Anyone who has spent time circling the streets trying to find a parking spot in inner Sydney – and then spending an arm and a leg for a couple of hours – could surely understand an individual parking space selling for $400,000.
Looking to help make available more spots at cheaper prices is newly launched startup Share with Oscar. Cofounded by Louise Chen and Lisa Qi, the service connects drivers looking for parking to residents who have a car spot available, with residents able to share their spot for as little as an hour.
The idea came to the pair after one too many times circling the back alleys of Bondi looking for parking.
“Parking is next to impossible in Bondi. I would drive around for 45 minutes only to find a far off two hour spot that cost $7 an hour. By the time I’d get to the beach, it’d be time to move my car and go through the entire ordeal again,” Chen explained.
Linking up with Qi, the pair set out to build the solution in January. Developing the startup on the side themselves while working their corporate jobs, the cofounders decided to head back to the University of NSW and work with UNSW Innovations on Share with Oscar six months ago.
The app works works by having drivers browse for parking before they head out or as they’re circling the block – though not while actually driving; remember, safety first, kids – book a spot for as long as they need, and park. They can browse by location or by start time and the length of time that spots are available for. Once booked, payment is then transferred through the app.
Residents, meanwhile, can list their spot on the app as they walk out the door. They are transferred payments on a monthly basis.
Chen explained that on the supply side, the service is aimed at anyone with a driveway, garage, or car port living in an area where parking is difficult to find.
As they have launched in time for summer, the cofounders are currently focused on the Eastern suburbs of Sydney, targeting beachgoers frustrated with the lack of parking available near the water. A browse of the app shows dozens of spots available in the area at prices starting as low as $2 per hour and going up to $15 per hour close to the beach.
Given Sydney’s problems with parking, Share with Oscar isn’t the first startup to look at tackling the problem. Divvy is perhaps one of the biggest names in the space, giving drivers access to car spots in commercial buildings owned by the likes of Mirvac and Dexus. Its growth over the last few years saw the NRMA acquire 40 percent of Divvy in October.
Divvy, however, is focused more on the commuter working in the CBD and so makes available spots for long-term rentals, while Share with Oscar looks at on-demand bookings. Parkhound is perhaps more closely similar to Share with Oscar in that residents can list their empty driveways, however it too is also focused on longer term rentals.
“At Share with Oscar, we believe that no one really wants to plan ahead for parking, and that some drivers will try their luck with free street parking first. Therefore our solution allows drivers to head to their destination, and book on the spot with Oscar when they arrive at their destination,” Chen explained.
“Other parking apps are also geared towards long term parking arrangements, when we know that parking congestion is the worst in areas like the beach, and near hubs of activity where drivers only want a couple of hours of parking.”
The fact that spots are available on-demand is also a boost for residents; like Airbnb, it means they too can continue to use their spot as they please and earn spare cash from it when they aren’t using it.
With Chen and Qi having self funded the development of the app, Share with Oscar is currently taking a 15 percent cut of transactions made through the app.
Over the next 12 months, the goal is to grow the service’s footprint across Sydney. The most obvious go-to suburbs are those in the Inner West and the likes of Darlinghurst and Surry Hills, however there are also opportunities in other retail and medical hubs where parking is hard to come by.
The team has also begun exploring smart devices to prevent drivers overstaying their booking, as well as for accessing secure parking.
Image: Louise Chen and Lisa Qi. Source: Supplied.