Have you ever spent hours circling the block for a parking spot? Thanks to a new app by IVY Member Robyn Gerber, you’ll circle no more.
Parkarr is a crowd-sourced parking app that connects drivers looking for street-parking with those leaving their parking spots. Users can “host” a spot—or list their spot and notify others when they plan to vacate. After spots are listed, people looking for parking spaces can search by neighborhood and time and connect with a hosted spot. It’s designed to take the stress out of the search for parking by making the whole process into an easy exchange.
Robyn sat down with IVY Magazine to talk about her new app, why crowd-sourcing is so popular, and the art of balancing entrepreneurship with another full-time career.
How did you dream up Parkarr?
My Dad lives in midtown Manhattan in a neighborhood where drivers park regularly. He does this quirky thing where he puts a piece of paper on his car with a smiley face if he’s leaving that day and a frowning face if he’s not and drivers in the neighborhood actually know to look out for his car. I thought to myself, there has to be an app for this!
Crowd-sourcing apps are really trending these days. Why do you think now is the moment?
I believe that our network of peers, neighbors, friends, family and even strangers has the social influence and power to reach millions of people. You’ve heard of strength in numbers. I think we are now living in a time where the strength is in the crowd. Everyone has a smart phone these days and that gives them the tools to share information about all kinds of things: their whereabouts, shopping tips, hot new restaurants, bartering opportunities… the possibilities are endless.
Specific to parking, if people work together to share information — such as about available parking spots — that brings to light a lot more than they can see on their block and helps them find a parking spot when they need one.
Naming a start-up has become an art form these days. (Just a few weeks ago, I came across a new shipping service called Shyp.) You have a particularly catchy name—can you talk about your naming process?
I love app names that are simple in nature and give you an indication as to what they’re about. I knew I wanted the word “Park” to be a part of the name, as people often search for what they are looking for in the App Store. My family spent one afternoon brainstorming App Names and then it just came to me “Parkarr.” Some like to joke that it’s parking for pirates and I’m ok with that!
What’s been your process for taking your vision and making it into an actual company?
I knew this was my first app and I’m very cognizant of cost. I went to an event at Dev Bootcamp looking to hire a talented student. At first, the recruiter of the program told me they only work with large companies. Fast-forward three months later, she called me out of the blue and told me she was very passionate about my idea and that I was welcome to recruit one of the developers from the program. I hired Daniella, my first developer. We outlined five milestones together, and 10 weeks later we had submitted to Apple.
That was just the beginning…I soon realized Parkarr needed to be as user friendly as UBER. A good friend of mine, Mike came on board as CTO. Mike re-coded the app and together we have worked to perfect Parkarr to what it is today. I don’t want to say the coding was easy but that was the first true “we made it” moment…
Now on to the marketing… I thought, how do I reach drivers who are dealing with the troubles of finding parking day in and day out? It has been a lot of grassroots marketing tactics: Talking to drivers while they are sitting in their cars waiting for spots to open up. Speaking with NYC Doormen who park not only their own cars, but they often help building residents by parking their cars. Media coverage helped as well with features on CBS News 2, News 12 Brooklyn, CNBC and 1010 Wins. We are approaching 2,000 users in the NY metro area, and it’s growing. Now the focus is to keep momentum strong and ignite the foundation we have built. For potential funding, “Shark Tank” is always a possibility down the road!
I read an article the other day about the 10% entrepreneur—or entrepreneurs who run their own company while maintaining a full-time job. How have you balanced starting a company while keeping your job?
It’s all about time management. My full-time job is very important but I also have this entrepreneurial spirit, so I do my best to fit it all in. I am very productive on the subway where I send out roughly 10 emails on my 45-minute commute. I’m sure other Ivy readers can relate! I signed up for a program called Business Mentor NY and was fortunate to be paired with a great mentor who has given me guidance, legal advice, and even introduced me to potential investors. Above all, I have a supportive network of family and friends who have helped me tremendously throughout this journey, whether it be handing out flyers, sharing a post about Parkarr on social media, testing the app or starring in the Parkarr music video.
This app currently seems very unique to New York City street parking. How do you see it growing over the next 5 years?
A lot of the apps you have seen focus on garage parking. Parkarr will be the key to street-parking. In the next year, we are focused on growing our user base. Over time, we want to be the go-to app for all of your street-parking needs whether it is a reminder to move your car when it’s no longer valid to park there, or paying your meter from your phone, Parkarr will do it all. Then we plan to expand to other cities, including colleges.
What advice do you have for other new entrepreneurs?
Dream big, but stay grounded. Do your research, but if you have an app that solves a problem and makes people’s lives easier it will catch on. Don’t give up…there will be a lot of naysayers throughout the long, windy road. Take in what those people have to say and use that feedback to make your venture better. Above all, don’t take anything for granted and appreciate the successes you will see along the way!