Catching Up

Controversies & 2 Pivots Later, This M'sian Startup Merges Parking Reservations & EV Charging

ParkEasy started in 2014 with an indoor navigation system before adding in carpark reservations, and the startup had its fair share of critics back then.

These carpark reservations were made through their app and the parking bays were reserved using LED signboards, which CEO Warren Chan said “didn’t work out because people didn’t really obey signboards.”

After that, they did a pivot and tried out the peer-to-peer matching model with their app which matched “parkers” to “leavers” to ensure that there would be an empty spot ready for the user.

However, that model had its limitations, too, and Warren admitted to them, saying “it wasn’t a controlled environment” where “ParkEasy had very little control over how the other person would behave.”

While still maintaining their carpark reservation system, ParkEasy then moved from LED signboards to physical barriers and found the latter model to be very successful.

They first launched their reservation-only parking bays in IOI City Mall before moving them into Jalan Telawi following a deal with a store there.

Eventually, they pulled their system out of Jalan Telawi following more controversy, with Warren saying, “One of the reasons why [pulling out] was such an easy call to make was that we were doing very well in IOI City Mall.”

So, back to IOI City Mall it was for ParkEasy, who started there with 17 bays and then expanded their coverage to 72 bays in total.

A new opportunity arises

ParkEasy recently secured a partnership with Shell Malaysia Ltd, BMW Group Malaysia and Sunway Group in setting up electric vehicle (EV) charging bays. These bays are called Reserve + Shell Recharge bays.

“Basically, Shell came to us and said that ‘we want to do electric charging’, and they had already known us because apparently, somebody at Shell uses [ParkEasy] all the time,” Warren said.

“The way BMW got involved was through supplying the chargers, and Sunway provided the locations.”

Image Credit: ParkEasy

“So that’s why we did 12 bays, 5 in Sunway Pyramid, 3 in Sunway Pinnacle, 2 in Sunway Velocity, and there are another 2 in IOI City Mall.”

Warren said they’re trying to cater to the EV market, as EV owners commonly have what is called “charging anxiety” or “range anxiety” where drivers will worry about whether they’ll be able to complete the journey from A to B on a certain battery charge level.

According to Warren, while non-EV owners sometimes struggle with fuel anxiety, it’s even worse for EV owners as most of the public charging bays are located within shopping malls.

Regular carpark bays vastly outnumber EV charging bays in shopping malls, and “when you arrive at your charging bay there’s no guarantee that it’ll be available for you,” Warren said.

“People park their cars, they plug in, and they’re there for at least a couple of hours so there’s a lot of charging anxiety when it comes to [EVs].”

In working together with Shell, ParkEasy is trying to address that concern.

For the future of EVs

When we get driverless electric vehicles as ride-hailing providers in the future, “they might need to charge up after dropping you off and will have to find the nearest charging station available at the moment,” said Warren.

“The system that it communicates with needs to be the backbone infrastructure of the electric charging network, and so that’s where ParkEasy is kind of positioning ourselves as well, so we hope at the end to be like a machine-to-machine communication platform.”

“You can’t do it for money.”

Warren’s advice to aspiring or struggling startups would be to find a greater calling than money when it comes to the reason for starting up a business in the first place.

“The reason why this is very important is because at the end of the day there are going to be times which are really bad, and the only thing that’s going to be able to pull you though is a calling which is greater than money.”

If not, “you’re just looking at burnout straight in the face,” and “startups are definitely susceptible to burnout,” he said.

Personally, Warren affirms his calling with ParkEasy by reading the positive reviews of happy users on their app.

“There were times when we were like ‘should we just give up?’ then we were like ‘but we have so many people who use us so what are we going to do?’ and that kept us going. It’s paid off pretty well,” Warren said proudly.

Charging onwards

Image Credit: ParkEasy

As of now, ParkEasy has around 6,000 to 7,000 monthly active users with around 2,600 monthly reservations made.

Warren told us to “expect exciting things from ParkEasy in terms of different partnerships” by the end of 2019.

“We’re venturing into new spaces beyond just shopping malls and commercial areas,” he said.

  • Read more about ParkEasy here.

Featured Image Credit: BMW

 

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