FANSPOTZ / FAYETTVILLE
Some of the best entrepreneurs are those who shake up an industry by making it more customer-centric, especially those who use technology as a disruptor. Uber disrupted the taxi business by providing their customers with greater accessibility to rides and more flexible fares. Airbnb did the same to the hotel industry, creating wider availability and better pricing options.
FanSpotz, an application-based company in Northwest Arkansas, is looking to do the same thing to parking. This fast-growing startup is helping connect drivers to valuable parking spots through their cell phones.
“Think of us as a mashup of Uber and Airbnb for parking,” says Matt Martin, chief product officer and one of four founders of FanSpotz. “FanSpotz connects local property owners living near popular event venues – who have spare space for parking (yards, lots, driveways) – and event attendees looking for parking. We are the solution for games, concerts, festivals and other live events where the surge in parking demand overwhelms traditional parking infrastructure.”
Northwest Arkansas has experienced robust growth in recent decades. The region has added approximately 28 people a day since 2010, and more than 33 people a day since 2017, putting it among the fastest growing metropolitan areas in the country.
With such rapid growth, it’s not hard to understand why parking infrastructure is struggling to catch up to the population swell. And with a number of large event venues and big-ticket sporting events occurring regularly, parking can quickly become difficult. FanSpotz was created to meet that growing need.
“We’re huge Razorback football fans. So, we experience the same parking woes that everyone else does on game day,” says Steven Zapata, chief customer officer and co-founder of FanSpotz. “Traffic is chaotic; roads are closed and traditional parking is limited. We thought, ‘If it’s this tough for us, as University of Arkansas alumni, what is the experience like for those unfamiliar with the area?’ If only we could create an app that helped fans navigate directly to a parking spot. And with that, FanSpotz was born.”
According to Tony Lee, chief technology officer and fellow co-founder, the crew hit the ground running to turn their idea into a reality.
“We were working long nights and weekends, in addition to our 60-hour-per-week day jobs,” he says. “All of the app development was done by us, and we leveraged our professional networks for everything from marketing to legal advice. From there, we tested, learned and iterated to create a product that matched the needs of our users.”
The technology utilized by FanSpotz users is available anywhere there is Wifi or cell service. However, the team is focusing its efforts to grow the company in the Northwest Arkansas region, for now.
“We’ve focused our efforts on Northwest Arkansas in the initial stages,” says Toni Gemper, chief strategy officer. “We are currently finalizing our launch plan for new markets, but I can tell you we are heavily considering some of the larger metropolitan areas within driving distance of Northwest Arkansas.”
And though the company is still young, having released just before the 2017 Razorback football season, they’ve seen plenty to validate their idea.
“In early October, there was a large concert in Bentonville and a Razorback football game in Fayetteville on the same day,” says Hunt Nosari, product manager. “It was inspiring to see more than 50 available parking spots for these two events. This made it clear to us that the app was catching on and that users could see the value.”
But as is the case with any growing startup, the company has seen its fair share of challenges.
“Our team is composed of professionals with Fortune 1 experience,” says Shauna Bowen, CEO and fellow co-founder. “Sounds like a positive, right? Well, in the startup world, it’s all about moving with speed, adapting quickly and taking risks. So, it’s sometimes hard for us to shake our slower, more methodical instincts and instead think like entrepreneurs.”
Those challenges have helped forge FanSpotz into one of the most promising application-based companies to call Arkansas home. According to Bowen, the entire team has learned a lot during the process.
“Take chances, fail fast and learn from your mistakes,” she says. “Then, do it all over again. Stagnation is failure.”