MARK Lawrence was down on his luck – he got laid off from his banking job and owed £4,000 in parking tickets.
But it gave him an idea for a business that has now racked up more than £1billion in bookings.
Mark Lawrence has built a billion-dollar business from scratch[/caption]
It was borne out of his frustration at trying to find a parking space in Chicago[/caption]
Mark, 37, is the boss of SpotHero, an app for finding available parking spaces and avoiding the dreaded wardens.
The idea was borne out of his frustration at trying to park his car in Chicago, US.
Like many residents and workers in the city, he was constantly battling to find a free space on the street or in car parks.
And drivers often have to move their cars or risk getting slapped with fines.
“The thing that always got me was the street cleaning,” Mark told CNBC’s Make It.
He said his demanding job as an analyst at Bank of America made it hard for him to remember to move his car in time.
He racked up fines of more than $5,000.
In 2010 he got laid off in the wake of the banking crash.
So he and two friends, Jeremy Smith and Larry Kiss, decided to channel their parking troubles into a business.
Mark said: “The whole idea was that there’s not enough parking, [and] how do we make it easy to park?”
He says it turns out there is plenty of parking, “you just don’t know where it is.”
The trio launched SpotHero in 2011 as a peer-to-peer online marketplace, connecting drivers with people who wanted to rent their private parking spaces.
At first they struggled to recruit enough private owners and the company floundered.
The breakthrough came when they began landing deals with garages and city centre multi-storeys, opening up thousands more spaces.
They then faced a struggle to expand as many garages operated outside the digital marketplace and dealt only with cash.
Mark and his co-founders were able to persuade garage owners how their empty spots could be put to good use by renting on-demand.
Investors piled in millions of funding as SpotHero continued to expand across North America.
It has now taken reservations from more than 10million drivers in 300 cities in the US and Canada.
The firm takes a 35 per cent cut of each booking, its website reveals.
Mark predicts his firm will soon be generating a revenue of billions of dollars a year.
But it might never have happened if not for the banking crash that cost him his job.
He told CNBC: “If it was a much better economy, I probably would have been more excited by staying on a ‘stable’ career path.”
Now he recommends other people take a risk if they have a bright idea for a business.
He says: “Try it. You don’t need multi-million dollars of venture capital.
“You can start, one foot in front of the other. That’s what we did.”