HotSpot Parking began as a product that allows consumers to pay parking meters remotely through their cellphones. But as it passed through two accelerators — ACelr8 at Planet Hatch and Launch36 — the company has refined its product and the focus of its technology.
When he presented the company at the Launch36 DemoDay last month, CEO Phillip Curley said the company is now operating in Fredericton and Saint John and hopes to be on the streets of Halifax in the autumn. And the aim is to help to sustain downtown businesses in these and other cities.
“What we’re all about is connecting cities,” said Curley. “Every city is growing but the downtown cores are in trouble.”
The HotSpot technology allows the remote payment of parking meters. Drivers can feed the meter without interrupting their shopping or meetings. Or merchants can use a cellphone to pay a customer’s parking, rather than have the customer run out of the store to feed the meter and never return.
But that’s only what the driver sees in the solution.
In the past year, Curley and his team have advanced their system so it produces invaluable data for downtown businesses. Hotspot Parking allows these businesses to advertise directly to customers through their cellphones. And because of the geolocation capabilities of cellphones, the company can track how many people respond to their ads, who returns and who spends money.
The system is now bringing in about 20 to 40 customers a month for a restaurant, said Curley, enough of a boost that it makes it worthwhile for the operator to subscribe to HotSpot.
Curley said that a small business can now spend $2,000 to $4,000 a month on radio ads, which is not focused on its customers and has no way of tracking the ad’s effectiveness. But with HotSpot parking, the business proprietor knows when a customer is nearby, can send a targeted ad and see whether it works.
“It doesn’t matter if I only brought in five customers as long as I can prove I brought in those five customers,” he said.
There are now about 100 businesses in New Brunswick that use the service, up about 10 fold from late last year. The company has a strong pipeline of other companies planning to subscribe. And about 3,500 individuals have signed up for the parking app — a figure that is growing 20 per cent per month.
“We’ve got to keep growing it. There are 12,000 people in the Fredericton downtown daily, so what can we do to excite these people and get them enrolled.”
Curley is still looking to grow the company. In terms of geography, HotSpot has identified 400 advanced cities in North America and has already contacted 175 of them. In terms of products, the company is looking at expanding into a transit service.
The company has already raised $325,000 in equity funding from angels and other investors, and added about $175,000 from government programs.