Kiwi parking startup Parkable has closed a $NZ4.6 million ($4.3 million) funding round, as it looks to head overseas and grow beyond a mere ‘Airbnb for your motor’.
The round is led by New Zealand digital services company Spark, while existing private investors have also contributed.
Founded in 2016 by Toby Littin, Brody Nelson and Warwick Beauchamp, Parkable was created to solve a familiar pain point — driving around in circles looking for a place to park your car, and having to pay “exorbitant” fees when you find one.
“Parking sucks,” Littin tells StartupSmart.
“We’ve all been there.”
With frustration rife, the sharing economy on the rise and the Internet of Things starting to trend, there was “a strong market condition”, he says.
Littin’s background is in venture capital, and he has also held positions at Callaghan Innovation, the innovation agency of the New Zealand government, where he oversaw the R&D grant program.
This meant he was uniquely placed to identify tech trends.
“I got a sense of some really cool businesses that did really well, [and] some less cool businesses,” he says.
The co-founders created the Parkable platform, matching people with spare driveways, garages or other spots with those looking for a place to park.
However, the co-founders soon realised the problem was even bigger than they thought. This is a problem that goes beyond public parking and affects employees and visitors to large businesses as well.
“Parking is pretty broken across the board,” Littin says.
Now, the startup’s ‘Parkable for Business’ arm allows workers to find a suitable spot, while also giving those with an allocated space the opportunity to share it.
“Increasingly, our business is about large enterprise.”
Although this funding is the first big cash injection into Parkable, it’s already operational in three Aussie cities, and in Shanghai. The startup has formed a joint venture in China, and in February, it acquired Brisbane startup Park Genie.
“It’s been frenetic,” Littin says.
“It’s growing really, really well.”
The funding round will be invested into “two frontiers”, Littin explains.
First, the startup will be expanding, to put “boots on the ground” in new territories. Second, the founders are hoping to deepen their presence in New Zealand, Australia and China, through investing in the sales and marketing teams.
Having Spark on board as an investor will also give the business benefits beyond the financial windfall.
It also allows the startup to offer products through Spark’s enterprise sales channel, expanding its reach while keeping internal costs to a minimum, Littin explains.
Spark is also “the New Zealand equivalent of Telstra”, he says, offering Parkable “access to some really great tech capability”.
Ultimately, these capabilities will help Parkable grow into something much bigger than an app solving parking headaches.
“We see the platform continuing to deliver increasing valuation services,” Littin says.
“We want to live inside the connected and autonomous vehicle.”
The founder has plans to introduce integrated mobility features such as ridesharing and car-pooling, to be part of the autonomous vehicle revolution, and to provide services relating to electric vehicle stations. Already, this is part of the startup’s offering in China, he says.
“The structure of the business has to grow to support that.”
“Late nights, early starts”
Even with a wealth of investment and tech experience, for Littin and his co-founders, it has still been a bumpy road of “late nights, early starts, no cash”, he says.
“There’s never the same challenge two days in a row.”
However, for others seeking funding, he suggests taking the time to build a strong relationship with potential investors.
Spark invested a small amount in a bridging round, he explains.
“They used the following nine or 10 months to get under the hood of our business.”
Littin also reminds co-founders to stay on the front foot when it comes to growth.
“Always raise money before you think you need it and hire people before you think you need them,” he advises.
Finding the best people, and uniting them behind a common purpose, is “an incredibly difficult thing to do”, he adds
Finally, he urges other founders, whether they’re seeking funding or just growing organically, to be patient and persistent.
“It always takes longer, and it’s harder than you think, but don’t lose heart.”