Big things are cooking in the basement of Krüst bakery on George’s St. No, it isn’t the ‘cronuts’ that the café first introduced to Ireland a couple of years back, but something altogether more high-tech.
It is here that 27-year- old entrepreneur Garret Flower is hard at work at his latest venture Parkpnp – the new app and website that aims to become the Airbnb for parking in Ireland and beyond.
Launched last year, Parkpnp is an online marketplace for parking that allows homeowners and businesses to list, advertise and generate income from their unused or under-utilized parking spaces while saving drivers the headache of finding a decent spot with average savings of 50%.
“Users can list their spaces completely for free and choose to list per hour, per day, per week, per month, or a variation of the four,” he explains over coffee.
“You can set it at any price you feel comfortable with and you can use your mobile or do it on the web. In essence, Parkpnp is a marketplace that allows people to make money from their parking space.”
The new business marks something of a departure for Flower. For the past four years, he has focused on the running of Krüst bakery, the company he founded with co-owner Rob Kramer, but after buying a car for the first time last September, he came up with the idea for Parkpnp and decided to dive headfirst into the tech world.
“My first day out driving, I went to a party in Ranelagh with my girlfriend and we were driving around in circles for 20 minutes looking for parking. I remember seeing all of these open spaces in front of people’s houses, businesses as well.”
“I started thinking why can’t I park there for a few hours and pay them? How come there isn’t a way to do that? I thought there must be a way and decided to try my hand at building a marketplace for it.”
Encouraged by the success of the likes of Spot Hero and Parking Panda in the US, Flower partnered with fellow entrepreneurs Daniel Paul and Daniel Ramamoorthy and set to work on building Parkpnp. They now employ eleven people with plans to double that number over the coming twelve months.
“It’s quite big for a new company, I suppose. We have 5 internal developers which is quite unique for a start-up. We’ve sales and marketing people ready to go.
“Donal O’Hagan is our Head of Commercial Operations and has been in the parking industry for over 20 years. Our development agent Mike Brennan has been great also. All in all, it’s a great team.”
While similar start-ups have been gaining traction in other countries, Flower is confident that Parkpnp offers unique features that can help differentiate it from their competitors.
“There’s two parts to Parkpnp. There’s the residential side, but there’s also a commercial side to our business. We install hardware and software at the entry and exit points of car parks and when you drive in you scan your ticket like you would at the airport,” he says.
“This means you don’t have to take a ticket, that you don’t have to pay with cash or coins at the end, and you get your receipt sent to you automatically.”
The hard work seems to be paying off. This year, the company raised €500,000 in seed money with investments from Powerscourt Capital and Enterprise Ireland and last month they were a finalist in ESB’s Spark of Genius Award at the Web Summit in Lisbon – an experience Flower enjoyed immensely.
“It was great. We got to go to the Web Summit and had a stand for a day. We met so many people from around the world who we got to discuss our business with and we also got to network with a lot of potential future investors.”
Having set up Krüst with Kramer when he was just 23, Flower has been through numerous setbacks along the way and is sympathetic to the difficulties that face many fledgling start-ups. His advice to budding entrepreneurs in the early stages of building their businesses is to keep the faith and don’t be afraid to challenge yourself.
“The first thing is to be confident in what you are doing. Second thing, is to be bold, try things that you are uncomfortable with, but you know you should do. I think a lot of people have common sense, and have business sense but they have this mentality of I can’t do it. It’s important to have that belief in yourself.”
2017 is shaping up to be a big year for Parkpnp. Plans are in place for an intensive Dublin rollout and the company already has their eyes on other European cities.
“We want to be the go to solution for parking for residential and commercial parking lot operators and hotels. I see us expanding across Dublin in the next twelve months. We’ve seen hundreds of spaces listed across the city and we’ve seen places pop up in five different countries which is really exciting.”
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