Michael Nuciforo and Robert Crocitti are the co-founders of Parkhound – an online community where members can easily exchange and lease parking spaces with other drivers. Local residents and businesses make money from leasing a parking space and drivers get a cost effective and hassle free parking experience.
Our work motto is ‘Discere et Agere’, which is Latin for ‘To learn is to do’.
Tell us a little bit about your idea and what made you decide to take the plunge and make it happen?
We decided to start Parkhound after circling around East Melbourne on the hunt for parking near the MCG before an AFL game. As we circled the streets we noticed something. As we drove past parked car, after parked car, after….empty space that required a parking permit, there was dozens of empty garages and driveways right near the ground. It then hit us. Wouldn’t it be great if we could just knock on someone’s door and ask to park at their place for a small fee? The idea stuck. The more we thought about it, the more it made sense. There are unused parking spaces all around us. We don’t need more parking spaces, we just need to utilise the parking spaces we already have.
We got fed up with the high price and scarcity of parking and decided to do something about it. Can you imagine driving today without turn-by-turn GPS navigation? So why do we put up with looking for parking without any assistance? There is a lack of information online about where parking exists and how much it costs, and this leads to expensive parking and frustrated drivers. We want to bring the parking industry online and make our cities more efficient and less congested.
Can you please explain your business model?
We take a 10% commission for a confirmed booking or payment through our site and app. It’s free to list your parking space, so this is incorporated into the price the buyer pays.
What are you working on right now and what are you most excited about in the next year?
We have just launched a world-first Street Parking finder in Melbourne and we’re going to be making some updates to that over the coming months. Over the next year we plan on rolling this out to the other Capital Cities across Australia. The new service allows Parkhound members to view each street parking sign overlayed onto a street map of the city. We designed this service to bring transparency to parking prices and to also reduce the confusion around when and where people can park on the street. Commuters can save time by knowing exactly which street or block to drive to, rather than circling around to find the sign that meets their needs.
How do you make ideas happen?
Our work motto is ‘Discere et Agere’, which is Latin for ‘To learn is to do’. We exhibit this by always trying to test and learn through changes, updates, adjustments and tweaks to our technology, user journeys and business model. We also spend a lot of time speaking to customers directly to find out their needs and wants. By doing this we can consistently learn through doing.
What does your typical day look like?
Our typical day is very atypical. As a startup we try to reduce the chaos and are quite planned, but there is only so much you can control when you have customers and stakeholders all over the country. There are always opportunities and demands that come up, and you just have to deal with these as best you can.
We could have a brainstorming session in the morning, where we review our results for the last week and come up with new tests or features, before then dealing with customer enquiries. We could have a meeting in the afternoon with some potential business partners… It varies. One thing we try to do is bunch up our external meetings into one or two days, so we have time in the office to focus on work for the rest of the week.
What challenges have you faced when starting or growing a business/organisation in Australia?
There is a lack of confidence that exists within Australian about start-ups. It’s very much considered an abnormal thing to do – starting a business – especially an online business. Confidence comes from sustained and observable achievement, and there just haven’t been enough start-up success stories in Australia yet. As a team, we didn’t know anyone who had attempted their own startup, let alone had a successful one. So this creates an immediate barrier to entry. It could be that initial conversation with your partner, a close friend, or even your boss; you need to expect push back, not encouragement at first. We hope that ourselves, and others, continue to pursue their startup ideas so that there are more case studies, more examples, and ultimately more confidence in the market for the next generation of new businesses.
What is one idea you are willing to give away for free?
You get out what you put in.
What people/companies/organisations do you think are doing really cool stuff in your industry, in Australia at the moment?
H5 Controls are working on some really cool technology in the IoT space around the access and security management of parking spaces. They are a Melbourne based company that have some really smart people working on some very smart technology. The future of parking lies with the seamless integration of software and hardware and they’re really pushing the boundaries in this field.
Another inspiration is VenueMob. Whilst they don’t operate in the parking industry, they are a marketplace that allows people to find and book a venue for a corporate event, birthday or Christmas party. They have been able to balance the demand and supply side of their marketplace really well and that is something we are working through at the moment.
What about internationally?
YourParkingSpace.co.uk – which we have a partnership with; have really disrupted the long-term parking market in the UK. Their B2B business model is quite interesting and they have managed to get scale without compromising on customer quality.
In the US, Smarking and Parkt have entered the market with a big data and rewards proposition respectively. Given that parking has been a predominately offline industry, it’s great to see new tech companies launching new concepts that will ultimately make parking more efficient for the end consumer.
What role do you think business can play in affecting social change?
The strange thing is that most of the congestion you see on roads isn’t caused by people on their way somewhere. It’s actually caused by people who are trying to arrive. Our streets are being clogged by people looking for a place to park. Lack of suitable parking and exorbitant prices are the main causes.
Cars are, and will continue to be, a vital part of the Australian transport mix. By optimising the parking of all these vehicles, we can reduce congestion on the roads, and in turn we can decrease the impact these vehicles have on the Australian environment. Our solution to this is through people power. By bringing the community together we can better utilise the empty and unused spaces we already have.
Speaking of affecting social change, is there a particular charity you’d like our readers to support?
We’re big fans of the 7til7 Challenge; which celebrates the positive impact that technology has had on our lives but recognises that we all need some time offline with friends and family. This has become an important consideration for us as a startup due to the long hours we work. All the money raised by the 7til7 Challenge goes to Headspace and the National Youth Mental Health Foundation.
Name 3 websites you would recommend to our readers.
- InVision: http://www.invisionapp.com/
- Canva: https://www.canva.com/
- Optimizely: https://www.optimizely.com/
Name 3 Australians we should follow on Twitter.
- Joe Hockey @JoeHockey: Economy
- Ben Grubb @BenGrubb: Technology
- Chris Lilley @ChrisLilley: Laughology
Are there opportunities for people to get involved with your idea (e.g. are you looking for funding, interns, marketing help)?
Absolutely, all three plus some would be great. We are looking to do a first round of funding later this year, we are also looking for some quality interns who we can then bring on to paid work post funding. We would also love to get some people from the start up community to test out some of our stealth products and services – so please reach out.
We’re aiming to build a community of Australian idea makers helping each other. If you could have one question answered about startups, marketing, social media, accounting, monetization, product development etc. What would it be?
Where are all the developers at?
What’s your favourite bar/café/restaurant?
Jardin Tan, located at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Birdwood Avenue, South Yarra. The restaurant is a beautiful yet casual venue with awesome food. Great for a shared dining experience with family or friends.