Garret Flower’s firm plans to expand further this year in Dublin and the US
Of all the culture wars being fought in the 2020s, the battle over cars may be the most contentious to urbanists and town planners.
Should cities be adapting with fewer private vehicles in mind? What about people who need one, despite the downsides? And what might a further population spike do?
Aside from the usual considerations of congestion and pollution, one question is never far away: where should cars be parked?
While councils and policymakers roil about this, one Irish startup has raised cash – with more on the way, it seems – for ‘arrival’ technology that tries to make much more of the space already reserved in cities for car-parking. In a nutshell, Wayleadr lets companies and car parks divvy up car spaces on easy self-serve apps and online menus. It’s also developing systems to guide people to those spots.
“Google and Apple Maps have mastered navigation while you have Uber and Lyft that have mastered leaving,” says Garret Flower, the Longford-born founder and CEO of the company,
“But there's this big space for what to do when you arrive. It sucks. And it sucks everywhere. Our mission is to make arriving easier than leaving by helping you find a space or book a space, like you would a desk or a meeting room.”
Our mission is to make arriving easier than leaving by helping you find a space or book a space
One of the main problems that Mr Flower’s technology tries to tackle is a typical one for a lot of city businesses – too many cars for too few spaces, which discourages people from coming back to the office.
“Let's say there's a company with 500 spaces and 2,000 employees,” he says. “Mostly, those spaces would go to senior staff or middle managers while the junior guys would get left out. But the back-to-office trends show people coming in three days, like Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. That often means that the parking space is now available to others on Monday and Friday.”
What Wayleadr brings is a system closer to one that drivers of electric cars are familiar with – being able to see and plan which spots are, or might be, available.
The six-year-old company now operates in 24 countries, with the US currently its biggest market. Based on the strength of big corporate clients such as L’Oreal, Ebay, Indeed, Colliers and CBRE, it raised $4m in funding last year and, says Mr Flower, is currently exploring another raise.
The idea for all of this came to Mr Flower when he came into a bit of money and bought a car.
It raised $4m in funding last year
“I was driving around looking for a parking space,” he says. “I got very frustrated. Why was I driving around looking for a space when you should have 1,000 available spaces in your pocket?”
He co-founded a parking space app called Parkpnp to look at some of the more basic issues associated with this. Wayleadr (formerly called ParkOffice), is looking to move one step up, creating an ‘arrival technology platform’.
“We built a lot of solutions for parking, but realised we were being asked to solve so many more problems,” he says.
One of the things that this “arrival software” is starting to do, he says, is guide you toward an available space – like a Google Maps for car spots. They call it ‘wayfinding’.
“One of the big problems is that when you get to a parking area or garage, where do you go? Is there a space available? Where is it? Guiding you directly to that available space saves you time and saves everyone congestion. We’re innovating on that at the moment.”
While the company is “hardware agnostic”, it can hook into existing equipment through an API. It also uses cellular technology.
Because of the business it’s building, Wayleadr collects a lot of interesting data on what people do with their cars and their parking spaces. The company has just collated this into an ‘arrival index report’ that measured the trips and habits of over 100,000 employees across Wayleadr’s client base.
Only a third of companies still use reserved parking space
Among other nuggets, it found that only a third of companies still use reserved parking spaces and that employees typically spend just over a tenth of their day commuting. It also found that just 1pc of parking spaces are equipped to charge electric cars.
“I think parking lots are going to die,” says Mr Flower, commenting on the trends. “I think that they’ll be eliminated in the next 10 years. There are four spaces to every car in the world, which is a mismatch. The problem isn't space. The problem is access.”
Wayleadr has 32 staff at present, with an office in Dublin. Mr Flower himself is currently based in New York, to help develop the US side of the business.
“I think we'll be nearer to 70 people by the end of this year,” he says. “A lot of those people will be hired in Ireland. If I can encourage more growth in Ireland, that's what I'm going to do.”
Wayleadr is also expected to raise more money at some point this year.
“Right now it makes sense for us to raise,” he said. “It would help accelerate our growth and be able to close on these portfolios quicker.”