University of Richmond business pitch competition winners want to make parking much easier | Local

A trip to a music festival in Maryland about two years ago helped solidify Noah Applebaum’s idea for a startup business.

While driving near the crowded festival in Baltimore, “I saw people standing in their driveways, holding signs that said ‘$5 parking here,’ ” said Applebaum, a computer science and math major at the University of Richmond.

Applebaum thought: In a world where people are using digital technology to catch rides and rent out their homes, why not do the same for parking?

So Applebaum has partnered with fellow University of Richmond student Chris Cushman, a computer science major, to develop ParkShare, a mobile, peer-to-peer application that allows users to rent out property they own for parking.

In April, their idea won first place, and a $3,500 award, in a business pitch competition sponsored by the school’s Entrepreneurship Club and its Robins School of Business.

Applebaum and Cushman are working to develop ParkShare as an app, balancing that work with summer internships and school — they both have a year of college left.

“Our plan is to do testing within the Richmond market,” Applebaum said. That could include targeting particular “micro-markets” within the urban core where people look for parking.

“We are going to use test markets to perfect the formula,” Cushman said.

Applebaum grew up in Portland, Maine, attended boarding school in Greensboro, N.C., and lived in Ecuador for a year before coming to Richmond for college. Cushman lived in Tucson, Ariz., and Pittsburgh before coming to UR.

“I hope our story will shed a little light on the overlap between computer science and business,” Cushman said. “There is a lot of common knowledge that needs to be taught to students.”

For instance, “big data is becoming a huge part of the finance world,” he said. “The computer science students of today are going to be entrepreneurs in 10 years.”

Two other UR students received awards for their business ideas.

Annie Barrett, a senior business administration major with a concentration in economics, got the idea for an app called Viden when she was studying abroad in Copenhagen in fall 2016.

Barrett said the best tool she could find for advice on interesting places to visit was “passed-down paper guides.”

“One weekend I went to Amsterdam and I did not have a guide,” she said. “I Googled where to go, and Hard Rock Café came up.”

Barrett, who is from Westchester, N.Y., decided to create an app that enables students who are studying abroad to share travel tips and other information on what to see and do. Her app Viden, which means “knowledge” in Danish, is now live and focusing on travelers to Copenhagen and Madrid. It got several hundred users during the peak of the study-abroad season last year.

Barrett, who was awarded second place and $1,000 in the pitch competition, is hoping to use the money to build the user base and perhaps introduce a third city.

“I just created it out of a passion for wanting to help other students in the same situation. It received a lot of feedback and did better than I expected,” she said.

Amber Answine, an MBA student, received third place and $500 for Grato, which uses radio frequency identification, or RFID technology, to enable cashless, secure hospitality tipping.

“I travel quite often and know the pain point of not being able to leave a tip because I might not have the cash on me,” said Answine, who is taking a job with Sonder, a competitor to Airbnb.

“Cash tips are becoming a thing of the past,” Answine said.

Grato would enable guests at hotels to tip without having to fumble around for cash. Answine, who is originally from Hershey, Pa., and has a master’s degree in architecture from Virginia Tech, hopes her idea will be adopted by hotels that are already using RFID technology for such things as door locks.