Charleston Meter Parking (copy)

A technology business in Charleston wants to make parking part of the sharing economy. File/Brad Nettles/Staff

About a year after getting its start, a Charleston startup that capitalizes on privately owned parking spaces has earned a buy-in from an entrepreneurial program and plans to add more spaces to its platform than there are metered spots in the city.

Hah Parking was accepted into the South Carolina Research Authority's S.C. Launch initiative last week, along with five other startups within the state.

The idea behind the company is another take on the so-called sharing economy that has fueled the rise of such businesses as Airbnb and Uber. Provide a platform where users can market their assets — homes, cars and, now, parking spaces — to consumers willing to pay to use them.

Rocky Vitali, a co-founder with his brother and the chief operating officer, said the goal is to educate people about how to use their own spaces more efficiently and earn extra cash in the process. Hah plans to charge between 10% and 20% of the booking rate for private spaces. 

The idea for the app came up about two years ago, when the siblings were working in the car business. Vitali said his brother and partner Victor, who's CEO, noticed unused, empty driveways in Charleston that he thought could be put to work and generate revenue, he said.

The two quit their jobs in March 2018 to dedicate themselves to Hah. The company has four full-time employees, including the founders.

Though only a few spots are available to rent on the app now, the company plans to add 750 privately owned spaces around Charleston in mid-July. Vitali said the app could have more than 3,000 spaces in the area by the end of the year, which would far exceed the number of parking meters. Hah also plans to add a valet service to its app soon.

Current rules in Charleston technically prohibit the renting out of parking spaces, the city's planning director told The Post and Courier last year. Hah also ran into some early friction on Folly Beach, where officials said a private parking rental system wouldn't be allowed in residential zones.

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"We’re not letting that stop us, because we are prepared to deal with that as it comes," Vitali said. 

The company has met with officials in Charleston, he said. Nothing definitive has been agreed upon with the city yet, but Vitali said "we are in the process of going back and forth to strategize and plan the best way to improve the inefficiencies with traffic and transportation."

Hah also could branch out by helping municipalities manage their spaces and garages and help them generate more income in high-traffic areas. At the same time, the "smart parking" concept could save users money if, for example, they're willing to park farther away from the city's top calling cards, from trendy restaurants to popular visitor attractions.

Vitali said Hah also has an agreement in place with local Palmetto Parking, which operates lots around town.

Other, similar parking apps have become popular elsewhere. Those, too, offer a few parking options. U.K.-based JustPark, for instance, will identify free parking spaces, ones on private property and ones behind parking meters. Its website says it has millions of spaces listed. But for the moment, that app only lists one in Charleston.

Reach Mary Katherine Wildeman at 843-937-5594. Follow her on Twitter @mkwildeman.