Gainesville-based company aims to help fans find parking for Gator games easier

It’s no secret that football game day parking on the University of Florida’s campus can be a hassle, and a new website called Perch may be the solution residents and visitors need.

Created by JJ Paulsen and Dustin Karp, the start-up company Perch partners with local businesses and residents to advertise available parking spots on its website, simplifying UF game day parking.

The platform provides the ability to purchase parking in advance of UF's football game day instead of battling thousands of others for spots around town.

The concept is simple: Anyone looking for parking can access parking options and buy parking spots at different locations, allowing Gainesville businesses and residents to monetize available parking.

A logo of Perch, an online parking resource that helps users find and buy UF game day parking.
A logo of Perch, an online parking resource that helps users find and buy UF game day parking.

Getting started

The idea started in August 2020. By the next year, Karp began handing out flyers and door-knocking under the Perch name. It eventually grew when Paulsen, who had a similar idea, caught word of what Karp was doing and joined him to create what the website it has today.

“He’s a great partner to work with,” said Karp, a UF computer science alumnus. “The partnership is really great because we kind of address each other’s weaknesses. It’s a very symbiotic relationship.”

Paulsen, a current Santa Fe College business administration major transferring to UF in the spring semester, has been coming to Gainesville for football games since childhood. He said coming from a family of Gator alumni, and experiencing game day parking struggles firsthand, sparked his passion for making game day parking more fan-friendly.

A picture of Dustin Karp, co-founder of Perch, a website that allows users to buy UF game day parking spots.
A picture of Dustin Karp, co-founder of Perch, a website that allows users to buy UF game day parking spots.

“Every time we’d come to Gainesville, it was always just an acceptance of: We’re going to deal with crazy traffic and we’re going to circle blocks to eventually find some type of parking spot,” he said.

After seeing residents and businesses sell parking spots on the day of, Paulsen decided a platform that could connect fans with parking before they arrived on game day was needed.

The Perch website went live last fall, primarily working with residents, and aided in parking over 200 cars during that time. There were some bumps in the road, Karp said, because Perch acted as a middleman between lot owners and customers.

Almost anyone could put their lot on the platform. There were no strict rules in place that the host had to follow, so overcrowded lots and hosts leaving their homes became an issue.

A picture of JJ Paulsen, co-founder of Perch, a website that allows users to buy UF game day parking spots.
A picture of JJ Paulsen, co-founder of Perch, a website that allows users to buy UF game day parking spots.

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Gainesville requires a permit to sell parking for events, though it is the lot owner’s responsibility to make sure they have that documentation. Karp said it is an issue that is being taken into consideration before listing residential spots on the website.

Now, after working out prior kinks, the team is working with both residents and businesses to provide additional parking options for football games.

Once a business or resident contacts Perch, they go through a process of vetting to make sure the lot and its owners are safe and dependable. After that, pictures of the property and location are sent by hosts for the listing to go live.

Every parking lot listed on the website now has an attendant, either provided by the owner of the lot or by Perch. Those people stay through the first half of the game to physically check customers in when they arrive at the lot.

“The most important thing for us is that customers don’t run into the issues that they did last year,” Karp said. “Ultimately their game day experience, as it relates to parking, is our responsibility if they’re booking through us, so the lots that you’ll find on Perch, you know, we want to be a hundred percent sure that we are delivering exactly what we are promising.”

Securing parking

Securing a parking spot can be done online and is advertised as a three-click process.

Clicking the “Reserve a Spot” or "Browse Spots" options will bring users to a map with listings of available lots, parking spots and prices. After clicking on the listing and going to the lot page, users can easily book a parking spot for their selected day.

A sign advertising Perch, a new website that helps users find and buy parking for UF game days.
A sign advertising Perch, a new website that helps users find and buy parking for UF game days.

Businesses and residents set the prices for their lots when listing them on the website. Perch works with lots on an individual basis, recommending prices based on location and amenities, but the decision is ultimately left up to the lot owners. Some lots offer all-weekend parking, while others only offer day-of parking.

References and recommendations on previous game-day parking prices are given to those selling parking spots.

“I’ve been coming to these games my whole life, so I do keep in mind, you know: 'What would I pay for a parking spot actually coming to these games as a fan?'” Paulsen said. “I don’t just look at it from the business aspect when we actually put our pricing up.”

In terms of profit, both Karp and Paulsen say that is not their focus right now. Currently, they want to prioritize creating a reliable and positive parking experience during Gator games and building trust within the fanbase.

“These people, they’re giving us their money to be able to enjoy Gator games more,” Paulsen said. “We want to build up that trust factor with the fans and show them: Hey, through Perch, you could have a really positive game day experience and take away the stress that traffic adds.”

Perch also offers its customers a "Season Pass" option to book the same lot for all six home games.

The company's next goal is to offer parking for other local major events, such as graduation and concerts and to develop a smartphone app. From there, they may consider taking their model to other college towns, but Gainesville is their sole focus at this time.

This article originally appeared on The Gainesville Sun: Start-up Perch to help UF fans find parking easier in Gainesville