Hunt Valley Cars and Coffee

Hunt Valley Cars and Coffee is having it's 6-month anniversary tomorrow morning.  My friend Gypsy Jack has told me it's turned into quite a big and fun “gearhead” meetup for people from around Maryland and Pennsylvania.  People will even drive up from Virginia for Hunt Valley Cars and Coffee to my understanding.

The Hunt Valley Cars and Coffee not only attracts a wide range of people, but cars and vehicles are diverse too.  Classics, tuners, exotics, sportbikes, cruisers, lowriders, hot rods, etc.  You name it, someone is going to come by with it, probably has, or eventually will.  Check out some pictures from Hunt Valley Cars and Coffee.

Where: Hunt Valley Towne Centre, 118 Shawan Rd, Hunt Valley MD, 21030

When: Saturdays, 7:30 am – 10:30 am

Why: Because you like talking with other gearheads!

People usually gather in front of the closed Best Buy, since that is where the most parking is.  Most people go over to Caribou Coffee to get coffee.  Some people stay until 10:30 but I believe most are out of there by 9:30.

FYI after or before) Cars and Coffee I would recommend going to the Pennsylvania Dutch Market on York Rd.  All you do is take a right on York Rd and go for about half a mile and then turn left onto Ashland Rd.  The baked goods, donuts, and food there is AMAZING and it's run by Amish.  Also the coffee here will be better in my opinion.  It's a great thing to do if you have out-of-town guests or want to treat yourself.  The Amish have me hooked on their apple fritters and cookies!

Is Ford’s “Parisian Pinball Park” Commercial One of the Best Auto Commercials of All Time?

Ford has a very edgy and interesting ad in Europe which is aimed at promoting Ford's Active Park Assist feature.  This essentially helps drivers that have trouble parallel parking handle the tightest of parking spaces.  How Ford choose to convey this feature is very interesting as they titled the YouTube ad “The Parisian Pinball Park.”

Personally I think this is one of the best auto commercials I have ever seen.  It is edgy, smart, funny, and gets the point across of what Ford is trying to sell.   Watch the commercial and let me know what you think.

BumpShox Protects Front Bumpers from Bad Drivers

BumpShox, Front Bumper Protection!

Do you hate it when bad drivers hit your bumper? Sooo annoying… especially if it's a brand new car!

BumpShox might be your solution. The BumpShox bumper protector is a relatively new foam-based automotive product that looks like a big oversized license plate holder (well it is), but it is a bumper protector. It fits in place of any standard license plate and can be installed easily on virtually any car.

I have been testing the BumpShox for awhile, on several vehicles. I liked using the BumpShox on all of our cars (a 2002 Toyota Camry, 1996 Honda Accord.) Not that it really adds to the look of the Camry or Accord, but it sure is a conversation starter when people notice it, point, and ask “Hey, what's that?”

However, one of the points of the The BumpShox is it's unobtrusive, small, and does not detract too much from the look of the car, at least when compared to other bumper protectors. Typically other bumper protectors or bumper guards will cover the whole bumper and are pretty damn ugly. What's the point of owning a Mustang if you can't enjoy the beautiful lines?

For the most part the BumpShox is not that noticeable. Once you get used to it, it's sort of a fun little addition to your car.

On one of my roadtrips, I parked my Accord in a large parking lot with a few cars. You would assume there was little use for a BumpShox in this situation. When I came out of the store, to my surprise someone had parked a tad to close to my car! The BumpShox was cushioning my car's bumper against a hideous Dodge Caliber.  (Who drives a Caliber anyway?)  I was quite pleased with this and the BumpShox saved me a a weekend of DIY bodywork, which probably would have come out with bad results.

So for protecting your front bumper against stupid and bad drivers, even in large parking lots, the BumpShox can work well.

Where the BumpShox supposedly really shines is in tight parallel parking spaces in cities. The only issue is that it is only going to protect your bumper when you are in the space or parking and moving forward to reposition your car.

Because the BumpShox is unobtrusive and small it won't protect the majority of your bumper at various angles when parking. Only slow front end taps will the foam cushion work.

For complete bumper protection, the BumpShox is not necessarily ideal. Of course larger bumper protectors that cover your whole bumper cost $150+. That's a lot to shell out! If you are tired of having bad drivers hit your beautiful bumper, the $35 bucks it costs to buy a BumpShox is probably a good investment. If you want to buy two, it will cost $60.

I can't guarantee that the BumpShox will work in all situations. For light front-end taps and bumper protection from bad drivers who can't park, even in a large parking lot, it did it's job well on my Accord. That's good enough for me! 🙂

RelayRides Takes Peer-to-Peer Car Sharing Nationwide

RelayRides

RelayRides, the world's first peer-to-peer car sharing service, is breaking out of San Francisco and Boston and is launching nationwide today. “Anybody in the country will be able to enroll their car and rent [out] their cars right away,” says Shelby Clark, the company’s founder and Chief Community Officer.  RelayRides introduces us to the revolutionary concept of neighbors renting out their cars to fellow neighbors.  A renter can get a car for as little as $5 an hour.

What are the benefits of personal car sharing?  It is “more affordable, more accessible, and more efficient,” according to Clark. The average shared car “takes 14 other cars off the road,” thus allowing people to meet their mobility needs using far fewer cars. Clark explained.  It is “really good for the environment, community, and local economy.”

RelayRides makes a lot of sense financially in this down economy and in general. Car owners should think of it this way: That car you drive only a few days a week can make you some money when you aren’t using it. On average a car owner using RelayRides can earn $200-$250 a month.  (That’s $2,400-$3,000 dollars a year!) Clark personally makes around $400 a month renting out his Yellow Mini Convertible, which he told me is a lot of fun on sunny San Francisco days.

Renters who take part in RelayRides reap benefits as well. “Car sharing is a more attractive alternative to car ownership,” said Clark.  On average a person can save $500 a month not owning a car and taking part in car sharing.  “It is really convenient and affordable.  The car is located right in your neighborhood,” said Clark.

The personal car sharing concept might be hard for some people to understand.  When Clark initially pitched the idea to friends he faced a bit of resistance. “People were polite and raised their eyebrows, “So you want a stranger to drive my car?”  Clark emphasized the difference in opinion now, “The typical reaction I get from people now when I tell them about RelayRides for the first time is, “Huh, that makes a lot of sense!”

RelayRides currently has 200 cars in the two city fleet and 6000 members. By launching this innovative service nationwide, Clark expects these numbers to grow significantly. “We have learned a lot over the past two years of operation. We feel ready to bring this to the masses,” he told me.

There is a lot of room for growth.  According to Clark there are only about 1 million car-sharing members in North America. With 260 million cars on the road, that equals around 1.2 cars per person in the US.  Shelby thinks this is incredibly wasteful.  He believes that personal car sharing is an ideal solution.  Besides, most cars are only used about 8% percent of the time; the rest of the time they are just parked.

RelayRides is covered by a $1 million insurance policy and market-leading security safeguards.  It is backed by over $13M in venture capital funding from leading investors, such as Google Ventures and GM Ventures.

What impressed me while talking with Clark was not only his enthusiasm, optimism, and drive to make car sharing a viable option for everyone, but his attitude toward the competition. I thought other car sharing services might be unnerved by the news of RelayRides going national. However, Clark sees car sharing companies as being in this together, working for the greater good. He feels there is room for more than one company and that collaboration could be helpful to everyone.

This is a “big step forward for car sharing,” Clark told me. I think it certainly is and the future looks bright for RelayRides.

Interview with Nick Miller Co-Founder & CEO of ParkingPanda – Part 3

This is Part 3 of my interview with Nick Miller, Co-Founder and CEO of ParkingPanda.  Click Part 1 and Part 2 for the whole interview.  If you did not see my article on ParkingPanda, check it out!

 

Nick Miller, Co-Founder & CEO

A: So you are looking for a big investment?

NM: We were in this tech accelerator, and the culmination of that was a demo day. All tech companies in the accelerator, we all gave 7-10 minutes pitches and demos to a room full of investors. In addition to all the people we were meeting with and talking to throughout the summer. That kicked off the process of, ok we are out here we are live now. Now we want to raise a little venture capitol to grow the business and expand. On day 1 we made money on our first transaction. We really need to be widespread to make a lot of money. So taking venture capitol will help us accelerate that process. So that's what we are in the process of doing right now.

A: Have you had a good amount of people interested in the business?

NM: Yeah, you know it's always a process and a time consuming thing of people digging into your business finding more about it, finding more about you. Your growth, and all of that stuff. It's going well so far. We are meeting with a lot of people interested in the idea and the space. Meeting with a lot of individual investors and venture capitalists. We are definitely hopeful, it continues to go well.

A: If I rent my space for $10, you guys take a 20% commission?

NM: Right, we take 20% and the rest goes directly to you.

A: You get a check?

NM: Right now we send you a check. We are working on integrating the ability to get PayPal payments or Direct Deposit payments in your bank account. So you will have the option to get whatever you want. If you want a check mailed to you, that's fine. If you want direct deposit in your bank account, that's fine as well. That 20% we take covers all the operating fees and credit card costs, all that maintenance. We want to keep that as low as we can, because we want the community to benefit from it. If people aren't making money on this, then we are not making money on this either.

A: How are you promoting and getting the word out about this?

NM: We love to talk to people like this. A lot of what we do is local focused, we want to build up Baltimore we want to build up DC. We go to commuter areas.  We talk to people, we go to football games, talk to people, pass out flyers.

A: So Guerrilla Marketing

NM: A lot of grassroots type guerrilla stuff, because buying Google Adwords for us, it's expensive and it's not relevant for us. Not too many people Google search “Where can I rent out my parking space?” not a big thing. Once you get out there and talk to people about it, they see the value of it. That's what really does it for us.

A: I assume you are trying to use Social Media?

NM: Of Course! Both Adam [Z] and I, and the company are on Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, everything. We encourage friends, people who use the service when you book space. “Hey I'm using this” or “Hey, I just made a bunch of money using this!” Particularly with our early users if you refer your friends or neighbors.

A: You get a discount?

NM: Right, you get a discount. So you know we really want to encourage people's friends to sign up. If they don't want their neighbors to sign up with the same spot, but maybe their friend on the other side of the city. The more spaces we have available the more we will focus on bringing people in. For most people with their parking spaces they have found money.  The Worst Case Scenario it's exactly the way it was before. The best case is you start making a bunch of cash on your driveway.

A: Since the Grand Prix, which was about a month ago, you have had no problems with people saying “Oh this person was causing problems in my parking space?”

NM: So far we haven't! We have built in as many things as possible, in our terms of service. We have backs-ups if there are any issues, we are there to handle them as quickly as possible. So far you know the community aspect of it naturally protects itself. It is bound to happen if we get big enough, there will be a bad experience for someone. We will do everything we can to protect from that.

A: Yeah, with Couchsurfing at first you think, “This is really weird. I don't know if I want to do this.” Then you try it out. You realize the community aspect does work itself out somehow.

NM: Even with Couchsurfing you can see if people have hosted before. We are building in reviews as well. You can see on both ends of the spectrum. So you can see this person has used our service 10 times and this person has 15 thumbs-up, it is a great space. A little thing goes a long way. Protecting people's reputation on the website. Providing that extra level of security.

A: Do you have anything else you want to tell me?

NM: I think we covered it! Working out of the accelerator with these other companies, our concept is simple. You can sit down with someone and in 2 minutes they know what we are doing. It is not some crazy ad-technology, where 2 months later they are like what are you talking about? How does it work? There is a community marketplace for parking. We want people to share their parking spaces with one another. It's straightforward!

A: Where did you come up with the name, ParkingPanda?

NM: We first built the prototype, the initial version of the product, at the Startup Weekend Baltimore which is a weekend long start-up business event, where you create a business, Friday night to Sunday night. Buying a domain name is very difficult, everything you think is cool or good is taken. We were looking and couldn't find anything. I don't remember who said it, but someone said, “You guys should get a mascot!” I think Adam [Z] might have been like “the ParkingPanda” and it became a running joke throughout the weekend. Then ultimately, we were like, this is fun, people love Pandas.  It fits with us, our attitude, the way we approach the business. It turned into a great marketing thing, people love ParkingPanda! When it gets out there people recognize it. So we just went with it. After start up weekend, we actually won the start-up weekend event.

A: Do you get money from that?

NM: We got a little money to help us incorporate. Once we incorporated the company got money.  Adam [Z] and I didn't collect anything from it, but the company did. So that led back into our marketing and building out the site.

A: Were there domains that you thought were really good, but they would not work or were not available?

NM: For the longest time we wanted ParkingSpace, we tried a million different things, but they were all taken. We didn't let ourselves linger. We went to check and if it was taken, we were like “Eh!” That's the way domain names work now, it is hard to get them. That is why you see all these ridiculously named companies. ParkingPanda is a little bit ridiculous but it is fun and it works.

A: It took a while for me to come up with my Blog name, Adam's Auto Advice. When I thought of it though it was like “Oh! That's great!”

NM: That's what happens when you build this out in a weekend. We are happy with it, it has worked out great. It is recognizable, we have our little logo which is a car Panda.

 

Click Part 1 and Part 2 for the whole interview