Entrepreneurship: From start-up competition to company
As a sophomore, Jennifer Ding ’15 started the company that would become ParkIT at a Rice 3-Day Startup competition. She and fellow electrical and computer engineering students then turned it into their senior capstone design project. ParkIT collects parking data with cameras, transmits it to a secure server and uses a computer-vision algorithm to detect available spaces.
While at Rice, ParkiT placed second in the Rice Undergraduate Venture Challenge, which was “a big boost for the project,” Ding said.
Today, her start-up has two full-time employees, and was recently part of the Jaguar Land Rover Tech Incubator in Portland, Oregon. The six-month program centers on supporting startups that use technologies that can be integrated into vehicles and their environments. ParkIT was one of only 12 companies selected for the incubator.
Currently, Ding is in the process of re-locating to Dallas, and expects to have 500 parking spaces by the end of 2016.
“ParkIT moved to Portland to join the Jaguar Land Rover Tech Incubator from January to July 2016,” said Ding. “We have set up ParkIT in Portland, Edmonton Canada, and soon Louisville, Kentucky.”
ParkIT uses technology to help parking lot owners manage traffic flow with real-time data. Ding’s idea was born from frustration she felt in approaching a parking space she thought was empty, only to discover a car was there. With her system, both lot owners and drivers can see on an app which spaces in the parking lot are available.
Her idea is rapidly gaining traction. Ding pitched ParkIT at the OPEN Houston conference’s business plan competition and won $10,000 to further develop her business. The annual conference is geared to help entrepreneurs network with each other and potential partners. It also hosts seminars and discussions about business development and tools for entrepreneurial success.
“Following the Canada sale, we are setting up a few more pilots across the U.S.,” she said.
The company has also applied for Love’s Travel Stops to incorporate ParkIT into their parking lots.