On the Spot: Meet Karan Singhal, Vend's Founder and CTO

January 23, 2024

On the Spot: Meet Karan Singhal, Vend's Founder and CTO

January 23, 2024

Name: Karan Singhal

Role: Founder, CTO

Location: Boston, MA

Time at Vend: Since the foundation

Welcome to On the Spot, our content series where we feature people in the parking, technology, and commercial real estate industries you should know. This week our CTO and co-founder, Karan Singhal spoke to us about his life before Vend, how the company was built, and some fun facts about what he does outside of work.

Q: Hey Karan! First of all, it’s great to finally have you with us. To start the interview, tell us about starting Vend.

A: Mike (Miele) and I started Vend together. We had spent many years in the parking industry and got a peek behind the curtain of how parking operations are run with several of the nation’s largest parking companies. We were motivated to start Vend to reimagine the industry with a digitized solution that will change the paradigm of how parking is managed and operated.

Q: What were your past experiences before founding Vend?

A: I began my foray into computer science engineering during my studies at Tufts University. I started as a chemical engineer, switched to mechanical engineering, and finally decided to take a semester off to figure out my true calling. I was fortunate enough to join a startup, Glasslight Technologies, that was incubated by CafeX Communications and Cisco Systems. Through that experience, I grew from an intern to CTO in 9 months and led the development of several products that we sold into big box retail and major financial institutions. We won awards including Best Mobile Banking Solution of the Year at the Mobile Banking and Commerce Summit in Miami and the Twilio on Fire award at the Twilio Signal conference. It was there that I gained my confidence, technical know-how, and leadership skills. I ended up returning to Tufts for my Junior and Senior year and switched my major to Computer Science Engineering to continue to pursue that new passion.

Q: What is your favorite part of working at Vend?

A: I love my team. It’s been incredible to put together an amazing crew of driven, hard-working, and super-smart teammates that have helped drive me and Mike’s vision forward.

Q: What do you like most about the work we do here?

A: I really enjoy working with a combination of hardware and software to deliver a seamless experience that “just works”. I have always been inspired by Steve Jobs and Apple, and their unique ability to deliver intuitive products that create a positive experience. Parking can be extremely frustrating, so being able to make it fun and effective is a huge motivator for me.

Q: After everything you mentioned so far, what are you most proud of in your career so far?

A: I am most proud of my time at Vend. It’s been a roller coaster ride but with a constant upwards trajectory. We are solving a real problem and making a tangible and quantifiable impact on our customers' and end users’ lives. It’s incredible to see how our new teammates have coalesced around the Vend vision and how motivated they are to truly change the parking industry.

Q: Tell us a little about our company culture… How would you describe it? 

A: I think our acronym, BEAST, sums it up pretty well. Everyone wants to create the best possible solution, and there’s no pretense or corporate jockeying going on. Everyone feels like we are on the same level, and the best ideas float to the top. Our team is motivated, engaged, intellectual, and all want to work together to deliver the best possible product.

Q: As a founder of the company, I am really curious to find out the answer to this next question. What would be your top 3 most interesting projects that you have worked on since Vend’s foundation?

A: Building out GateKit, SmartSign tablet, LPR cameras, and figuring out how to network them all together on-site. It was a real challenge to understand how to create a reliable network with a local ethernet connection and backup to cellular when the local internet goes down. Building a high-availability distributed IoT solution with 3 devices per lane and 4 lanes per location is not easy!

Q: And how has your role evolved over time since you’ve been here?

A: I went from the only coder to leading a team of engineers working together to build our platform.

Q: Changing the questions a little bit from now on… What's one thing people don't know about you that they would be surprised to find out?

A: I used to teach sailing, and raced in the Junior Olympics in Marblehead. It turned out to be a crazy storm on the last day and the boat pretty much sank. I managed to hold onto the mast and we found help at the last minute. In the next race, our rudder completely broke off when cruising upwind on the final leg. We rocked our boat across the finish line in 14th place, dropping us in the rankings. We were in second place until the last day, and after these two incidents, we barely missed qualifying, finishing 11th (the top 10 moved on to the next level). I have many other sailing war stories, and it was a big part of my childhood! 

Sailing is a sport that’s a lot like engineering. It’s all about who makes the least mistakes and how you can recover from errors.

Q: What piece of advice would you give to your younger self?

A: Spend more time thoroughly planning and thinking through how to achieve a large scope of work in a limited timeframe. Parking has so many edge cases and specific use cases that it’s very hard to build a flexible system to cover them all. A keener focus on project management earlier on would have reduced stress levels across the team. I have learned from this and we now take project management and planning much more seriously, and it really is paying off!

Q: If you could have any superpower, what would it be?

A: I would love to have the ability to manipulate things with my mind through telekinesis. It’s so cool to imagine having something similar to “the force” from Star Wars.

Q: How did you get started in the industry?

A: I met Mike during a capstone project class at Tufts Gordon Institute, and together we started SpotLight Parking upon graduation. Mike and I wanted to create an on-demand valet parking platform to “Uberize” valet parking. After successfully running operations for over a year, we realized that the unit economic model was not scalable and pivoted to create a digitized valet parking platform for over 200 garages in NYC. After a small but successful exit, we did consulting with several parking and parking- adjacent companies across the US, and finally regrouped in 2020 to start Vend Park.

Q: What is one thing that you wish people knew about your job?

A: It’s not as easy as you think ;)

Q: What’s the last song you listened to?

A: Tom’s Diner – cover by AnnenMayKantereit

Q: What, if anything, are you currently binge-watching? Or reading?

A: I just started reading the Bhagavad Gita, trying to learn more about

Hinduism and spirituality.

Q: What’s one thing on your bucket list?

A: Skydiving

Q: What didn’t we ask that you think would be interesting to share?

A: I love to cook! I really enjoy creating unique culinary experiences with close friends. Probably the highlight was a few years ago when I made an 8-course traditional Japanese omakase-style dinner for about 10 of my friends. The 24-hour tonkotsu ramen broth was no joke, along with Chashu pork and several sushi, sashimi, and nigiri dishes. It was an epic time!

Thank you very much for your time, Karan! If you have any questions about Karan or Vend feel free to reach out!

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