Man racked up $5K parking fines – and turned them into a $1BN business

Wall Street Banker who racked up $5,000 of parking tickets reveals how misfortune fueled a $1BN business idea – that YOU can benefit from too

  • Mark Lawrence worked for Bank of America when he was bombarded with fines
  • But Lawrence turned his frustration into a business idea called ‘SpotHero’ – an app that connects free parking spaces with drivers
  • SpotHero has now booked more than $1billion worth of parking reservations 

A 37-year-old entrepreneur who once racked up $5,000 in parking tickets has revealed how he turned his frustration into a $1billion business idea. 

Mark Lawrence was working as a financial analyst at Bank of America when he became fed up with having nowhere to park in downtown Chicago.

After getting laid off in 2010 during the banking crisis, he launched the app SpotHero which lets people with private parking spaces rent them out. 

Last year, the company hit the milestone of booking more than $1billion in online parking reservations – though SpotHero declined to say how much it had made in revenue during that time. 

It has been used by over 10 million drivers across 300 cities in the US and Canada.

Mark Lawrence, 37, racked up $5,000 in parking tickets while working as a Wall Street banker

He used his frustrations to fuel his $1billion business idea - an app which allowed individuals with private parking spaces to rent them out

‘The whole idea was that there’s not enough parking, [and] how do we make it easy to park?’ Lawrence told CNBC.

But he added he soon realized the problem was not a lack of parking facilities but that most people ‘just don’t know where it is.’ 

In all, there are approximately two billion parking spots all over the country, according to some estimates – enough space to pave over the entire state of Connecticut. It also works out as seven spots for every one car.

As a Wall Street banker, Lawrence said he was often too busy to remember to move his car – which is why he built up so many tickets. 

He had already started using his free time to find a solution to the problem when he joined forces with two friends – Jeremy Smith and Larry Kiss – to co-found SpotHero.

CNBC reported they put $6,000 of their own savings into start-up costs. 

Private parking space owners effectively advertise their place on the app for a fee. There is no flat rate meaning users can effectively charge whatever they wish.

But the app can advise a reasonable rate to charge for the spot depending on the location and time of day. 

On its website it states the average rental price for a space during commuter hours and a big event is between $12 and $25.

A weekend spot costs $12-$24 on average while a space overnight is between $24 and $28. 

For a year and a half the business struggled to stay afloat with 100 parking spots before launching a partnership with a parking garage.

Lawrence, right, is pictured with his co-founder Larry Kiss, left. The duo joined forces with Jeremy Smith to launch the business in 2011

Last year, the company hit the milestone of booking more than $1billion in online parking reservations

By 2012, SpotHero was bringing in $100,000 per month in revenue.

Lawrence said his biggest challenge was bringing garage and parking lot owners into a digital age as many still only dealt in cash.

He would then visit lots at different times of the day and take photos of the empty spots to show owners how much money they could be making. 

A 2019 study from found that 16 major US cities accounted for $1.4 billion of fines annually.

The size of fines vary state-by-state. Last year, a report by Investopedia found that San Francisco imposed the highest levies for parking violations as obstructing traffic could cost motorists up to $1,000. 

It was followed by New York City – where drivers can expect a $65 fine just for parking at a angle to the curb – and Chicago respectively.

His app is one of several parking rental apps which have exploded in popularity in recent years. 

Rival company Parkopedia, for example, is used in more than 90 countries around the world.


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