For our latest member spotlight, we caught up with Tom Olson, serial entrepreneur, bike enthusiast, and if all goes well, reformer of city parking.
What is Fetch Park, and what is its goal?
Our goal is to create a fully automated parking system that eliminates the stress of parking in downtown city scenarios.
We want this to be as easy as making an account online, and then never having to worry about paying for parking on city streets and garages. It will help drivers abide by the rules of the road, and avoid tickets.
How did you stumble into this?
I owned a pedicab business prior to starting Fetch Park, which fostered an obsession with how cities breathe. The service that I offered put me on the streets at all hours of the day. I got to see how predictable the flows of traffic in and out a city can be. You can deduce why they’re there. Knowing why all that happens and what’s going to happen next is really interesting to me.
Starting with city parking made sense because there hasn’t been a lot of innovation for the past 40-60 years. Last summer, I was out with a friend and received over $150 in parking tickets in 4 hours. It was all about lack of communication of rules.
That was the beginning of the problem – then we went from there. Before dedicating a whole lot of time, I started by talking with people that drive, and garage owners – learning what their problems are, and going from there.
As a driver it’s pretty well known that we spend a lot of time searching – and then paying for – parking. When it comes to cities and garages, they’re looking for a better system that allows for better traffic flow and allows them to make them more money.
Why start in Providence?
Being in Providence, we all know that the city streets aren’t necessarily laid out logically. They’re not a grid, so they provide a lot of interesting challenges. Everywhere on the east coast is kind of like that – perfect grids are rarities. Providence is perfect for testing a system because it has a lot of those different oddities in it. If we can make it work here, we can make it work anywhere.
Tell us about how you got connected to Hatch.
I was a part of Digital City – a former coworking space in downtown Providence – and I ended up meeting Kevin Murphy, one of the co-founders and co-managers of Hatch. Visiting Hatch, I saw that the facilities are well-maintained, with plenty of space, that’s mainly what I use it for. A place to work most days, and then whenever I have meetings, it’s an impressive place to bring someone. Plus, being in close proximity to downtown and city hall is nice. People are usually impressed whenever you have a downtown office. It’s definitely cost-effective to be here. It’s really inexpensive for what you get.
What’s been the most valuable thing about being at Hatch?
The most valuable thing are the connections that Kevin has facilitated. His mentorship has been really helpful. Kevin has been a pretty big driving force in terms of making an impression on the city and meeting the right people that we need to in order to facilitate our pilot. He’s also on some important committees at City Hall, so it helps to have a cheerleader in the city as well as someone outside of it.
To learn more about Fetch Park, contact Tom at firstname.lastname@example.org.