It’s no secret that Charleston has a parking shortage.
There are only 1,656 parking meters to accommodate the 700 thousand local residents and six million tourists in Charleston each year. Parking garages are plausible options, however, they are less convenient and tend to reach capacity during peak times.
Hah!, which stands for How About Here, is a mobile app that connects drivers who are searching for parking with private owners and local businesses who have space to share.
Victor and Rocky Vitali are local entrepreneurs and brothers who saw a problem with parking in the community and found a solution.
The Vitali brothers grew up in the car business and collect cars. One afternoon Victor came home with another vehicle and realized he couldn’t fit another vehicle in his driveway.
“My neighbor was kind enough to let me park my car in his driveway,” Victor said.
Other neighbors noticed that Victor’s car was parked in a neighbor's driveway and offered their own unused space. Victor found a solution to his problem.
Not too long after that, Victor went downtown for a run. He circled the block a few times looking for a parking spot. As he was on his run, he noticed cars lining the streets next to empty driveways.
“If I can park my car in my neighbor’s driveway,” Victor thought to himself, “why can’t other people park their cars in other people’s driveways?”
Victor brought the idea to his brother, Rocky, and Hah! was born.
While still working at their full-time jobs, Victor and Rocky worked on their idea. Finally, they got to the point where they knew it was time to leave their full-time jobs and focus on Hah! full time.
Rocky and Victor know their technical limitations.
“This isn’t our background. We grew up in the car business. We’re more the on entrepreneur side,” Victor said.
The duo brought in a business partner to focus on the technology side of things.
“The branding and marketing and knowing the audience is more of our speciality,” Rocky said.
They did a user-testing event where they invited people to come and play with the app.
“It was one of the best things we’ve ever done because we had a running list of things to work on. It was things that would have gone wrong if we would have just launched the app without testing,” Rocky said.
In addition to creating a great user experience, the brothers are conscious about where they allocate their time and money.
“We’ve been really picky on staying lean with where we spend our money and where we spend our time,” Rocky said. “This is the first time we’ve done a business together where we are really calculated.”
Hah! was designed to solve a problem. But, it relies on a shared economy system. It doesn’t work without people leasing their unused space, but it also doesn’t work if no one parks in the unused space.
Because of peer-to-peer sharing companies like Airbnb, Uber, Lyft, and Turo, users already understand the shared economy system.
“We’ve had little hesitation and we’ve had more positive feedback from people who have wanted to get on board,” Victor said.
It’s all about earning extra income without extra work. When you list a home on Airbnb or drive for Uber, there is still work and time that goes into making that income. Hah! is truly passive income.
“Now, when you look at your driveway, you’re looking at a missed opportunity. You have missed opportunity because you are losing out on money, but [someone else is] losing out because [he or she] wants to park in that spot,” Victor said.
With any type of peer-to-peer sharing service, there is always the possibility that someone will create a problem. With Hah!, the problem would be overstaying their welcome.
Victor and Rocky have included an in-app messaging service so that driveway owners and drivers can communicate.
“We don’t want to tow vehicles. That’s not what we want to do. Since people have been doing it, most people don’t really see other people there. It’s just like if you park at the meter. You know you have 2 hours. You don’t want to get a ticket,” Victor said.
If for some reason, you can’t return to your vehicle, Victor encourages drives to communicate with the person they are renting unused space from.
“If for some reason you can’t get to your vehicle, then just ask to extend your time. It all goes back to letting someone know. We’re not trying to get someone in trouble. We don’t want someone to have a bad experience. It all comes down to basic communication,” Victor said.