Alumni Spotlight - Mark Lawrence '08
By: Lauren Campbell '13
Chicago parking can be a nightmare: crammed parallel parking spots, limited parking deck spaces, ridiculously high prices. Mark Lawrence ’08 noticed these issues and built a solution for Chicago parking problems, a business called Spothero.
Originally from the South Loop of Chicago, Lawrence was first introduced to Bradley’s campus on visits with his father, an alum.
“It was far enough away from home where I could have my own town but close enough where I could visit when I wanted to,” Lawrence explained.
After graduating with a degree in finance, Lawrence worked for Bank of America. In October 2010, personal parking problems lead him to take a different career path and start his own business.
“I wanted to create a company that would solve a problem- parking in Chicago,” Lawrence said. “You can rent a car online, you can get an airline ticket or hotel room online, but what about parking?”
Creating a business from scratch was a challenge for Lawrence; there was not a pre-existing product to base his business upon and he had neither the financial means nor the resources to start up a business. To combat this, Lawrence became self-sufficient. Instead of hiring outside help when he had questions he would use Google instead and teach himself, fixing issues one step at a time.
In addition to his lessons from the internet, Lawrence also received assistance from Excelerate Labs, which provided him with $75,000 and access to their mentorship program. Spothero was one of just ten companies out of hundreds that apply to be selected for the program.
With some hard work, Spothero is now successful and has plans for expansion. There will be Milwaukee and Washington D.C. sites available soon.
As for advice for future alumni and young entrepreneurs, Lawrence highly recommends starting your own business and avoiding the traditional corporate business route. “Just stick with it,” he advises. “It’s unbelievably hard but it pays off and it feels great.”
Excelerate Labs is a Chicago based company that provides capital, connections and community to “the very best companies” with the intention of helping them reach the next level. Hundreds of companies apply and only ten are selected each year to go through the mentorship program. The chosen companies spend the summer months in Excelerate’s Chicago offices learning tricks of the trade from over 145 mentors. See Spothero featured in Excelerate Labs’ video from summer 2012 here.