The future of parking is about to change forever
The wait for parking is over.
Krüst Bakery resides on South Great Georges Street in Dublin and was the meeting point for JOE's interview with Garret Flower, a Longford entrepreneur who has just set up a parking app called Parkpnp.
There was a reason we had met in Krüst Bakery. It was also Garret's creation and as we tucked into his famous cronuts and sipped away at a mug of coffee, he talked about his new adventure as well as the great journey he has been on so far.
"I started here five years ago. I set up Krust with my business partner Rob Kramer and business is going really well," Garret told us.
"About a year and a half ago, I came up with the idea of Parkpnp. It's really started to kick off this year since we raised €500,000 in finance.
"We built a team of 15, built the platform and the website and the two apps are now live. We launched in April with Minister Pat Breen and since then, we've just been getting people to list their parking spaces, so you can list them for free now daily, weekly or monthly.
"We are working with hotels, like the Crowne Plaza Hotel and with car park operators around town to increase their revenue. We have just over 5,000 people looking for parking each week and we drive them towards parking spaces around town and around the outside of Dublin and Dublin Airport, which is a big favourite.
"Getting started with Parkpnp is really easy, all you have to do is register online or download our app for iOS or Android."
There's a break in our conversation to test out the cronuts some more and JOE is told that the difference between it and a doughnut is the texture. "Bite into it, it's lighter than a donut," Garret urges.
Garret has always been an entrepreneur. He has worked since he arrived in Dublin almost ten years ago and knew that he had to be innovative if he was going to survive in the big city by himself.
"I went to Dublin Business School, I didn’t get enough points for UL. Dad said 'don’t repeat, just go to college in DBS'. So, I did accountancy and it was the best move ever. I moved up with loads of lads from Longford and they were really good pals and we had great fun.
"My family were pretty much broke at the time and so I had to figure out ways of making money so I was pretty much working non-stop as well as studying.
"The first business I had? I started renting out my apartment and hosting parties and charged everyone a tenner in. Everyone would get free drink and food for the night, I had 40 to 50 people coming in, it would only cost 60 quid in the local shop to buy all that stuff.
"The clubs loved it because I brought them business. They used to give us free entry and give us a free shot and I'd pay the neighbours off, give them €50 or €100 some night just to keep them quiet to keep it going."
From partying to coffee places, Garret has now turned his attention to a serious issue at hand all over the country, the difficulty of trying to find a parking space.
"With Parkpnp, people save money by booking a space through the app compared to on-street parking around the city. We want to drive business towards underutilised parking spaces. Some people are making €2,000 a year from it."
It's well and good talking about the app, but Garret made JOE download the app and gave a guide to how it actually works. As it began to download, Garret gave more of a background behind the idea."I bought a car for the first time about two years ago. On the same day, I was driving to Ranelagh with the girlfriend. I was driving for twenty minutes, driving up and down and
"I bought a car for the first time about two years ago. On the same day, I was driving to Ranelagh with the girlfriend. I was driving for 20 minutes, driving up and down and seeing all this open space in front of people's houses and I was like, can I not just park in there?
"So after twenty minutes, I drove into one of them, knocked on the door and I was like, 'I’ll give you a fiver if I can stay there overnight'. Your one was laughing and was like 'no problem'. So, we got to enjoy ourselves and go out and the car was there safe until the next day.
"I thought, there must be an app for this. I did research and found that the idea in the US had taken off and that there were a few competitors in the US that are doing quite well with this business. In Europe, there wasn’t too much available so I thought this was a good idea to take forward."
With the help of his "genius" friend and co-founder, Daniel Ball (pictured below on the left beside Minister Breen and Garret), Parkpnp was born. The next part was tricky, raising money and building a team around it.
"We raised money through Powers Corp Capital and Sean Melee, private investors and Enterprise Ireland gave us €250,000.
"It's pretty hard to get investors; Ireland is good for smaller investments but looking for the €500,000 mark is quite difficult. You really have to show something unique and show the backing.
"You need experienced guys too. We had Donal O Hagan; he has been in the parking business the guts of 25 years, a car park manager of Dublin airport.
"He thought this was brilliant. With Melee behind us as our lead investor, we have a really good team of experienced people who had excelled in various industries."
The app was downloaded and as Garret demonstrated how it worked, he explained that it was a "friendly app, where you can see spaces clearly within two taps. A space where you can get directed to, and message the landlord through phone or website."
"Everyone is getting used to using their phone for everything. The behavioural change is starting and we are just jumping on that wave.
"Things are moving so fast in the tech sector, much faster than the food and drink industry, and I just said to Dan, 'let's build a MVP, see what it looks like and see if there is a market for this here'."
Build it and they will come. Since Parkpnp's launch over six weeks ago, they have seen a 400% increase in users each month.
"Quarter one was all about building the product, quarter two is about launching the product, marketing the hell out of it and getting the word out there. We want to tell people about it and how easy it is to use.
"It's funny, my girlfriend was in lunch at work and the guy next to her just goes, have you heard of this thing, Parkpnp, not knowing the connection, maybe even trying to chat her up! It's all about using any spare time we have to get the word out there."
It's a two-sided market for Garret. Getting bookers on board should be easy as parking spaces are few and far between but it is the listers that seem the most hesitant to get on board.
"The listers ask, 'if we sign up when do we get paid?' They get paid after the booking is complete. If it’s a long-term booking, they get paid at the end of each month and it goes straight into their bank account.
"You can list the space for whatever time suits you. You find people listing their space from 9-5pm, which suits some people because they go to work at 8am and come back at 6pm.
"So you find that space wasn’t going to be used anyway and now you’re generating money from that space while you're at work, also making money."
Garret even said that in one instance, a lister was looking to start his own business off the back of Garret's creation.
"He was a young lad, about 18 or 19, and he wrote to me asking that at the weekends, could he write down that, for an extra €10 in cash, he’d hand wash the car?
"I thought it was really cool, he was jumping on the back of my wave of entrepreneurship to start his own wave and who knows, he could turn it into the biggest car wash service in the world?"
Parkpnp follows the same regulations as a normal car park and ensures utmost safety for the user.
"You, as a booker, don’t want your car to be damaged, the lister wants their record to maintain perfect in order to get more bookings. I would be very confident that their cars would be safe and they have been so far."
Holding on to a parking ticket and queuing or waiting to pay when you are finished has been replaced by Parkpnp's digital parking pass, which you scan to get in and get out of the space.
"Up pops the QR or barcode and you don’t need to pay for anything, you just scan in, scan out. This saves you time and pays automatically through your card and it's cheaper as well."
"Anyone who has the parking space gets what they want in terms of charging and we add a 20% parking commission.
"We’ve even seen five listings outside of Ireland. That’s pretty cool, it’s exciting. We got a booking in Denmark and we were like, 'who has booked this guy's spot?' It turned out he had listed the space, sent a link to an office worker who wanted to rent the space and they just did it through the app because he didn’t want to be chasing him for cash every month."
Expansion is something that Garret has his eyes firmly set on and has already signed an agreement in one European City with some partners there but he wasn't giving away anything just yet.
"Ah, maybe in two months time, I’ll get back to you!"
Krüst Bakery has benefited extremely well from its expansion and move to Georges Street two years ago and like Parkpnp, it started off small.
"We just started to bake pastries. My business partner Rob brought pastries over to the gaff one night and we were just like, 'these are delicious, let’s try and sell them to coffee shops around Dublin'.
"It grew, we had 30 coffee shops in three weeks and we were like, 'okay let's try supermarkets now'. So, we headed down to Longford to a SuperValu there. Roy Davis is the guy there and he ordered seven cases and on the same day we drove back to Dublin and we had seven case orders from seven different SuperValu's on the way home, so we had expanded overnight."
Roy Davis is the guy there and he ordered seven cases and on the same day we drove back to Dublin, we had seven case orders from seven different SuperValus on the way home, so we had expanded overnight."
Krüst Bakery now supplies Applegreens, SuperValus and Spars nationwide as well as a few other chains. How does Garret juggle that and Parkpnp? Well, he doesn't.
"I wouldn’t say I am juggling at the moment, I put one ball into the press and someone else is juggling it. I am focused full-time on Parkpnp at the moment, Krüst is something I built and maintained and I don’t need to look after it as much because there are good people behind it.
"They are actually even better than me, you know. Hire people that are better than yourself; that’s the best advice I would give everyone, and pay them more than yourself as well!"