Parking Grid Technologies, an app development company started by two engineering students, hasn’t slowed down since winning the inaugural Tiger Cage student pitch competition sponsored by the Harbert College of Business in April 2015.
The Auburn student/alumni-led startup claimed $12,500 at the recent New Venture Competition sponsored by Baylor University’s entrepreneurship program. Parking Grid Technologies earned the Dell Award, as well as honorable mention recognition while competing against finalists from Texas A&M, Michigan State, Arkansas, Cal Poly, UCLA, Purdue, North Carolina, Iowa, Tulane, University of West Georgia, and the University of Pikeville.
“There was a strong competitive climate, as many of these teams either had or were made up of MBA students,” said Parking Grid Technologies CEO Jonathan Philip, a mechanical engineering student. “There were also several companies that already have significant revenues and were getting near to being profitable.”
Philip and fellow mechanical engineering student Alex Wakefield launched Parking Grid Technologies after claiming a $10,000 grand prize and $30,000 in legal assistance as winners of the 2015 Tiger Cage competition. The start-up’s mobile app, “PGT-SmartSpot,” offers “painless parking” by using a sensor network and data analytics to direct drivers to find vacant parking spaces. Parking Grid Technologies installed its first products at Auburn University’s McWhorter Center in early January and launched its iOS app later that month. Their technology could be utilized in such settings as universities or parking garages in congested urban areas.
“We have had several people/firms express interest in pursuing conversations about funding,” Philip said.
Philip said the Tiger Cage experience confirmed his belief that he and Wakefield had a business idea worth pursuing. The pitch competition also enabled them to gain experience that will help them in future entrepreneurship competitions and in front of potential investors.
“If you can't make someone understand why your product matters, you'll never sell it,” Philip said. “Judges, investors, and customers are all like you, so if you can invoke an emotional response to the problem at hand it becomes that much easier to sell your product or idea. Tiger Cage gave us the first glimpse at this realization by hearing the responses from audience members after our presentation about how the problem we are trying to solve is so real and how they would love to see this succeed. These competitions provide a great opportunity to gauge your ability to explain the problem and the product as well as begin to gauge the value of your product.”
The 2016 Tiger Cage competition will be held Friday, April 22, at 9 a.m. at The Hotel at Auburn University and Dixon Conference Center Auditorium. The event is free and open to the public. Tiger Cage will highlight a full day of entrepreneurship-focused events as part of the second Auburn University Entrepreneurship Summit.