YourParkingSpace: changing the way you park
If you look at almost every industry it’s been transformed by the internet. When you think of how you last booked a flight, hotel, bought insurance, or even found a date, businesses such SkyScanner, Booking.com, Confused and Tinder will spring to mind. All online businesses that have transformed the industries they operate in. Yet one industry has remained remarkably static. That industry is parking.
Speak to anyone and they’ll tell you that parking is a major problem. Every driver has a story to tell about the time when they couldn’t find a space, felt they were overcharged, or received a PCN when they shouldn’t have. This is in an industry where drivers spend over £10 billion each year to park, before even factoring in PCN fines and the hidden cost to the economy of traffic congestion caused by drivers circling looking for a space and the delays and pollution that result from this. The scale of the problem is huge and, as of yet, no solution has arisen.
To understand why the parking industry hasn’t evolved you need to take a step back into its history. Back in the mid 20th century car parks were owned by the companies that ran them. NCP is the company that springs to mind here, with its founder Sir Donald Gosling investing £200 in a bombsite in Holborn back in 1948. Back then Sir Donald Gosling and owners of similar companies were incentivised to fill their car parks, as they benefitted by receiving 100 per cent of the revenue.
By the 1970s and 1980s property values had soared and these car parks started to be sold off to asset management companies, such as Blackrock. These asset management companies would employ car park management companies to run the car parks, usually on a revenue share agreement. Again, the car parks were run to maximise revenue as it was in the interest of all parties.
It was towards the close of the 1990s when this started to change. It was the dawn of the internet age which coincided with the adoption of Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) technology. The combination of the two led to a race to the bottom. Suddenly car park management companies would offer to run car parks for small fixed management fees or often for free, informing car park owners that they could retain 100% of the revenue generated from sales. Where did the car park management companies make their money? From issuing PCNs, facilitated in large part through ANPR technology. The consequence has been that all the innovation in the industry over the past decade has been in enforcement and ticketing, with the majority of car park management companies not incentivised to fill car parks with paying customers.
However, there is a company that is looking to change the UK industry’s path. That company is YourParkingSpace.co.uk. Having originated back in 2006 as a part-time business focusing on driveway rentals, the company re-launched at the end of 2013, with a new focus on creating a marketplace for all types of parking, from private driveways through to spaces in commercial and local authority car parks.
As Harrison Woods, founder and managing director of YourParkingSpace, recalls, “I felt there was a huge opportunity to bring choice and transparency to the parking industry. I was leaving university at the time and found myself buying and booking everything online, except for parking.”
Prior to 2013 the business was small, operating in the driveway rentals niche, but the success of Airbnb help to fuel growth since re-launching. “It’s an easy concept to grasp when we mention that we’re aiming to be the Airbnb for parking,” comments Harrison. “There are differences but it’s a great starting point when explaining what we do. The success of Airbnb has indirectly really helped us.”
Over the past couple of years YourParkingSpace has increasingly turned their attention towards signing up businesses and car park operators. “There was a lot of fear of change of the industry at the start, less so nowadays but it’s still there,” notes Harrison. “All our statistics show that the online audience is separate to drive-up customers. Our platform simply drives incremental revenue, providing a top-up to the existing revenue of a car park. The fear shouldn’t be there but it’s our job to demonstrate this to people in the industry.”
Private individuals, businesses with vacant bays, private car park operators, and now increasingly local authorities are starting to embrace the platform, seeing YourParkingSpace as a way to bring additional customers to their car parks in these challenging economic times.
Whilst YourParkingSpace is only based in the UK for now, a similar trend of parking marketplaces and pre-booking apps springing up can be seen over in the US. Spothero and ParkWhiz are the two major companies in the US, having both raised tens of millions in venture capital funding. It remains to be seen whether any of the companies catch on in the same way as an Uber, Tinder or Booking.com have in their industries, but it will be an interesting couple of years ahead for the parking sector.
YourParkingSpace Ltd Company Profile
Founded: November, 2013
Head Office: Level39, 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London.
Number of Employees: 20
Parking space locations: 35,000
Interesting fact about the business: The first parking space ever added to the platform was located in Bognor Regis.