One Ohio State student is looking to help off-campus residents and local businesses market their extra parking spots on gamedays through a new online company. The site, however, is still working on preventing legal liabilities.
Andrew Yanai, a third–year in industrial and systems engineering, founded SpotShark LLC with three friends – recent OSU graduate in business marketing Tyler Jack, software developer Scott Ziegler and mechanical engineer Herman Singh.
Jack said he and Yanai, who met through OSU’s Business Builders Club, met Ziegler and Singh last March at Startup Weekend Columbus, an event where young entrepreneurs learn about starting businesses and pitch ideas to investors, according to the event’s website.
Yanai’s group won first place for its design of a company that would allow off-campus residents and local businesses to sell their property’s parking in advance to people attending OSU football games over a website they developed called SpotShark, Ziegler said.
“The main feature is essentially to resell parking,” Ziegler said. “If someone owns a parking spot they aren’t using, we allow them to put it online through our market place to sell it at a premium. They can sell their spot long prior to the event. It allows people to make money on an asset they already have.”
People looking to sell their parking can list spots for as much as they want on SpotShark’s website. Spots anywhere can be posted, but the site focuses on spots posted close to campus that are available for gamedays. Customers can then browse locations and prices of available parking spots through an interactive map of the surrounding OSU area. To reserve a spot, customers can pay online using Stripe, an online payment website. The owner of the parking spot is then sent a payment check, Singh said.
So far this season, about 30 people have registered near OSU, Jack said.
Jack said the idea behind the site is simple.
“It’s an easy way for students to make cash,” Jack said. “We’re not trying to rip people off. It’s providing a market place for people trying to find and sell parking spaces.”
SpotShark takes 13 percent of every sale, Jack said. Currently, he said spots are priced from $20 to $50.
“We charge the person buying the spot 10 percent for the reservation feature and we charge the seller 3 percent for services — the 3 percent credit card transaction cost from Stripe,” Jack said.
Singh said the company is working on solutions for possible legal issues its patrons could face for selling parking they don’t technically own, including developing some type of alert or reminder telling students to obtain approval from their property’s landlord before registering their spots.
Ziegler said the group is also working to create a self-monitoring site by developing a ratings system that would show the favorability of previously rented spots to potential buyers in efforts to mitigate illegitimacy issues.
Until then, the four men are manually monitoring their company for scams, Ziegler said.
“There is always going to be some degree of fraud,” Ziegler said. “We are interested to see how it will happen — how people will try to swindle us and ways we can basically engineer the system around it.”
Ziegler said he hopes there aren’t many problems.
“We are kind of hoping because both parties have an economic stake in the thing, people will generally behave themselves,” Ziegler said.
Molly Philipps, a staff attorney at OSU Student Legal Services, said she recommends students check their lease provisions before registering their off-campus residential parking on SpotShark’s website.
“I’ve seen a number of provisions in leases for off-campus houses that would be in question in a situation like this,” Philipps said. “There are a lot of leases that restrict parking solely to residents. I know also some provisions in leases that actually say that parking is a privilege of the lease agreement and not a right provided to the tenant — this could create some problems. You can’t give that right to a third party without your landlord’s consent.”
Selling property without landlord approval could prompt landlords to take legal action against students, depending on individual lease agreements, Philipps said.
Off-campus parking requiring a parking pass is also subject to potential lawsuits from property owners if registered on SpotShark without prior consent, Student Legal Services managing director Molly Hegarty said.
Besides property issues, Philipps said students should be concerned about tax implications if they are receiving income from registering their property’s parking.
“It’s very possible that any money (students are) receiving from this company could be something that could be qualified as income and therefore taxable,” Philipps said.
As far as OSU’s role in parking goes, OSU spokeswoman for Administration and Planning Lindsay Komlanc said the university is only concerned with on-campus spots.
“The university’s scope as it relates to gameday parking is limited to parking operations on university property,” she said in an email. “These operations are directed by the university and implemented by CampusParc. Our interest is that everyone can make informed decisions about parking safely and legally, and the university provides significant information about the options available for university parking to assist in this effort.”
Jenna Radcliffe, a second-year in forensic biology, said she would consider using the SpotShark site.
“If I had to find another parking spot for one day and I get paid for that, that’d be nice,” Radcliffe said.
Radcliffe said she didn’t think her lease agreement mentioned anything about parking privileges but would check with her landlord before listing her parking.
If enough students are successful at legally registering their parking through SpotShark, the four founders hope to eventually develop a SpotShark app and expand, Jack said.
“It’s not a hard model to expand,” Jack said. “You need a market and to get in contact with business owners, and that’s going to be the hardest part, but with the website, it’s not like you have to build a store.”
Before that, though, they’re waiting for company funding to increase, Ziegler said.
“We are seeking funding,” Ziegler said. “But we are not seeking funding to the detriment of our ability to kind of get things started. We are going to prove it before we go looking for seed-route funding.”
Jack said the founders are hoping to get somewhere between $100,000 and $200,000 this winter to help with hiring and operations.
Jack, too, said the founders aren’t rushing anything.
“This is our job, our baby,” Jack said. “We want to do it right, we want it to work out.”