TORONTO – The Toronto-based start-up that labels itself as the “Airbnb of parking” on Tuesday was named the first winner of Infiniti’s Canadian technology accelerator program.
Rover Parking, which allows users to rent out unused parking spaces and driveways in select markets for up to $2 per hour, beat seven other competing start-ups at Infiniti Lab Toronto’s first Demo Day.
Rover was the unanimous selection of a group of Canadian venture capitalists who heard pitches from the start-ups in downtown Toronto.
As a result, Rover will be guaranteed a spot in a similar Demo Day for Infiniti Lab in Hong Kong, where it and seven other start-ups will have a chance to pitch themselves for funding from Chinese investors, in addition to taking place in a three-month development program.
Infiniti Lab Toronto is a partnership between Infiniti Canada, the city of Toronto, start-up mentorship non-profit Multiplicity and other firms designed to foster growth among companies focused on the Internet of Things and “smart city” initiatives.
The eight start-ups took part in a one-month program that included tips on aspects of business such as fundraising practices, marketing, crowdfunding, hiring and more.
Rover co-founder Tim Wootton said the company, which operates in Toronto and Montreal, has averaged month-over-month growth of about 20 per cent since launching two years ago. He said the app proves popular among users because it allows them to capitalize on unused space.
“What we’ve done over the last two years is really create a replicable process that’s going to help us take this from neighbourhood to neighbourhood, city to city, country to country,” Wootton said during his pitch to investors.
The company takes 30 per cent of each transaction, Wootton said.
Wootton said Rover has been aided by an environment that has become much more favourable for tech start-ups in recent years, particularly as governments begin adjusting regulations and policies for them.
“Governments are starting to lean into disruptive technologies, as opposed to shying away from it,” he said.
Rover once had a run-in with the Toronto city government, which expressed skepticism about Rover’s legality shortly after its launch in 2015. Rover has been allowed to operate within the city, however.
In remarks at the Demo Day, Toronto Mayor John Tory acknowledged that the city in the past had at times been unfriendly to disruptive start-up companies.. But, he said he has urged the city government, as well as local businesses, to do more to help them thrive in the city.
“You can’t turn back the hands of time, and you shouldn’t try,” he said.
Tory said making Toronto friendlier for start-ups could help the city address problems with mass transit and mobility, especially as autonomous technology and mobile applications appear poised to transform the future.
“We want to become a home to disruptors,” he said.