Tech start-up of the week: ParkYa

26 May 2013

ParkYa's co-founders Kirk Donohoe, Jason Roe and Paul Flood

Our start-up of the week is ParkYa, a new smartphone app a Dublin-based start-up is developing to make it easier for people to find car parking spaces in real-time and pay for them using their phones.

Jason Roe is the co-founder of ParkYa along with Kirk Donohoe and Paul Flood.

The trio started working full-time on ParkYa about nine months ago. The start-up is based at the NDRC in Dublin, where it is taking part in the LaunchPad incubation programme.

While Roe has a technical background, Flood’s expertise is in user experience and product design, and Donohoe is looking after the operations side of ParkYa.

Roe met Donohue while taking part in Enterprise Ireland’s New Frontiers programme at Institute of Technology Blanchardstown last year, while he had already worked with Flood at a creative agency. ParkYa now employs four people on a full-time basis and two part-time team members.

Finding parking spots

The idea of the app is to improve the user experience of parking.

“We envisioned a way of allowing consumers to find both on-street parking and multi-storey car parking all through the one mobile phone application,” explains Roe.

“It’s also to allow consumers to pay for on-street parking through the current payment providers who are already around cities.”

So how will people use the app to find parking? Users can plan their journeys and do a search before they leave home. The app will give a listing of parking options.

“Say you are going somewhere like the O2 (in Dublin) and you are not familiar with the area. You can do a search for that area and you will get a listing of off-street and on-street parking,” explains Roe.

Another scenario where the app could come in handy, he says, is when someone is parked up somewhere close to the city and they are not sure where to park.

“You can search based on your location and we will give you a list of parking locations that are closest to you.”


Private beta

In January, ParkYa launched a private beta of the application to a closed group of 250 people.

“Since then, they’ve been testing it and we have been putting out new versions to that closed group,” explains Roe. “We’ve been learning about how people use the app, the features they like, and improving the whole user experience to help them find parking and make payments.”

In June, the plan is to do a more public beta launch – this will be for iOS devices. The ParkYa team has just pushed out its first Android build to a small group of test users.

Using open data for Dublin City

The whole project was initially conceived at an open data competition that ran in 2011 at the NDRC.

“We have been using the open data from Dublinked to get a lot of our on-street parking information,” says Roe. This includes information on where the parking meters are and how many spaces are located beside the meters.

“There are also feeds of parking data from some off-street locations,” explains Roe. “This would be similar to the information that is displayed on the outdoor parking signs that are dotted around the city.”

ParkYa is also working with Dublin City Council and researchers at Institute of Technology Blanchardstown on the area of open data.

Paying for parking

As to how people will be able to pay for parking via their smartphones, Roe says the company won’t take the payments.

“We work with local payment providers who have the contracts for those payment areas,” he explains.

The company is working with a payment provider in Dublin, as well as a provider based in Cork and Limerick.

“You still have to have an account registered with a third-party payment provider, but we integrate that and make the process easier.”

Revenue streams

ParkYa will be finishing up the NDRC’s LaunchPad programme in three weeks. Roe says the programme has been instrumental in helping the team work out how to commercialise the different elements of the product.

ParkYa is also taking part in the Fusion initiative run by The Irish Times.

“We’ve been exploring different ways to engage with brands and advertisers through the application,” says Roe.

One possible revenue stream for ParkYa will be via payment providers.

“Most payment providers would like to get more customers registered on their payment services,” explains Roe. “We are agreeing deals with different providers around a fee for acquiring customers.”

Other markets

In relation to the company’s plans, he says ParkYa is using Ireland as a test site.

“We’re learning how the market reacts to the product and the payment providers. Our long-term goal is to bring the technology outside of Ireland.”

The UK will be the company’s initial target market, but Roe also sees great potential for the ParkYa app in the US.

With the public beta of the app for iOS devices set to happen in June, he says the start-up will asses user feedback before releasing the app into the App Store.

Finally, his advice for other self-starters is to get their teams right before they start developing a product.

“As the product evolves, it is very good to have a group of people who were there from the beginning,” he adds.

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic