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Chicago parking-spot finder wins $2 million in funding

Aashish Dalal CEO co-founder ParkWhiz  is photographed 60 E. Randolph parking garage Thursday December 6 2012. | Richard A.

Aashish Dalal, CEO and co-founder of ParkWhiz is photographed at the 60 E. Randolph parking garage on Thursday, December 6, 2012. | Richard A. Chapman~Sun-Times

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Updated: January 21, 2013 3:39PM

ParkWhiz, a Chicago-based company that pinpoints the cheapest parking-garage vacancies, announced Wednesday it has raised $2 million in venture funding led by Hyde Park Venture Partners.

Other investors include Hyde Park Angels; Amicus Capital; Alexis Ohanian, co-founder of social news website Reddit; Garry Tan, partner at Y Combinator venture fund; Henry J. Feinberg, chairman of Maxim Revenue Management Solutions; and Amreesh Modi, managing partner at Caprigo Ventures and former chief technology officer at Chicago-based digital maps-maker Navteq Corp.

Feinberg and Ira Weiss, a principal at early-stage venture capital fund Hyde Park Venture Partners, will join ParkWhiz’s board of directors.

Feinberg said in a statement, “ParkWhiz will change how consumers and parking lot owners and operators do business, similar to how Expedia changed travel, Netflix changed entertainment and Zillow changed real estate.”

The investment will allow ParkWhiz to more than double its 20-person workforce in the next 12 to 15 months.

ParkWhiz got its start six years ago as the brainchild of CEO and co-founder Aashish Dalal, whose then-fiancee — now his wife, Reepal — told him how frustrated she was when her monthly parking spot near Fenway Park was taken without notice by Boston Red Sox fans or visitors to a big event. When that happened, she had to drive to an out-lot, and was late to her law-school class at Boston University.

Motorists use ParkWhiz’s free web and mobile site to find out in real time the cheapest parking garage vacancies nearby. They receive a discount on those spaces already negotiated by ParkWhiz.

ParkWhiz’s contract list includes the Dallas Cowboys, Baltimore Ravens, Indianapolis Colts, Auburn University Tigers football team, the Lyric Opera, 125 parking sites throughout Chicago’s downtown and parking venues surrounding Wrigley Field, as well as event partners such as TicketsNow and StubHub. Its top markets include Chicago, Dallas, New York and San Francisco.

More than 1 million people have used ParkWhiz’s 2,000 parking venues nationwide.

Despite growing competition, including from Chicago-based SpotHero and San Francisco-based GottaPark, ParkWhiz has enjoyed 150 percent year-over-year revenue growth in each of the past three years. Part of the growth comes from people’s increasing use of mobile devices. One-quarter of ParkWhiz’s customers find their parking spaces with a mobile device.

To improve the mobile experience, the company will launch on Dec. 31 a free app for Android and iPhone users, downloadable from iTunes.

The news follows last week’s announcement by ParkWhiz competitor SpotHero of SpotHero’s $2.5 million in venture capital investment led by Boston-based Battery Ventures, an initial Groupon backer.

Other funding sources for SpotHero included OCA Ventures; New World Ventures, founded by Chicago investor J.B. Pritzker; and Lightbank, a venture fund started by Groupon co-founding investors Brad Keywell and Eric Lefkofsky.

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