$3000 In Parking Tickets Leads To Award Winning Chicago Startup: SpotHero

It’s not often that parking tickets lead to a “good thing”, especially not $3,000 worth. That’s however, not the case for Chicago entrepreneur Jeremy Smith and his cohorts Mark Lawrence and Larry Kiss. Together the three of them have created Chicago startup SpotHero.

At first sight the startup seems very similar to Baltimore startup ParkingPanda, however SpotHero boasts 24 hour customer support and touts that they are superserving Chicago first and building a loyal customer base before eventually branching out. Chicago seems to love SpotHero as well. Since their launch in 2011 the company reports that more than 10,000 people have used their iPhone app and website platform to find parking spots.

SpotHero’s iPhone app allows drivers to reserve parking spots on the go, something that ParkingPanda is just now having developed through MindGrub. ParkingPanda is a web based platform that allows people to book parking spots from either individuals like driveways and curbside spaces, or public lots that have extra spots to rent. Both services allow the user to pick how long and when they want to start the parking spot rental.

SportHero was part of the most recent class at Excelerate Labs one of Chicago’s thriving startup accelerators. SpotHero just recently presented at Excelerate Labs’ August demo day.

The city of Chicago’s government loves SpotHero too. Despite the fact that SpotHero cuts into the Chicago’s own parking revenue from both meters and ticketing, SpotHero recently walked away with a $5,000 prize in the first round of Chicago’s Apps for Metro contest.  The Apps for Metro contest was announced in June by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. The contest is very similar to open data initiatives we’ve heard about in other municipalities, like Madison Wisconsin.

Winning that contest “gives us validation that this is a service that really would be important to the city of Chicago,” Smith told the Chicago Tribune, “There’s a problem with parking, and people want creative solutions. The time is (right) to support new programs.”

While Chicago residents may know the ins and outs of parking in the city, folks from the suburbs that frequent the city many not be as fortunate. Such was the case for Smith; “Growing up in the suburbs, one of the most frustrating parts of coming to the city was parking. For drivers in Chicago, it’s always a hassle finding a spot. SpotHero solves the problem by making parking easy and transparent,” said Smith,  “With SpotHero, I don’t have to worry about where I’m going to park because they always have options ready.”

The SpotHero team plans to continue to use open data initiatives from the city of Chicago to continue adding features to the app. One of the features they plan to role out soon would take data from road closure and construction information and add a layer to SpotHero so travelers would know if spots aren’t open or that re-routing may be more trouble than it’s worth.

Smith has confirmed the company plans to roll out more cities in the future. ParkingPanda is available in Baltimore and Washington DC and hopes to add Philadelphia and San Francisco as soon as they’ve built enough relationships with those who hold the key to both apps success, people with parking spots that need to be filled.


For more on SpotHero check them out on the web here

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Ann Arbor Startup: Seelio Is Connects College Students To Jobs In New Ways


Seelio, (connecting see and portfolio) is a new startup based in Ann Arbor Michigan connecting college students with employers and job recruiters. Sure there are plenty of employment connection platforms out there but Seelio is serving a few under-served segments.

First off, Seelio is serving the college student to work category which is filled with competition. One of the other big hindrances for college students competing for work is the fact that they’ve been in school the past four years and don’t have real work, resume items. Seelio solves this problem for students by opening up profile space on the service to post academic papers, computer aided designs, art projects, lesson plans, photos, videos, even pitch decks.  Employers can now see a more rounded profile of the applicant and can consider them for positions outside of “entry-level”.

“Instead of sending a stale, black-and-white resume, Seelio lets you bring yourself to life and present yourself in a more holistic way,” said co-founder Moses Lee, assistant director for student ventures at the U-M College of Engineering’s Center for Entrepreneurship to the University of Michigan News Service. “It can help college students get discovered. This is really important, especially in this tough economy, because they don’t have a lot of job experience. But many have done amazing work as a student.”

Seelio is taking an early stage Facebook approach to building scale. They rolled out the platform’s truAPP to students at the University of Michigan, exclusively in January of this year. They quickly saw 1500 students sign up and some big employers as well. Quicken Loans, Teach For America, Compuware, Under Armour and Airtime were all early adopter companies for the platform.  They have since opened up the platform to all students with a .edu email address.

One of the early student adopters that used the service, Lydia Muwanga, recently finished her master’s degree. She was able to use Seelio’s truApp to land a job as an information architect at SapientNitro.  Muwanga reported that after getting her profile posted she applied for five jobs in ten minutes. Less than 24 hours later she had heard back from three companies.

“It helps us more accurately target candidates, allowing us to differentiate between, say, human-computer interface students who love research, versus those who love wireframing,” Kati Llewellyn, creative recruiter at SapientNitro said.

For college students Seelio is a platform that merges a professional social network like LinkedIn with an actual jobs site like Monster.com, it’s quickly becoming a welcomed tool in the college students job application arsenal.


Check out Seelio here

Source: Univesity of Michigan News Service

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Nebraska Startup: Arch Get Photo & Video Answers To Your Questions From Anyone

A Nebraska based startup called “Arch” has a different spin on the recommendation space. With Arch, you join the ArchCrowd network and then you are tasked with the duty of helping your fellow Arch network members with their requests for information, pictures and video.

Suppose you live in Kansas and you’re about to partake on your first trip to our nation’s capital in Washington DC. If you sign up for Arch you can ask questions, like “what is there to do in Washington DC”. From there Arch will find someone in the Arch network in Washington DC who can answer your question.

The Arch person answering your question can take photos or videos of things to do in DC and send them back to you. You’ll receive a push notification when a fellow Arch member has responded to your request. As more and more Arch members arrive in Washington DC to start their day or what have you, they will also get a notification to answer your question. Soon you’ve crowd sourced a bunch of things to do in Washington DC.

Archcrowd,Arch,nebraska startup,silicon prairie,pando dailyArch makes it easy to supply answers via photos, videos or even just text. If you’re looking for things to do, hotels to stay at, places to eat, places to walk or just a quiet corner to read a book on a trip, Arch lets you connect with real people who have decided they want to help people, by signing up for Arch.

The Arch platform at archcrowd.com is still in private beta. In fact Co-founder Joe Smith attended Apple’s WWDC conference in San Francisco CA this week and was fielding Arch requests from the San Francisco area all week long.

The Arch team of four co-founders spoke last month at Cornstalks a monthly forum for individuals interested in high growth entrepreneurship.

The team includes: (from their website)

Tim Hermanson: (top left) Arch project manager – Tim received a B.S. in business administration/finance from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2006. Tim has over 5 years of experience managing various projects at a large, local bank with a focus on compliance and operations.

Mike Ackerman: (top right) Webserver architecture and API specification for Arch – Mike graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2006 with a B.S. in Computer Engineering and a B.S. in Electrical Engineering. He has since worked in Industrial Automation and Software Engineering focusing on .NET.

Joe Smith: (bottom left) Mobile client application design and implementation – Joe received a B.S. in Computer Engineering from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Joe has 6+ years experience as a software engineer designing and implementing both server-side and user-facing software projects using a variety of technologies and platforms.

Kari Petsche: (bottom right) Arch graphic design lead – Kari graduated from The Art Institute of Pittsburgh with a degree in graphic design in 2001. In the past ten years, Kari has won several design awards working with clients such as Tim Burton, Warner Brothers, NFL, MLB, NHL, NBA, 20th Century Fox, Tavern On The Green & The Bonnaroo Music Festival.

Check out Arch at their website here
Follow them on the Angel List here
Big props to our homies at Silicon Prairie For this story and that pic we borrowed
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Austin Startup: Top5Foods Is A Scoreboard For Restaurants

Alex Zwernemann, the founder of Austin based startup Top5Foods, created an easy to understand ratings/scoreboard style platform for restaurants. Top5Foods was the Statesman’s featured startup over the weekend. It takes a totally different approach to the food app and food site.

While apps like Urban Spoon serve up restaurants one at a time in a ratings based model, Top5Foods does exactly what the name suggests and serves them up according to the top 5. The data is crowdsourced across the network of Top5Foods users.

Top5Foods shows the restaurants and their local rankings but if you would prefer to see how they do across the entire network you can do that as well. If you’re a die hard foodie Top5Foods could serve as a great starting point for a trip to discover the best restaurants in the US. If your favorite restaurant in Austin is outranked by another restaurant in San Francisco, it may be worth the trip to San Francisco to try it out.

Zwernemann told the Statesman in an interview that the concept was born after a 2009 trip to San Francisco. He set out to find a couple great restaurants to go to and it took over 2 hours of research. Naturally he thought there was an easier way.

Top5Foods is unique because the user base is constantly moving restaurants up and down the scoreboard similar to a way a story moves on reedit or hacker news.

Top5Foods is already operational in Austin, Houston and Dallas. Zwernemann hopes to bring Philadelphia and Washington DC on soon as well.

He hopes to continue improving Top5Foods by adding more and more categories like top 5 lunch spots, top 5 happy hour spots etc.


Check out Top5Foods here at their website

Source: Austin Statesman

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