into an idea that would be our end-of-the-year project, ultimately determining whether or not we graduated from the McGuire program. Clearly we took this process seriously.
After combing through all the material and sending several follow-up emails, we believed we had found a true problem, or “customer pain,” as our professors would say. The problem: paying for parking meters and spaces using a credit card or mobile device without having to upgrade to any new hardware.
The municipality parking directors and our team agree that the current hardware solutions seemed exceptionally costly. To resolve this, we aimed to create a software-based solution that would solve the problem for municipalities reluctant to take on those costs during tough economic times.
What we came up with was Park Genius, a unique identification system that could be implemented to allow for mobile methods of payments for both coin-only parking meters and parking lots. Our cost-effective solution is designed to be quick and easy to implement, and simple and convenient to use.
After visualizing our web application concept, we spent the rest of the year consulting with parking providers in the Tucson area, creating prototypes and finalizing our project presentation.
With plenty of hard work and a plethora of support from our friends at PIE, not only we were able to graduate on time, but we also secured a first place finish in our program of 22 different teams!
We knew what we wanted to do after graduation, so we decided to launch Park Genius. With the app, the future looks bright for us, and the parking industry!
For more information, contact Thomas Maguire,
Ross Shanken or Austin Weiss through www.parkgenius.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Article Abstract from October, 2012