People often ask me if we are encouraging people to drive more by making parking easier? What we don’t realize is that up to 30% of urban traffic is due to looking for parking. By connecting the motorists with the most convenient parking space, we will reduce a massive amount of congestion. Everyone has the responsibility to travel smarter. We are going to make smart travel part of everyday life.
Asa part of my series about “Big Ideas That Might Change The World In The Next Few Years” I had the pleasure of interviewing Irish entrepreneur Garret Flower, the co-founder & CEO of Parkpnp, a technology start-up on a mission to halve the number of parking spaces in the world.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I’ve always had an eye for opportunity, starting with my first business hosting parties in my apartment in the heart of Dublin city centre. From there, I’ve had a number of early ventures, which taught me that if I execute well enough, I could be my own boss and work on my schedule. I have never liked working for other people, and I’ve gotten fired three times!
Creating products and systems always gave me an adrenaline, propelling me towards entrepreneurship. Now, I can’t imagine doing anything else!
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
My last company, Krust Bakery (now with 20 employees in Dublin City Centre), focused on innovation. We were able to run the entire bakery and cafe through our smartphones. We turn off lights, heat, alarm, ovens, and accept payments from our phones. We were also the first bakery in the world to accept bitcoins!
One day, we got an email and a very interesting phone call from a Chinese businessman. He wanted to launch our ‘Smart Bakery’ concept across his 200 stores in China. We agreed to meet, and he arranged for our team to fly to Hong Kong-all expenses paid!
We met the morning after we arrived. He brought his translator. After some brief greetings and acknowledgements, he asked — through his translation — ’so please, tell me more about the robots’. After a few bewildered looks, he got up and walked out, leaving his translator behind. We realized then that he misunderstood a news article. He thought we had a bakery filled with robots making the bread!
We enjoyed another six days in Hong Kong, then went back to the daily grind in Dublin. And that is the crazy life of a startup.
Can you tell us about your “Big Idea That Might Change The World”?
Cities are getting bigger. Space for housing, recreation, and community is getting squeezed. Yet, for some reason, our cities are drowning in unused parking spaces. At any given time, 66% of parking spaces in a developed urban city are lying idle.
How is this happening, when our biggest complaint around parking is that we can’t find any?
This has to change and Parkpnp is leading the movement to do this. Parkpnp is the world’s fastest growing parking software company with a laser focus on using technology to halve the world’s parking spaces by 2024.
How do you think this will change the world?
If we halved the amount of parking spaces, you would free up an area the size of 100 football fields for development in Manhattan alone. Imagine what this space could do for communities? Improved housing, enhanced transport infrastructure, new sports facilities — the possibilities are endless.
Now replicate this impact across all of the world’s most developed urban areas. Parkpnp is unlocking the space cities need to grow into the smart cities the world needs.
People often ask me if we are encouraging people to drive more by making parking easier? What we don’t realize is that up to 30% of urban traffic is due to looking for parking.
By connecting the motorists with the most convenient parking space, we will reduce a massive amount of congestion. Everyone has the responsibility to travel smarter. We are going to make smart travel part of everyday life.
Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this idea? Can you tell us that story?
I bought my first car a few years ago. The first day, it was raining hard, and I was driving around a busy part of Dublin for 25 minutes looking for parking. I kept driving in circles and getting more and more frustrated. I saw an open space in the front driveway of someone’s house. I drove in, knocked on the door, and asked the lady if I could park there for a few hours.
She said ‘no problem!’.
A few hours later, I came back with ten euros, some chocolates for her, and a new business idea!
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
1. Don’t be scared to go for it
Everyone will think you are mad, until you succeed. I had an Honours degree in Accountancy. But at 23, I was baking out of my apartment, walking around Dublin with a basket of pastries, and selling to independent cafes! I held part time jobs in retail and hospitality while I chased my dream. I slept on friends couches for months and owed all of my friends and family money. People told me I was a fool to continue. Three years later, I owned two cafes and a wholesale business employing 15 people.
2. Rome wasn’t built in a day
When graduating college, I read about entrepreneurs who became overnight successes. I pushed myself hard working seven day weeks, 20 hour days trying to create this success for myself. What I realised is that success doesn’t happen overnight. It can take years of persistence, and you can still fail. Business is hard, and many things can go wrong that is outside of your control. Go easy on yourself, enjoy every moment, and take the experience as successes until you get to where you want to be. (Hard, I know!). Relax, and try to enjoy the ride.
3. Material things have no value until they do
People spend too much time wasting money on material things such as the next phone, the newest watch, the latest shoes. I found this need to buy things leads to a continued sense of unfulfilled emotions. These purchases usually have little alignment with your personal goals. I have found it’s better to reward yourself after your achievements. For example, in 2017, after we closed our out seed round for Parkpnp, I went out and bought my very first Apple product-a MacBook Pro. The sense of happiness and achievement comes up everytime I open this laptop. I’m not saying that this method works for every purchase, but it has helped me focus on my goals.
4. Quality is much better than quantity
Always go for quality, in everything you do. When I started the wholesale bakery business Krust, I was desperate to keep costs low. I found office chairs that were given away for free. The chairs were not in great condition, but hey, a saving is a saving, right? No. After a few months, I was sitting in the office, and suddenly, the chair split in half! I landed on a metal rod that lodged in my back. I was literally an inch away from being paralyzed. I did require 12 stitches. You might think you are saving time and money by shopping for bargains, however, quality always pays in the long term.
5. Go with the flow
I never had much money. When I was young we were quite comfortable, but things changed when I was around ten. Life was sometimes a struggle for my family. I didn’t get good enough grades to get into the college of my choice, and I was crushed to go to the only one that would accept me.
But this actually turned out to be the best thing for me. I moved to Dublin, I met amazing friends and had some unforgettable times. I worked in the college during the summer, and they gave me a job after graduation. Someties, life will dictate your path. So just go with it, make the best of it, and you may end up better off.
The future of work is a common theme. What can one do to “future proof” their career?
Make your career an adventure. Don’t just sit behind a computer waiting for automation to come and take your job from you. Get out there, start things, learn how to fail, become resilient, meet interesting people, embrace change but most importantly take risks.
Based on the future trends in your industry, if you had a million dollars, what would you invest in?
Great people, if you back the right people, they will produce results every time. I think people are more important than industry trends. Trends change, talent is a constant.
Which principles or philosophies have guided your life? Your career?
Treat people with kindness and respect but don’t waste time on the fools and naysayers. Everyone deserves the right to be treated fairly and with respect, but once they lose it, don’t suffer them for a second more as they will drag you down.
Can you share with our readers what you think are the most important “success habits” or “success mindsets”?
Aim higher than you believe is possible. I have always dreamed big.
My grandfather was best pals with JFK, my mum vividly remembers playing in the Oval Office as a child. I grew up with my Mum telling me I was destined for great things. This constant reinforcement set me up with a self confidence to try things other people thought was daft or mad.
I setup a renewable energy company Esound Energy at 20, a golf company “Esport Golf” at 22, a bakery “Krüst” at 23, a tech company “Parkpnp” at 27 and my goals is to change the world in some meaningful way and leave a lasting impact.
Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say?
Parkpnp is organizing the world’s parking. We are on a mission to halve the world’s parking through our innovative software solutions that influence the beginning and end of every journey.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.