Instead of scrounging Craigslist and Facebook for a long-term parking space, now drivers can find—or “float out”—a parking space with the new startup Float Parking.
Like Airbnb for parking, Float—founded by a trio of 2020 UNC grads—offers month-to-month parking space rentals through its platform. It’s free for “hosts” to list their parking spaces, while renters browse the listings for the best option.
Jackson Perry, Float’s Co-Founder and Chief Strategy Officer, says that in addition to individuals who might own an extra spot, many organizations have excess parking capacity. Those organizations could be the ones to benefit—especially now, when so many businesses have been hurt by the coronavirus pandemic.
“Our product is helping small businesses, churches and property developers manage, promote and then monetize their space, by promoting this open market where people can compare prices and locations,” Perry said. “And then also helping students, faculty and local residents find, pay for and reserve parking.”
The Float software—which Co-Founder and CTO Ian Edwards coded from scratch—lets users search for a location and returns results with parking options and pricing. It uses the Stripe payment platform.
Since the beta launch in January 2020, Float has been accepting hopeful renters to a waitlist that has over 200 people. The platform already has 10 property owners using it and has brokered the sale of 22 spots—and counting.
The three co-founders, who all just finished their time at UNC, have shared the struggles of so many others in Chapel Hill: Parking in the popular college town is either unavailable, or wildly expensive.
When CEO Bryan Guin was a first-year student, he needed a car at school so he could make the trip home to Fairfax, Va., but UNC prohibits first years from parking on campus. He resorted to Craigslist to make a deal to park in a stranger’s driveway, which Guin says was not a good price or location.
Guin teamed up with Kenan-Flagler classmates Perry and Edwards, and in the fall of 2019 they began developing their idea as part of the Startup UNC venture course.
LAUNCHed To Other College Towns
In Spring 2020, they joined the LAUNCH Chapel Hill accelerator where, while still full-time students, they worked among a cohort of adult entrepreneurs to hone their idea. Edwards says the experience allowed them to gain perspectives besides just those of students and learn about the fabric of the community. They also refined other aspects of the business.
Float takes a small service fee, roughly 10-14 percent, on each transaction, which means the hosts don’t get charged until they make money themselves. The renter pays at the beginning of each month until they cancel the service.
“That allows for some flexibility on the renter’s side,” Edwards said, “and it makes the payout process for the parking lots pretty simple because money just hits the bank account each month in a consistent way for all renters.”
Guin says Float solves a common problem, but one that is compounded in college towns, where the young population regularly shifts living and transportation arrangements.
“We realized that this sort of a website could be really useful,” he said, “especially in college campuses where there are huge student populations that are transient, in that they come in during the school year and then they leave.”
Float has been expanding to Penn State and the University of Michigan over the summer, schools in college towns similar to Chapel Hill. The startup has three summer interns, all from UNC—one each assigned to Penn State and Michigan, plus one working on sustainability. The co-founders also have plans to hire three UNC undergrads to work on a pricing algorithm.
Long term, the company wants to establish a presence in the college town niche, with ideas to expand into hourly parking, commercial garages and even storage units. Edwards says their biggest goal, though, is continuing to provide a turnkey solution.
“We want to provide efficient and flexible use of any real estate beyond its traditional uses,” he said.