In honor of National Entrepreneur Day (Nov. 19), SJSU is highlighting the stories of Spartan founders who got their start at San Jose State.
Sameer Saran, ’18 MS Computer Engineering, was expecting rigorous course work, hands-on experience and a cultural transition when he moved to Silicon Valley from India in 2016. What wasn’t he expecting? To spend the first 30 minutes of class circling for a parking spot. Within his first few months at SJSU, Saran knew he wanted to devise a creative solution to address parking and traffic on and off campus. Armed with a bachelor’s degree in automobile engineering and robotics from Rajiv Gandhi Prodyogiki Vishwavidyalaya University in India, Saran originally envisioned ParkStash as a sensor that could communicate parking availability to drivers. When he presented this idea at the 2017 Silicon Valley Business Plan Competition, however, Saran received some critical feedback from Hooman Bolandi, ’97 Mechanical Engineering, one of the judges.
“He told me to focus on the software, to forget about the hardware,” says Saran. “He said, ‘Make something that connects people.'”
Saran went back to the drawing board. He redesigned ParkStash as an app that connects landowners with unused parking spaces to drivers seeking spots. When he pitched the concept at the 2018 Business Plan Competition, Bolandi was once again on the judges panel. Not only was he impressed by Saran’s revised model, he agreed to invest in it, becoming ParkStash’s co-founder and president.
ParkStash formally partnered with SJSU in early 2019 and worked with Parking Solutions to inform students about local spots and give live occupancy statuses in SJSU garages. Since SJSU’s fall 2019 semester started, users have created more than 1,850 bookings on the app. The app now has 7,650 users and more than 300 parking spots available to book. Drivers can book 100 percent guaranteed parking spaces on hourly, daily, weekly or monthly basis and landowners can make steady passive income by renting their unused parking spots.
Founded: 2017, product launch 2019
Mission: Create a more sustainable vision for parking by fully using all available spots.
Staff: Sameer Saran, CEO; Hooman Bolandi, co-founder and president; Abhaya Uprety, co-founder and backend and Android developer; Oemer Baydar, system architecture and iOS developer.
Biggest lessons learned: Entrepreneurship is iterative. If a function doesn’t work or customers share critical feedback, listen. Use the information to improve the product or service. Develop strong partnerships with clients, community partners and target audiences.
Revenue streams: ParkStash takes 20 percent of every parking fee transaction between car owner and property owner.
Problems they solve: Improving parking, which reduces one’s carbon footprint, improves air quality, reduces traffic, offers revenue for property owners and lessens the cost of parking for students and community members.
Challenges faced: Garnering community buy-in. It took several months of knocking on doors to convince property owners to rent out their carports. Improving the user experience and user interface of the app in response to user feedback. Prioritizing which feedback the team can address in a timely manner.
Vision for the future: ParkStash hopes to branch out to private businesses that have parking (i.e. churches, community lots, laundromats). They hope to install security cameras at all ParkStash locations to enforce security and they want to improve the customer experience for both those seeking parking and those offering space.
Phase of development: Growth
What gives him hope: “We want to see more and more startups like Ambii or ParkStash helping solve real problems and creating jobs in Silicon Valley. We’re not all job seekers; we’re from a university that helps create jobs.” —Sameer Saran, ’18 MS Computer Engineering