Every week on The Primer we ask a local business or product to introduce themselves in eight simple takes. This week we talk to Parkable co-founder Brody Nelson whose business is using technology to shake up traditional parking.
ONE: How did Parkable start and what was the inspiration behind it?
Parkable started in 2015 when its three founders (myself, Toby Littin, Warwick Beauchamp) came together over a shared frustration of parking in New Zealand’s cities. We all felt that parking as an experience just made no sense. People were forced to accept terrible conditions just because there was no other viable choice. Traditional parking seemed so overly punitive and out of step with modern technology. At the same time, we were all passionate about how sharing economy platforms allowed societies to reuse what we already had much more effectively.
Our inspiration came from the sheer amount of wasted space in our cities and the huge demand to park in these spaces. It just required the right technology to connect the space with the parker. We were also inspired by the huge amount of congestion caused by people looking for parking spaces, the average person wastes around six to 11 minutes a day searching for a park, which Parkable could alleviate, along with the carbon emissions.
We loved the idea of utilising non-traditional parking spaces such as vacant lots, un-leased commercial properties, supermarkets and churches rather than building big ugly parking buildings. That idea also came with the added bonus that Parkable could put money back in the pockets of New Zealand homes, businesses and community groups. We might be the only parking company in the world who wants to see fewer car parking buildings built!
TWO: Did you have any interest/experience in business or entrepreneurship prior to starting Parkable?
I ran my own digital agency, Translate Digital, both in London and Auckland. Translate Digital builds digital products for other businesses which is where I got a sense of what an exciting adventure entrepreneurship could be. I then joined another early-stage start-up called Aura (now defunct) as their first non-founder employee. Even though that business didn’t end up being successful, I felt like I learned a lot and really enjoyed the challenge of creating and having some ownership of something new. When the opportunity to start Parkable came along, I was lucky because both my co-founders had previously been successful entrepreneurs so I was able to learn a lot from them.
THREE: What sort of options for parking does Parkable offer? Alternatively, what sort of options for hosting does Parkable offer? Does Parkable go out and verify all these parking spaces?
For the parker, there’s a huge range of parking options available on Parkable. At the time of writing, we have over 2,000 crowdsourced carpark addresses listed on the platform.
We offer a casual parking service where a parker can start and stop a one-off session using the mobile app. The parker will then only be charged for how long they park rather than having to guess how long their appointment or meeting will be, which is the case under the traditional model.
The second type of service is aimed at commuters who want to subscribe to a carpark and have exclusive access to it with the guarantee that it’ll be there waiting for them every morning. The subscription can all be managed through the app and be stopped or restarted at any time.
For the host, the power is in their hands too. They can completely self-manage their own carpark or our awesome team at Parkable can manage and monitor the space on their behalf. The host sets their own price and availability dynamically so they can turn it on and off as they please.
We also have Parkable for Business which completely solves staff parking issues for any business. The tool allows a business to share their carparks among staff, increasing the yield on their assets while having an enormously positive impact on overall staff engagement with more parking delivered in an innovative way.
We have a Q&A process for every new park that comes on the platform. We often help new hosts and parkers get set up in a way that makes sense for them, including things like putting up signage or even personalising their space to make parking in our communities beautiful for everyone.
FOUR: Does Parkable charge commission for users listing and earning money from the platform? If so, what percentage of commission does it take?
Parkable works on a revenue share model so we collect payment on behalf of our hosts and take a commission for our services which include customer support, marketing, payment handling and software platform improvements. If the host is managing their own car park, they get 80% of the revenue generated and Parkable gets 20%.
Our host calculator can tell you instantly how much you’ll earn from your park depending on where it is and how many spaces you have. If we manage and monitor the carpark for the host then typically the host gets 60% of the revenue generated and Parkable gets 40% because it’s more labour intensive for us. But this can vary a bit depending on the carpark size and location.
FIVE: How far in advance can someone reserve a parking space?
With our subscription service, you don’t need to reserve a carpark as you have a dedicated space that’s always available for you.
The casual parking model is dynamic and super simple. You just choose a park, press ‘start parking ‘ and then ‘stop parking’ when you’re done. We also let parkers reserve an empty park for free for up to thirty minutes prior to starting a casual session. This allows the parker enough time to drive to the carpark and have the confidence that there’ll be a free carpark ready for them when they arrive.
SIX: How many users currently actively use the Parkable app?
We currently have around 40,000 users and are growing really fast. In terms of regular users, we have over 2000 users who have parked with us more than 10 times and we have 200 users who have parked with us more than 100 times. Our most regular users are commuters who tend to use our platforms most work days to take the stress out of their mornings.
SEVEN: Do you have any other plans to scale/grow further and if so, what are they?
Absolutely! We have global aspirations and see Auckland as our first market for validation and making sure we get the product right. We recently launched in Christchurch with a number of great carparks in the Christchurch CBD and the response so far has been really awesome.
EIGHT: Lastly, tell us about a start-up or business that you really admire right now.
Apart from The Spinoff which I read almost every day, I’m a big fan of Moloney Moloney who have helped us with our digital and social presence. They have a great sense of what’ll work creatively and take the time to understand our business and what we’re trying to achieve. They’ve also been keen to up-skill our internal team and provide value through sound strategic advice, rather than creating a dependent relationship which a lot of agencies do to extract value. This partnership approach has been really important as a start-up so we can manage our costs while still focussing on what we are good at.
Disclaimer: The Spinoff and Parkable share an office space.
Spinoff’s business section is enabled by our friends at Kiwibank. Kiwibank backs small to medium businesses, social enterprises and Kiwis who innovate to make good things happen.
The Spinoff Daily gets you all the days' best reading in one handy package, fresh to your inbox Monday-Friday at 5pm.