I’m Sorry I was right


I’m Sorry I was right

CarHarbor, the on line system where individuals could "hook up" if they had parking spaces to rent or needed to rent a space, either for short (1 hour) or long term, has closed before it opened. Its founder, Craig Calle, is a great guy and visionary met with me over a year ago and described his idea.  I wasn’t sold. It seemed to me that for people to think ahead enough to actually go on line to find a parking space when they were going to the supermarket just wasn’t in the cars. His concerns (not being able to find a spot near the school when his child was in a play, etc) seemed like problems that could be solved by the school, not a web site. Applying technology to some problems isn’t always the solution.

Cooper Marcus over at Parking 2.0 commented on CarHarbor’s demise:

The CarHarbor Blog
has a post (the first in many months) detailing why CarHarbor will not
be opening for business. Interestingly, the same issues that CarHarbor
identified with a distributed parking marketplace may also affect other
startups in the space, like SpotScout.
Though CarHarbor dosen’t mention SpotScout by name, its clear that the
“Execution, not Hype” comment is about them. Its actually somewhat
amazing – have you ever seen a startup get so much press, so far in
advance of actually offering its service, as SpotScout has?! Anyway,
thanks CarHarbor, for raising awareness among the public in using
innovative technological and marketplace approaches to solve a pain so
many of us share. We’ll miss ye, and we hardly knew ye!

Craig, in his last post on his blog, gave some advice to those who are attempting to start such a program. I am copying it here as I think his list of lessons, except perhaps for the last one, is a good one:

Several people have asked me the same question, "so what’s up with
CarHarbor?" It’s not surprising that this question would come up as
there has been a lot of attention paid to parking issues lately.
Addressing parking with expertise in online communities and mobile
telecom can generate a real buzz. The simple answer is, CarHarbor was
an interesting experiment, but it wasn’t worth trying to turn it into a
commercial operation. Since early last summer, I have been working
full-time on a turnaround involving a household name consumer
electronics company, and thankfully it’s going well. But since people
are curious, let me share a few lessons learned.

Test Market by Blogging. We started CarHarbor with this blog as a way to generate quick feedback from a net savvy community. Within days, TechCrunch
and others latched onto us and gave us broad attention, resulting in
terrific feedback and business development leads. Not bad for $5 per
month. Never write a line of code before completing at least this kind
of market research.

Community Dynamics. There is comfort in
the relative anonymity offered by most online communities. Considering
the shared pain over parking, especially in San Francisco, it was
conceivable that reasonable people could cooperate to benefit the
community and themselves. However, when it came to the prospect of
letting a stranger bring their car near or onto one’s property, people
expressed some serious reservations. Well, I guess some Match.com dates
can seem pretty scary too. Also, the income potential for most space
listers was too small considering the level of household wealth in the
most desirable neighborhoods.

It’s About Execution, not Hype. Another
start-up in the space seemed to put a lot of effort into getting media
attention. Despite promises to be up and running a year ago, they have
little but press to read about the promise. Press clippings even bore
your mother after a while.

Need Scale. There are lots of people who
will whine about a problem, but it’s another thing to get them to
participate in a community dedicated to solving that problem. That’s
not to say that specialized online communities can’t succeed. For
example, smallworld.com is a terrific place for Euro-jetsetters to
interact, but it will never be a commercial wonder like MySpace has
been. I’m just not up for doing something like this as a hobby, and
that’s what CarHarbor would have represented.

Listen to Experts. In addition to having
first-rate advisors such as Craig Newmark of Craigslist fame, we met
with some people who have devoted their professional lives to
understanding the parking industry. Donald Shoup of UCLA and John Van Horn of Parking Today are extremely knowledgeable and interesting leaders in their field.

All the best Craig — I know you have another vision working already.

Picture of John Van Horn

John Van Horn

3 Responses

  1. I saw this story on the Cooper Marcus blog about 3 weeks ago. I think you even plagarized him a bit. Nice job.

  2. Why not reduce the need for parking somewhat by using professional drivers for hire (e.g. Taxis) to get people in.
    That way, the parking space dilemna can be reduced a little.
    Also, what if people coudl book their spaces in advance and then only depart when they know there will be a space. This will be a sub function of a Texxi system.
    Eric Masaba / Texxi

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