For UNC student Ritwik Pavan and recent graduate Matty Schaefer, finding the perfect parking spot is more than just an everyday chore.
That’s why back in 2017 they founded the VADE Group with North Carolina State University student and entrepreneur Christian Burke.
VADE uses hardware and software ranging from computer vision to wireless cameras with the simple goal of making parking more convenient. In two years, VADE has expanded from smart parking, which finds available parking spots using app-based technology, into curb management, which includes loading zones and providing services to businesses.
In August, the group raised $500,000 in seed funding — a process by which startup companies try to gain capital through investors.
Pavan, VADE’s CEO, is also the founder of Linker Logic Technologies Inc., a company he started as a junior in high school. Today, with nearly seven years of entrepreneurial experience, he sees this seed round as a means to take VADE to the next level.
“The seed round funding is for us to basically come up with a strategy that will allow for us to scale,” Pavan said. “So we’re basically testing out different methods of generating revenue, like how to make money and how to get customers that are paying.”
Getting investors proved to be no easy feat, especially as a technology company based on the East Coast. In a recent blog post, Schaefer detailed the hundreds of emails they sent, dozens of calls they made, and several “no’s” they received while trying to raise seed money. Though getting told no by investors was tough, Schaefer managed expectations by looking to other successful companies.
“Going into it having the context of what other people have done and companies that you look at and think 'Wow, it was so easy for them' — knowing the reality of that makes it a lot easier to go through similar processes,” Schaefer said.
And amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the process of seed funding presented additional challenges.
“We had worked very hard to get to the point where we could raise seed funding and it just so happened to be on March 1,” Pavan said. “So we were trying to get investors to invest at a time where the economy was not doing well.”
Despite these obstacles, the VADE Group's determination and adaptation from smart parking into curb management allowed them to secure investments from angel investors, including hedge fund billionaire Julian Robertson, a Kenan-Flagler Business School alumni and investor at Tiger Management.
“We were lucky enough that we got good investors that were committed, able to respect our evaluation and able to believe in what we’re doing with our mission,” Pavan said.
With this seed funding money, the VADE Group hopes to be able to expand into more cities and integrate with mapping services to optimize parking.
“We finally have the money to actually integrate our technology and make things as good as they could possibly be,” co-founder and company CTO Burke said. “We’re able to hire on some very talented individuals. They’ve helped us get past the kind of MVP or minimum viable product stage, and now we are onwards of something that we can actually make some money with.”
Though the pandemic has dramatically shifted parking dynamics as people are encouraged to stay home, the team behind VADE is thinking long-term. Pavan said he's hoping the company can provide cities with data to help them with urban planning and allow them to be more efficient.
The VADE team sees the sky as the limit.
“Collectively within our team, our mindset is that nothing is going to stop us from really making our goal happen,” Pavan said.
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