One of the first things you need to know about Hunter Strickler is that he’s an avid sports fan. He’s also a visionary, and one of Birmingham’s newest CEOs.
It all started with a problem that college football fans know all too well – trying to find parking on gameday. Strickler circled the perimeter of stadiums countless times, looking at homeowners near the stadium holding cardboard signs offering parking on their lawn for $30 and thought “There has to be a better way.” And while the experience of the game was always positive – well, at least if his team won – the pre-game fan experience usually was not.
From this frustration, his mobile app Clutch! was born, allowing fans to find, reserve and pay for their parking in advance. Clutch! connects sports fans to sellers offering privately held parking spaces near stadiums that launched last August in Birmingham. The less time spent fooling with parking, Clutch! believes, the more time fans can experience the enjoyment of gameday.
The app is spreading across the SEC – Alabama, Auburn and Tennessee so far – but is not affiliated with the universities, rather the owners of the properties that surround the stadiums. It even had a presence at the SEC championship game in Atlanta last December, and the app was such a hit at the game, played at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, that Clutch! was invited back to the Super Bowl last month.
The app isn’t just for football games, though. Fans will see the app at Birmingham Barons baseball games, Birmingham Legion soccer games and even at the Mercedes Marathon.
“We look to solve fan experience solutions broadly,” Strickler said. “We really feel technology can play an important role in streamlining both the out-of-venue and the in-venue fan experience. We see ourselves as not just strictly a parking app, but more of a company that, as we move forward, will continue to solve some of the inefficiencies around fan experience as fans engage with live events.”
Buyers can download the Clutch! app from the Apple Store or Google Play, search for the event they are headed to and look for available parking by price and proximity to the venue. Much like Uber or Airbnb, buyers can see sellers’ ratings and whether sellers offer extra amenities like tailgating, access to indoor restrooms or even golf cart shuttles to the venue. Once buyers select a spot, they put in their credit card information and, once they get to the event, show their parking pass to the lot attendant on their phone.
The company, which currently employs five and is looking to expand aggressively, is moving its reach into any event where parking is going to be a challenge like concerts, races and nonprofit events, Strickler said.
“We’ll go far beyond just athletics, but that’s where we wanted to start,” Strickler said.
Strickler, a native of Birmingham, stands behind the notion that everyone that attends a live event should be treated like a VIP.
“Everyone going to a game has a reserved seat or ticket,” he said. “Why can’t everyone have a reserved parking spot? It makes sense to show up to an event venue knowing where you’re sitting and where you’re parking.”