Stop and go on the Mittlerer Ring, standstill on Leopoldstraße, a traffic jam at Luise-Kiesselbach-Platz — patience is often required from those who drive cars in Munich. Like many other major cities, the state capital has a traffic problem. The Munich startup Parkpocket wants to help reduce the daily gridlock in cities.
When driving in the city, we all really want the same thing: to arrive quickly with as little traffic as possible, and to find a parking space close to our destination. To a certain degree, these three elements are interconnected, because up to 40% of urban traffic is caused by drivers looking for a parking spot. Apps like Parkpocket show drivers open parking spaces, which should also help to reduce traffic caused by searching for parking.
“On the weekend, I regularly see a line in front of parking garages in Munich’s city center. This of course is not good for the city, either. Giving a better overview before having to search for parking could significantly improve the distribution of people looking for parking spots,”
explained Parkpocket cofounder Karoline Bader. The founding team indeed views their product as the solution to the problem.
Operating the Parkpocket app is very simple: Prior to departure, the user enters their destination and the planned duration of parking. A map shows parking options and, if possible, how many spaces are free in that area. The user is also shown prices as well as the individual services offered by a parking garage, such as women’s parking spaces, electric charging stations and video surveillance. The app displays significant differences in price of ten euros and more between different parking options. Pressing a button connects the application to navigation apps such as Google or Apple Maps.
The current lack of transparency when parking
Karoline Bader summarizes the objective of Parkpocket:
“We offer a service that creates transparency: in regards to open parking spaces on one hand, and the price parking options on the other.”
Parkpocket would like to provide a better overview. However, it focuses exclusively on off-street parking, i.e. spaces behind parking gates. Parking spaces on the side of the street are not featured in the app. The reason is simple: there is no data available on public parking spaces on the street yet. Several major companies are currently developing options to equip public parking spaces with sensors. In Amsterdam, for example, there are already parking spaces that signal whether they are occupied or free.
Since that is still the exception, however, Parkpocket is concentrating on gated parking as mentioned above. Through negotiations with parking garage operators, cities, and local authorities, the team is attempting (among other things) to get access to the number of open spaces in the individual parking garages.
Apps as a free showcase
The service offered by Parkpocket is to be integrated into automotive onboard systems, navigation services and intermodal mobility solutions, such as car-sharing providers. The founders’ vision is to make parking easier, more transparent and less complicated. The app itself has no ads and is free. Parkpocket wants to earn money by awarding licenses for its service:
“The app is our showcase. If our customers from the automotive, navigation, and telecommunications sectors like our app as private individuals, they’ll often want to integrate our service into their services and connected car solutions.”
According to their own reports, the startup is already generating revenue with this business model, and just recently convinced GFT Technologies to make a six-figure investment.
The company was founded in 2013 in the Swabian town Rottweil. After Wayra brought Parkpocket into the Acceleration Program in October of 2014, the startup moved to the state capital—and has been in Munich ever since. Through investors, Parkpocket runs a second office in Stuttgart, though the team is located in Munich:
“I don’t think there is any location in Germany that would be better suited for us than Munich. Munich is very strong in technology and attracts international personnel.”
The team is (almost) everything
The Parkpocket team now includes 16 people; the founders, permanent employees and student employees from Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich and the Technical University of Munich. Karoline Bader said,
“Our goal, when we grow, is to take on our student employees whenever possible.”
Additional personnel is planned in particular for the sales and technology divisions in the future. Parkpocket is also homing in on markets beyond the German-speaking world. However, Karoline Bader would rather not reveal which markets quite yet.
Karoline Bader offered two bits of advice for aspiring founders:
“Your team is the be-all and end-all, especially in the early stages. It is better to have a mediocre idea and a super team than a super idea and a mediocre team. That being said, you should only found something if you are really passionate about it and are absolutely convinced by the idea.”
The risk of failure should not deter budding entrepreneurs—Karoline Bader, at any rate, doesn’t have any worries about the future:
“If you are well-educated, have the right contacts, and know what you want, then you are in a good position, even if the startup doesn’t work out.”
You can find out more about Parkpocket on the company’s website. The app is available for free download for Android and iOS.