Inside the Sweetch home office, where five French entrepreneurs did an about-face after their parking app drew the ire of San Francisco officials. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac
SAN FRANCISCO — It’s every entrepreneur’s worst nightmare: The app you’ve spent hours developing gets shut down before it even really launches.
It’s been a rocky road for four young French entrepreneurs who hoped to make their mark with a parking app called Sweetch. Their idea was to alert prospective parkers that spots on the street were freeing up, exchanging a nominal fee between drivers that could be donated to local charities. But instead of paving the road to fame by clearing the city’s congested streets, they ended up pulling their app from the Apple store under threat of litigation from San Francisco’s City Attorney.
“We helped five or 10 people a day, we brought value to them, but the city didn’t even try to understand that,” co-founder Hamza Ouazzani Chahdi says, speaking to Cult of Mac in the sunny, immaculate and modern apartment the guys call both home and office in the city’s Mission District. “We were lumped in with the other apps that definitely had a predatory model and it was toxic for us.”
He says that despite a meeting with San Francisco officials, the entrepreneurs weren’t really give a chance: “It was just, ‘Here’s your deadline.’”
MonkeyParking is under fire by the city of San Francisco. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac
SAN FRANCISCO — You can buy and sell a lot of things in this boom town, just not public parking spaces. All three parking apps called out by the city attorney for auctioning or selling public spaces have backed off.
City Attorney Dennis Herrera slapped MonkeyParking with a cease-and-desist on June 23 and mentioned that similar apps Sweetch and ParkModo were next in line. Each took a different tack — defiant, conciliatory, quiet — but in the end, all three are on hiatus.
Sweetch’s developers say it’s nothing like MonkeyParking, a pay-to-park app that drew the ire of San Francisco city officials. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac
SAN FRANCISCO — When they learned they were next in line for a cease-and-desist letter from the City Attorney, three young entrepreneurs made haste to City Hall to salvage their dream of making circling the block for parking a thing of the past.
Parking app Sweetch lets you alert prospective parkers that you’ll be moving your car. The person leaving the spot gets $4 in credit and the person arriving pays $5. Positioning itself as a community app, Sweetch lets drivers donate the money to local charities. (If you use the Web app version, like we did when we took it for a test drive, the money is only symbolically exchanged. Your credit card details and hard cash are only required for the iOS app.)
“It was really cool that they were open to talking to us — we clarified that we’re not auctioning parking spots or holding them, we’re not anything like MonkeyParking, and they understood that,” Sweetch co-founder Hamza Ouazzani Chahdi told Cult of Mac by phone, adding that they spoke with two deputies at the San Francisco City Attorney’s office for about an hour. City Attorney spokesman Matt Dorsey confirmed that officials met with Sweetch but didn’t have specifics on whether the cease-and-desist order had been halted as a result of the meeting.
San Francisco is going after apps like MonkeyParking that let drivers cash in when they move their cars. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac
SAN FRANCISCO — In a city obsessed with parking, app developers who came up with disruptive ideas to turn vacant spots into cash found their apps targeted by local officials. But the crackdown might be unnecessary: So far, the sharing economy seems to stall when it comes to auctioning off parking spots.
Cult of Mac offices are in the Mission District, epicenter of the parking crunch, so we took MonkeyParking and Sweetch — two of the “predatory” apps named in a cease-and-desist letter from San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera — for a spin.