A couple days ago I stopped by a neat warehouse in downtown Baltimore called Second Chance. The motto of the place is “Retrain, Reclaim, Renew!” Essentially the idea is to deconstruct buildings instead of demolishing them. This saves materials, valuable resources, and money. After deconstructing a building Second Chance takes building materials as well as furniture, cabinets, sinks, toilets, vanities, counter-tops, statues, mirrors, etc. and sells them in this warehouse. If you need to buy building material or need a hard to-find part, say a doorknob or handle, Second Chance most likely has it.
There is a lot of really cool and interesting things that Second Chance carries in it's 200,000 sq. foot warehouse. However, the most interesting item that this Auto Journalist and Blogger found there was a 4-wheeled vehicle, of course. That was the above pictured 19th Century Romanian Wagon that was up for sale. For a cool $4,500 you could take it home. Unfortunately I don't have that kind of money or space to store a wagon, but if you do I recommend going down to Second Chance to check it out!
The Romanian Wagon made me think about how far modern society has come since the horse-drawn carriage days and how automobiles have changed the way people get around. Imagine having to operate this wagon with a horse? People complain a lot of about maintaining cars, fueling them up, and washing then, etc. Think how they have made transportation so much easier and more efficient. (Funny thing is some farmers and people in many parts of the world still use these types of horse drawn carriages to till soil and to get around.)
The wagon is representative of Second Chance as a whole in my opinion. Just because something is old, worn, or isn't cutting edge technology doesn't mean it doesn't have value or can't be used by someone. However, I am glad I didn't have to use the wagon to get to and from Second Chance.
Here is an interview I did with Nick Miller, Co-Founder and CEO of ParkingPanda.com on October 4th, 2011. This will give you an inside perspective on an internet startup and what it takes to get it started. This is Part 1 of the interview, stay tuned for Part 2 and Part 3. I thought it would make it easier to read and be more fun to post the interview in parts. If you haven't already check out my article on ParkingPanda.
Nick Miller: We just got back from NY, we were in a tech accelerator up there. Now we are located right down the street here. (Canton in Starbucks).
Adam: Cool. How many employees do you have?
NM: It's just the two of us now. Two of us run it full time, myself and Adam [Zilberbaum]. We have contract help that is helping us and an intern that is helping us as well.
A: What was the flash of genius? Where did the idea come from?
NM: I have sort of experienced both sides of the problem. I went to Georgetown. When I was living in DC I actually at one point had a townhouse with a driveway. So I was sitting there with an empty driveway and I wasn't doing anything with it. After I had moved out I was up here [Baltimore] at a Raven's game and there was a guy standing there with a cardboard sign, “Park Here $15 bucks” over at Federal Hill, way cheaper and way faster to do that, so I parked in the driveway. Having experienced both sides of the inefficiencies of parking, “There has got to be a better way to do exactly this!” Why can't I just put this guy's driveway online, and not drive around and hand this guy some cash! So it was actually having experienced both sides of it. It made it apparent this needed to be done.
A: Yeah I actually live right near the Hopkins campus, pretty close to the stadium. People park all up and down our street. A few years ago I actually kind of had the same idea. You should be able to just put this online or something. Hey, we do have spaces here!
NM: Once in awhile sometimes people post on Craigslist and it is so inefficient. You gotta sit around your house waiting for the guy to come with $10 dollars, so is it really worth it? [With ParkingPanda] People don't even have to be there, you can set it up once and never do anything again.
A: What is your main market for the website? Who is using it?
NM: We are starting out targeting people going to events. Ravens football games. We launched at the Grand Prix here in Baltimore. That was our first big event. Just because the demand around events is larger. It is really apparent really big. People see the value immediately around events. Ultimately we want to grow it away from events to people going to dinner in the city, or going shopping, and also long term for commuters as well. If you are gone from your space everyday, you're right by Hopkins, from work and you know there is an Hopkins employee that could pay you $50 or $75 a month instead $150 for a garage. They could just come rent the same space everyday.
A: Really ultimately anytime you need parking in a high-density area, this should be an option?
NM: Not that everyone is going to use it as opposed to a garage, but it should be an option. Hopefully a lower cost more efficient option.
A: So I am renting out my space and let's say I need it. How do you work out those types of issues?
NM: So there is a really easy calendar on the site. You can actually set when it's available and the amount of time. So if you know you are gone every Tuesday and it's free, you can make it available every Tuesday. You are home every Wednesday and Thursday you don't have to make it available. If you want to set it, as long as nobody has booked, you can change it at any point in time. You are going out of town for a month, you can make it available for a whole month or if you are sick and going to be home for the whole week you can take it off the market.
A: Is it a Google Calendar?
NM: We have our own calendar built in. Basically you can click or drag over dates. You can set when it's available and when it is not. It is one of the reasons we started off launching around events around daily parking, you rent it for the whole day. Basically what you need for the event, even if you are not there for the whole day. We reduce a lot of the complexities around “I get home around 5, what if someone is still in my driveway at 5:15?” Obviously we can deal with that, but it creates more and more complexities the more you do that. So we are starting off with dailies, but we will do monthly and hourly as well.
A: How many people are on the site currently?
NM: The first weekend at the Grand Prix we booked about 117 spaces over the course of the weekend. I think it was 117, it was just over 115. Now what we have been focusing on is we want to have a large inventory of spaces before we have tons of people who try to book spaces. If they come to book spaces and they aren't any there, it's useless! So we have close to 40 spaces in our inventory now. In any given time, not all those are available. In the middle of the week on Tuesday, you might only have 4-5. On a game day, for a Ravens Game, there will probably be 20. Some people list once a month, some people list their spaces every day. It really varies. We are really focused on filling up our inventory more and more. Once we have 100 spaces in our inventory, every day there will be a lot of value in different neighborhoods and different parts of the city. Once we have that inventory it will be useful.
A: Do you see expanding to parking buses, rvs, or other vehicles?
NM: We think that the community model is lot more compelling than a lot of the other models. We have talked to parking garages before and ultimately we may do some work with parking garages and help people make relations with parking garages, but really that takes care of the issue of whether parking is available before you leave home. It doesn't help you avoid the traffic of the garage and it doesn't necessarily save you as much money. Plus you are not helping out your community making a little extra money as well. From a parking space owners side, in a bad economy it's a little more. Why not make a little extra cash?
A: Do you have a expected growth rate? Currently you are just in Baltimore, right? You want to move into other cities?
NM: We will be in DC soon. DC is the next city. We will probably roll out to DC in 2 months or less. In Baltimore we launched first we only have a certain number of inventory. In DC we won't launch until we have say 50 parking spaces there. That way as soon as we go live, we will launch around an event down there, as soon as we go live there will already by a lot inventory and spaces. We are already building the inventory in DC, so that when we go live there will be a lot of parking space available. After DC we will go to Philadelphia. We will focus on those close markets first, because it is a great way optimize what works, what doesn't. We can refine what we are doing. Once we really have if figured out in Baltimore, DC, and Philly. Then we will expand more Boston, Chicago, San Francisco. Start moving North, start moving West. Baltimore and DC and great markets. We really want to figure out that best way to do it and it's a great place to figure that out.
Not only was there a Chevy Volt on display at the Inner Harbor there was also a Chevy Cruze. Not quite as exciting as a Volt, but I took pictures anyway. By the way GM, if you read this, putting a Chevy Cruze in Baltimore's Inner Harbor is not going to convince me to buy one. If you did not take bailout money and built good cars… then I might consider it.
A few weeks ago I was walking around the Inner Harbor. When I was walking by the National Aquarium I saw something interesting… a Chevy Volt! The Chevy Volt is GM's media-darling electric car that also has a regular gas engine. It can go for 40 miles on the electric engine, but then you can use the gas engine to go further. It is great place because of the high foot traffic. (Of course, I was the only person interested enough to stop and look at the car.) If you want to check-out the Chevy Volt, go down to the Inner Harbor. I am not sure if it is still there though!
Baltimore had an amazing 3-day Labor Day weekend with the Inaugural Baltimore Grand Prix. It had everything you could ask for. huge crowds, good food, checkered flag-girls, tons of media, and a whole lot of fast cars.
In the Izod IndyCar series Will Powers won the Baltimore Grand Prix in a stunning victory. He came out early in the race commanding the track over his rivals and won with 10+ second lead. The win wasn't a complete surprise as he lead the pack during practices. Second place runner up was Oriol Servia, who felt his name helped him in the humble city of Baltimore (Oriol translates from Spanish meaning Oriole. Passing Camden Yards must have been good luck!) He came from a 14th place start. Third place runner up was Tony Kanaan, who rallied from a 27th place start and recovered from an interesting accident where he flew over Helio Castroneves during the warmup session.
In the American Le Mans series Guy Smith won the in LMP1 class, Kyle Marcelli in LMPC, Wolf Henzler in GT. An accident where he lost one of his tires during a qualifying lap could not keep Jeroen Bleekemolen from winning in the GTC class. Amazingly he jumped out of his car grabbed the tire put it into his car and drove into the pits to get it installed. Luckily nobody was injured and nor was Jeroen's Porsche 911 GT3 racing car. A great win for Jeroen!
It's clear this was a great event for Baltimore. “We've set the stage to make this a staple event for Baltimore and the region…We had 160,000 fans over the 3 days.” commented Jay Davidson president of Baltimore Racing Development, the private company that oversaw the planning for the Baltimore Grand Prix. “Baltimore has a successful event to build upon for next year and for years to come.” exclaimed Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, The Mayor of Baltimore. Scott Artherton president of the American Le Mans series added, “For a first time event. Honestly it could not have gone better.”
Many drivers commented on how great the weekend went. Will Powers winner of the Baltimore Grand Prix noted, “That was the best podium ceremony of my career!” Other drivers lauded the event as well. “I couldn't believe the incredible number of fans who came out all three days. Street courses are always a good way to draw a good crowd, and the way the circuit was laid out… reminded me of the huge events we've had at places like Surfers Paradise, Long Beach, and Toronto… I know we as drivers loved racing in Baltimore.” said Helio Castroneves on ESPN.com. Tony Kanaan, third place runner up, “It's a beautiful track, bumpy and interesting.” Oriol Servia “This track is a challenge for both drivers and engineers… I think it is fun.” Scott Artherton on all the positive feedback from drivers, “Race car drivers are the first ones to offer up an opinion. Normally it is not constructive and normally it is not good.”
Fans were extremely pleased with the event as well. “It's awesome. I go to a lot of these races, Long Beach, St Petersburg, Indianapolis. Top-notch street course for sure!” said Peter Romero, an Albuquerque Lawyer and immense race fan. “This could be the second crown jewel in the IndyCar circuit…This venue is nicer than Long Beach. It's crazy! It's a perfect storm for a street course.” referring to all the hotels and accommodations located around the track. Many other fans and spectators were equally pleased and enthusiastic about the weekend.
Even with all the delays on getting the track open on Friday for practices, issues seemed to get resolved for the rest of the weekend. “It's part of the growing pains of dealing with a new track and new race.” said an Andretti Autosport team member whom I spoke with about the delays. The general confusion among the staff seemed to be resolved as the weekend went on as well. Everything was smoothed out by Sunday.
This was the first big racing event for the Mid-Atlantic region since Washington DC had a Grand Prix race in 2002. IndyCar and American Le Mans feel this is a market that needed to be tapped and judging from the crowds, they could not have been more right. It was truly amazing the sheer number of people all weekend.. The energy was sky-high everywhere. The event was blessed with great weather, as it came after Hurricane Irene and before an immense amount of rain in Baltimore the following week. The fans, drivers, media, and policy makers of Baltimore have spoken and many hope racing will be here for a long time to come.
Yesterday there was a press conference regarding how Baltimore's economy benefited from the Baltimore Grand Prix. I was invited and attended to hear what they had to say and even got to ask a question. Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, the Mayor of Baltimore, and Jay Davidson, president of Baltimore Racing Development were in attendance. To my surprise Terry Angstadt, the Indycar Commissioner, was in attendance as well as Scott Atherton, president of American Le Mans series.
The early numbers look good. Hotel revenue taken from 11 hotels around the track had a 44% increase in revenue from last Labor Day weekend. City parking garages showed a 119% increase in revenue. (No shit! They charged $40 for a parking spot.) The media coverage is valued at 3.5 million, which I am not sure how that is tallied. Jay Davidson said, “We spent more than 3 million dollars on local vendors.” which included D&T welding and Sparks Fencing. So obviously a lot of money was spent with Maryland businesses to put on the event.
I thought there would be more numbers on how the weekend went. More comprehensive numbers will be released by Forward Analytics on October 1st after Baltimore's Mayoral election on September 13th. Mmm… I find that very interesting. Don't you? Rawlings-Blake, “I don't have any preliminary numbers. As soon as I do I will make them available.” It's early but with computers you can't come up with numbers faster?
After leaving and talking with several of the PR and Marketing bigwigs of the city, I realized this press conference was mainly to applaud the people who put on the Baltimore Grand Prix. Nothing is wrong with that, since it did take a leap of faith. I was expecting some better numbers though. We will wait and see.
Pictures from the 2011 Inaugural Baltimore Grand Prix! It was an awesome event. It made me want to jump in a car and drive fast! The first day was shaky and not well organized (that is really an understatement) but by Saturday and Sunday the operation was a lot smoother. You can check out more pictures on my Flickr page. Even more pictures to come. I hope to see more great racing next year in Baltimore.