What's an online service with real-time info on parking spots in California doing in Flint, Mich.? Showing the lengths a downbeaten region will go for startups—and the distance entrepreneurs may have to travel for their new businesses. Rick Warner, 48, founder and chief executive of ParkingCarma, started sketching out a Web-based parking database in 2002 after driving around San Francisco for 45 minutes one day looking for a place to park. By early 2007, he had everything ready. The last step was moving 2,400 miles to claim up to $2 million in public and private backing in Flint. He says he had little choice: "Frankly, parking isn't sexy to really get venture capital interested in it." Visitors to parkingcarma.com can find location and rate information about public garages in 70 markets. In addition, for $9.99 a year, registered users in San Francisco and San Diego can reserve spaces via a computer, PDA, or mobile phone. Warner hopes to add that service in Los Angeles, Chicago, and Detroit in 2009. The 11-employee company also gets revenue from ads and a percentage of what customers pay for parking.
—Manuel Baigorri (posted on December 2, 2008)