[quote style=”boxed”]Good ideas are everywhere, you just have to pay attention to the things that bother you.[/quote]
Along with co-founder Omid Saadati, Chadwick Meyer helped create and launch Park Circa in January 2011. Before Park Circa, Chadwick was Co-Founder and lead developer of Gutensite, a feature rich CMS with an integrated web design and development ecosystem. Chad is married and the father of three lively children that love games such as “sleeping dragon” and “hide and stink”. He was born and grew up in the mountains, jungles and beaches of Papua New Guinea, literally swinging from vines, swimming in crocodile infested waters, and enjoying the best damn childhood life could offer. From early on he was spoiled by the beauty of this world and he has been haunted by this love for the world ever since. He is also passionate about human rights, humanitarian, and environmental issues and naively believes we can make the world a better place one person at a time. Because what is the ocean, if not many small drops of water.
What does your typical day look like?
Park Circa is still in a very early stage so every day is different. We are constantly re-prioritizing our “to do” list and trying to celebrate the small successes. Right now the typical day includes way too much driving to and from meetings with investors or potential business partnerships. In between meetings we usually sneak in some work at a coffee shop, or finish up the day in the office working on marketing or development goals.
What are you working on right now?
Today is one of those fabulous days where we have no meetings, so I get to do some coding (which is one of the few things that actually feels productive). We are integrating Facebook Connect into our website at parkcirca.com (for easy signup and sharing features). Next I’ll be developing our signup wizard to help people who first join to easily list their spaces, register their vehicles and invite friends to join them. After we get some of the basic development to support marketing and improved conversion, we’ll be working on the rest of the cool features we have planned for our app/service.
3 trends that excite you?
1. Peer-to-Peer Sharing: I’m one of those people that annoy their friends by always pointing out how things could work better (e.g. security at the airports, road construction, clumsy business processes, etc). I get excited about making systems more efficient, which is why I’m interested in peer-to-peer sharing because it allows us to be more efficient with the things we have. People in the developed world have a lot of “assets” that they don’t need, or at best only use part of the time. This is extremely wasteful. Where I grew up, sharing was a way of life. But in America distrust and fear have isolated people, so now it’s not unusual for neighbors to never meet one another, let alone borrow a cup of sugar. It’s interesting to think about how we can improve community and make sharing easier, more accountable, and convenient, so we need less resources and we become more consciously interdependent again.
With Park Circa, the idea of micro-sharing a parking space is one of those “duh” thoughts because people immediately realize the benefit to both parties. But of course, when you delve into the execution, you uncover a lot of complex issues with motivation, liability, and coordination that needs to be instant and completely passive and easy. So it’s actually very challenging, but fun to find ways to solve those problems with technology, crowdsourcing, social structures, economics, etc.
2. Mobile Real-Time Geo Location: I’m both attracted to and repulsed by the ability to access data all the time. I think it is destructive to our souls to be constantly “online”, and I see people literally addicted to their email, social network updates, music, news, you name your own poison. It’s really important that we establish balance in our lives so we have time to be human, still with our own thoughts and calm enough to look people in the eye and connect with the ones we love. People are so amazing, but we take them for granted and usually see them as annoying distractions.
But on the upside of mobile technology, having access to critical data, when you need it, can actually allow you to accomplish a task so you have time to go live your life. With mobile apps, you can get a bird’s eye view of real-time information that is relevant to your specific location. There are so many applications for this, such as real-time traffic information, help finding a good restaurant nearby, reporting crimes or breaking news, and of course finding parking where it didn’t exist before, because you can coordinate real-time with neighbors’ shared schedules. We hope that this sort of real-time mobile technology can get people out of the car and into the world faster.
3. REM Sleep: my 8 week old son is starting to sleep better through the night. I hope this trend continues and is not interrupted by teething in a few months.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Unfortunately, our lives are becoming fragmented with so many “urgent” things that demand our constant attention. In this environment, finding inspiration and creativity is nearly impossible without a conscious plan. I need to keep my soul filled with inspiration from various sources and then I have to be quiet and feast on that inspiration and just let ideas bubble up. After initial ideas are formed, I find that brainstorming with certain people can be really helpful. With creative input from another perspective I can cover a lot more ground and keep my mind from getting distracted or spending too much time on dead ends.
But after you have a good idea, what brings it to life is just hard work and commitment. First you have to start, and then don’t stop until you are finished. Lots of people come up with good idea, but they lose their motivation after a couple months.
What inspires you?
Beauty. Kindness. Smart People. Self Sacrifice.
I often get frustrated because it takes twenty minutes to coerce my kids out of the house and into the car whenever we go somewhere, because they stop and interact with every single leaf, rock and worm on the sidewalk. It’s so inconvenient! And yet, it’s profound. We need to learn to SEE the world again, like a child. There is beauty and wonder all around us, but we get so busy with “life” that we don’t see it anymore and we forget to actually live.
What is one mistake you’ve made, and what did you learn from it?
We started Park Circa with gut instinct that people would use the service (based on our own psychology and the feedback of a few close friends). But we definitely didn’t do enough market research. The main reason was that we didn’t have the resources or time (it’s hard work). We also didn’t want anyone to steal the idea (which probably wasn’t a legitimate fear since the barrier for entry is pretty high). But now we are scrambling to get good feedback so we can understand what our users want, how people will use our tool, and what motivates people to participate. Fortunately we’re still early enough that we can be flexible, but it’s very risky to invest too much into an idea without knowing your market size, demographics, what they need and how they would use your service. Talk to your customers.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I have been toying with an online service that will foster more accountability in our leaders (government and corporate), archive their performance record and their quotes so that it becomes glaringly obvious when they contradict themselves or vote in favor of special interest lobbies, or act in harmful ways, etc. It will require time (which I don’t have) and some really smart programmers (that like writing algorithms). If anyone is interested, I think the technology would be useful to democracies around the world and have good business applications as well. Call me, we’ll talk.
What do you read every day? Why?
I read my email everyday, out of necessity. I read news.google.com nearly every day, so I can stay on top of what’s happening in the world and be a good citizen. When I can sneak it in: wired.com (for interesting, usually frivolous, ideas), technologyreview.com (for the latest hard technology), techcrunch.com (so I don’t look ignorant to investors), http://boston.com/bigpicture/ (to visually see what’s happening in the world and celebrate the diverse beauty of life). I also usually read books at night if I’m not too beat. I don’t watch much TV, other than frontline and other educational documentaries.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read, and why?
It’s too hard to pick one book. I recommend reading every book that trusted friends take the time to recommend, because you’ll get new ideas that will change you and help your business in ways you couldn’t have imagined before (and you’ll learn more about your friends). I just finished reading David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas a couple days ago. It’s an intriguing work of fiction with several interconnected stories that present a fascinating journey through time and human nature. At the end, one of the characters tells his son, “a purely predatory world shall consume itself. Yes, the Devil shall take the hindmost until the foremost is the hindmost. In an individual, selfishness uglifies the soul; for the human species, selfishness is extinction.”
The story has nothing to do with business directly, but in modern life, and especially in business, it’s easy to lose site of the bigger picture. We must find time to unplug and be human, so that we can come back to work more refreshed and inspired. The little lessons we learn from unrelated experiences can help us find creative solutions to our work problems. Fiction can also teach us lessons about what it is to be human. Business should be about more than just making money, it should be about making the world a better place, a place we want our children to inherit.
What is your favorite gadget, app or piece of software that helps you every day?
I try to avoid the latest gadgets and apps. But at the risk of sounding cliche, I do use my iPhone every day. It’s a super helpful tool if you are a busy traveler that needs to stay in touch with your team.
Who would you love to see interviewed on IdeaMensch?
I recently met Steven Hood, co-founder of Blockboard, a new hyper-local twitter-meets-craigslist live community bulletin board that is beta testing in specific neighborhoods in San Francisco right now. They are doing some interesting things to help build dynamic community.
How do you come up with new ideas?
Good ideas are everywhere, you just have to pay attention to the things that bother you. I think the best ideas are based on a particular pain or problem that we or others we know have experienced. Where there are problems, there is room for improvement, and that means an opportunity to do good in the world and build a successful business at the same time. Many problems are so entrenched that people stop trying to solve them, or else they keep solving them the same old way with high competition and little margin for success. But technology and society changes so quickly, it’s very likely that several new trends can be the perfect combination to address an old problem in a new way.
That’s what we did with Park Circa, instead of building new parking infrastructure that costs around $40,000/space in a city garage, we addressed the inefficiency of private dedicated parking (hitherto neglected because of coordination obstacles). We realized we could unlock thousands of new spaces with simple tools that allowed real-time coordination and passive transactions. Mobile apps were the answer, and finally there are enough in the market that we have enough users to make the idea work.
This principle can be applied to so many problems. You have to evaluate the things that have been traditional limitations, eliminate the traditional solutions, and ask if the accepted limitations are still obstacles. If you can attack a problem from a new angle, you can redefine an industry.
A personal question of your choice? (same as above)
What’s up with the beard?
I don’t particularly like facial hair, but a couple years ago I started growing a beard every winter to fend off the cold weather and reassert my manly rights to a rugged visage. At first I couldn’t go for more than a month before shaving it off, because I felt way too conspicuous and grubby. But each year I pushed it a little further, until now by three months it gets ridiculously out of control, no question about it. When I couldn’t take it any longer this winter I trimmed it back to a rad Prussian style mustache, which was a big hit with our twitter followers for a while. Some of them offered to barter their parking space for my mustache. I don’t do fashion, so I suppose it’s one way of keeping it interesting.