Parking in San Francisco sucks. Wouldn't it be great if you could bid for a prime spot and take the hassle out of the whole parking experience? Well, one startup was looking to do that – and San Francisco wasn't too pleased.
MonkeyParking, an app that allows drivers to post their soon-to-be-vacated spots online and auction them off to the highest bidder, tried to have a presence in the City by the Bay.
But San Francisco was having none of it. Back in June, City Attorney Dennis Herrera served the startup a cease-and-desist letter, which argued that not only does the app create "a predatory private market for parking spaces" but it encourages drivers to pay attention to the bidding wars taking place on their phones instead of the road. He gave the startup until July 11 to shut down, or it would face substantial fines for each transaction.
Well, it's July 11 and MonkeyParking is officially no more. For now, at least. In a blog post, the Rome-based company announced that its service had been "temporarily disabled," but made another case for its usefulness in solving the "old and painful problem" of parking:
Our mission is to get rid of circling the block turning a random parking process into a predictable one, saving people time while also reducing traffic congestion and generated pollution. We want to achieve our mission within the intent and letter of the law and in full cooperation with the local authorities.
The company said it is working "to avoid any possible improper use of our service and provide a positive tool for the City of San Francisco" and urges users to stay tuned for more updates.
MonkeyParking isn't the only startup that's received taken heat for attempting to monetize what is typically a free or public resource. On Tuesday, Brian Mayer, the founder of ReservationHop --- a service that made reservations at popular restaurants under false names and then selling the reserved spots for $8 to $12 -- announced that his startup would do a "soft pivot" after getting bashed as a "restaurant scalping service" (along with violent threats over email and Twitter).
Meanwhile, Daniel Shifrin, the chief executive of Parkmodo, which provides a similar service as MonkeyParking (and was also mentioned in Herrera's cease-and-desist letter), countered that his company isn't selling or renting public parking spaces but is facilitating the exchange of information for a price. (MonkeyParking also tried to make this same argument.)
“You can’t sell something you don’t own,” Shifrin told The Wall Street Journal in June. "The last time I checked there is no law in America that prohibits you from selling your information."
Only time will tell if Parkmodo will also suspend service or will fight the city.