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KurbKarma makes car parking social

The iPhone app links drivers ready to vacate a parking space with those looking for a place to park.

NEW YORK -- Social networking has finally come to the aid of drivers ceaselessly circling in hopes of finding a parking spot on Union Street or North Beach in San Francisco. Here at TechCrunch Disrupt, KurbKarma launched an iPhone app that could take the pain out of parking.

A user ready to vacate a parking spot publishes his or her spot to the app, which it locates on a map and then sends out the availability to the KurbKarma social network. Drivers circling the area can see the spots locally available, and send a request to take a spot. Drivers choose the lucky driver, and earn "KarmaKredits." Those taking the spots pay with the same currency. KurbKarma takes a $1 fee for each parking transaction.

The business opportunity could be significant. According to company co-founder Neha Sampat, San Francisco has about 400,000 parking spots, of which 50,000 are in high demand. The high-demand spots result in about 130 million parking exchanges per year. If KurbKarma attains just a small fraction of the exchanges, it could have a healthy business. The company plans to extend its social network to 25 cities, and claims its could generate $30 million per year in revenue for alleviating parking pain. KurbKarma could also end up with an auction model as drivers compete for spaces as the social network grows in specific locations.

However, KurbKarma will need to move fast in building its social network across the nation and globe, or get acquired by a more mature social network, given that the barrier to entry is low. The company was founded in January 2012 and has raised just $10,000. If the company could integrate with smart parking meters and help drivers avoid the fines, it would alleviate an even bigger pain point.