For entrepreneurs Mathew Magno and Charles Chen their Friday consisted of talking with a mail carrier about packages that were too heavy to be delivered through the mailbox, putting trash toters on the street outside their home in Woodland’s southeast area.
But in the coming months, the UC Davis graduates could be negotiating contracts with cities and educational institutions that could revolutionize how people find places to park without having to drive in search of an open space.
The company, “Just A Parking App,” or JAPA, is based in a two-story home on Barnes Circle — specifically in a modest 500-square-foot “office” on the second floor that overlooks the living room.
Magno and Chen are co-founders of the company, the idea for which was dreamed up while they were doing a class project at UC Davis in 2017. Right now they are being assisted by Wyatt Dike, their business developer, and expect to hire two more staff within the next few months.
Magno, at age 31, serves as CEO of JAPA, while Chen, who is chief technology officer, is in his mid-20s.
Their upstairs loft is packed with three desks and about six computer screens. Anyone else hired on will have to work in the home’s first-floor entry area.
As Magno explained, the house is perfect for their needs in that they can wake up and go to work; or they can work as long as they want before crashing. Their refrigerator is filled with energy drinks. In fact, the home resembles a semi-cluttered college dorm.
Chen, Magno noted, often works for hours on end writing code and developing plans.
They started renting the home in mid-2018, shortly after they started the company, which provides real-time parking availability and analytics for drivers and parking management through a mobile app, the information of which is loaded into the Cloud and can be easily retrieved.
JAPA won the first-place prize of $10,000 at the UC Davis Big Bang! Business Competition in June 2018. In January 2019, JAPA was recognized as the “Startup of the Month” by Comstock’s magazine.
He told Comstock’s that as a student attending UC Davis, it was “horrible” finding parking. “I’d be late for class or sometimes, by the time I found parking, class was over.”
About nine months later, the company was awarded a contract with Siemens Building Technologies to manage its parking systems. Still later, JAPA installed its system in garages at UC Berkeley. In April 2019, JAPA won the $10,000 cash prize in the Sacramento Kings Capitalize contest, followed a few months after that with a contract with Sacramento Municipal Utility District to manage its 90-space, three-story garage.
Right now, the firm is in negotiations with the city of Woodland to conduct a test program in downtown Woodland. If a contract is approved by the City Council, Magno and Chen would install around 150 of the hockey-puck-like devices on Main Street, between Third and College streets; on First Street, between Main and Court streets; and in the parking lot directly east of City Hall off First Street.
If the contract is awarded, it would be the company’s first test to see whether the technology works in a municipal setting.
Magno is excited about the prospects that await. According to published accounts, he wants to hit $2 million in revenue this year. That would be far more than the $90,000 brought in during 2019, as reported by the Sacramento Business Journal.
After they developed the idea, JAPA entered into a partnership with Nwave, a company based in England that manufactures parking sensors in China.
The sensors are placed on the pavement in regular parking spaces. As cars come and go, the sensors detect any changes in the magnetic field relay the information to the Cloud, where it can be retrieved by parking managers or drivers.
That information can tell parking managers where the more popular parking spots are located and how frequently the lots are “turned over.” It can tell motorists, who have the app, where they can find an open parking space.
It can also report how long a vehicle is parked in a specific location, which could ultimately do away with parking enforcement officers.
Northern California startup could revolutionize how we find parking