Fed up with Chicago parking? Skokie native’s got the ticket
Skokie native Jeremy Smith, 26 (left), founded SpotHero with Mark Lawrence. They both grew up in the suburbs but created a service to ease the burden of parking in the city. | Photo courtesy of SpotHero
NAME: Jeremy Smith
BEST KNOWN AS: Founder of SpotHero.com, a Chicago parking-discount service
Updated: November 26, 2012 6:07AM
SKOKIE — For most people, $3,500 in parking and assorted other tickets never had this kind of happy ending.
But 26-year-old Skokie native Jeremy Smith isn’t most people.
“I was tired of paying all this money for tickets,” Smith said. “I was ready to do something about it.”
Smith’s parking miseries turned out to be others’ relief — especially those others who have tried parking in the city for several hours without having to mortgage their homes. Smith began an entrepreneurial career in creating SpotHero and partnering with Mark Lawrence and Larry Kiss for his successful ride.
It was Smith’s idea to create a Priceline or Orbitz of sorts for Chicago parking. There are potential spaces in the city that go unused so isn’t it better for vendor and customer to have that space filled at a discount rate?
“Growing up in the suburbs, one of the most frustrating parts of coming to the city was parking,” Smith explained. “For drivers in Chicago, it’s always a hassle finding a spot. SpotHero solves the problem by making parking easy and transparent. With SpotHero, I don’t have to worry about where I’m going to park because they always have options ready.”
Smith attended McCracken Middle School and Niles North High School while growing up in Skokie, all the while knowing he wanted to be some kind of a business owner. He became more serious about business ownership and becoming an entrepreneur at the University of Illinois, where he majored in finance. Following college, Smith worked in finance at Motorola, but he ultimately left looking for a new idea.
The new idea found him.
“The system got me,” he said about his plethora of parking tickets. “I was never the biggest fan of using public parking and so I was always parking where I wasn’t supposed to. I thought that there had to be better options.”
SpotHero is an online service where spaces at discounted prices can be had for a day, during an event or on a month-to-month basis. While people can make their reservations at www.SpotHero.Com or by calling (312) 566-SPOT (7768), an iPhone SpotHero application was also recently released.
SpotHero is part of Excelerate Labs, an intensive accelerator program for Chicago startups driven by successful entrepreneurs and investors. The program works with the Top 10 startup companies providing mentoring services and a full-equipped workspace.
Smith presented the SpotHero pitch in August to more than 400 investors from across the country. He said it’s likely SpotHero services will expand into other towns.
Smith and his partners took on quite a workload when SpotHero first started up about two years ago, but the business now employs 10 full-time people.
“I found what I love to do,” he said. “I wish there were more entrepreneurs willing to move forward on their ideas because it can be so individually rewarding.”
That reward may never have come had Smith not experienced the annoyance that so many Chicagoans experience day after day: An expensive ticket on their windshield greeting them when they return to their cars.