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Park Circa was conceived in 2010 when co-founders Omid and Chad met at La Scala, a local coffee shop in Walnut Creek. They were introduced by a mutual friend and through the course of the conversation began discussing the problem with parking in San Francisco (where they used to live and work). Most people they knew had the same frustrating experience of endlessly circling the block, waiting for a space to open up, meanwhile passing wondefully empty driveways that were off limits. They began thinking, “wouldn’t it be great if we could just knock on the door and hand the person $20 for permission to park for a few hours?” Then they asked, why not? They realized they could build a location aware mobile app that allowed for passive communications and transaction between strangers, to legitimize this process of peer-to-peer sharing for parking spaces.

They began meeting together every Sunday for a few months to create a development plan and coordinate all the late night work they produced during the week. When summer came the initial planning was complete. Based on important feedback from advisors and friends, they decided this idea could really work, so they set about building a minimal viable product, which included a promotional website and the mobile app that would allow for real-time parking transactions. On January 23, 2011, when the platform was completed, and the necessary legal documents were in order, they went to several local neighborhoods in San Francisco to hand out a few flyers and get initial feedback from neighbors. They also twittered a few people who were complaining about parking, and this started an exciting few months of attention from neighbors, local blogs, twitter followers and media who were eager to share the idea with everyone they knew.The idea was so unique it sparked people’s imaginations and still continues to spread from person to person. But although drivers are very excited about the peer-to-peer sharing of parking spaces that were previously off limits, the idea can’t work until there are enough parking space owners that share their space in dense clusters so that the supply of spaces can support the demand. They realized that the idea will not go viral on it’s own, and since they had no capital necessary to spread the word and motivate owners, they began meeting with a lot of Venture Capital firms and Angel Investors that had contacted them to learn more about what they were doing. But after 2 months of meetings, they realized they were wasting their precious time. While VCs liked the idea, none of them wanted to take the risk in this new market until Park Circa could prove that people would really change their behavior and adopt this new process. Investors wanted to see usage statistics (which is ironically difficult to accomplish without capital).

After several more months of working on this, it became clear that without investment growth was going to be very slow. By June of 2011, Chad and Omid decided they couldn't keep working on this full time so they both went back to their former professions and spent about 15 hours per week on Park Circa. But after a couple of months, Omid was no longer able to put in the time he felt was necessary so he resigned as CTO on good terms.

Chad began looking for another co-founder, but in the interim Chad continued meetings with potential partners, including a large international auto manufacturer. These talks continued until January of 2012, when Park Circa was offered a strategic partnership and a large investment. This was a great opportunity, but the terms of the deal were ultimately not acceptable, and on an even deeper personal level Chad recognized that with a young family and another business that he and his wife ran together, he couldn't commit to the deal with it's substantial drawbacks, intense startup schedule, and a commute to San Francisco that left his wife everyday to take care of their 3 children and the business. So he made the very difficult decision to pass up the partnership.

Chad took a couple months to clear his head, and found two more co-founders, Casey and Steve, who were interested in helping the project with expertise and cash. Casey brought renewed energy and effort and they proceeded to fix outstanding bugs in the apps, develop an affiliate dashboard, automate monthly billing, produce signs for spaces, and begin marketing tests.

This renewed effort continued until August 2012, when Casey and Chad decided that their efforts were not producing sufficient results. Park Circa is a great idea. People love it. People sign up everyday and list their spaces all around the country and around the world. But at the end of the day, not enough people were sharing their spaces in the neighborhoods they were targeting to build up sufficient density to make the app useful. And without reliable results, the business couldn't justify investment. So they let the idea to it's own devices for the next year.

In August of 2013 they decided to introduce a significant change to the model: instead of being the "Airbnb for Parking" what if Park Circa became the "Couchsurfing for Parking", a free social model, that rewarded people for sharing by giving them access to private parking around the city in reward for their own involvement in building up the inventory of parking spaces. The perceived pain of parking seems to be larger than the actual costs, so if we require people to earn credit by building the network, maybe people will make this work for themselves.

Casey and Chad still believe in the platform, and they want to see it succeed, but they can't make people share their spaces. They can't make people share the idea with friends. They can't make people use this tool. So they decided to keep funding the platform enough to keep it functioning as a tool for any community that wanted to be empowered to share parking. But the success of the tool would depend on the people that wanted to use it for their own benefit.

It remains to be seen what will happen...

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