By Jérémy Seyman, Head of Sales at Yespark
The Business of Mobility is an Urban Mobility Company series highlighting some of the most successful new businesses in the mobility sector. Featuring a closer look at the way in which companies stand out, CEOs, Directors and other c-level executives elaborate on what it takes to turn a great idea into a great company.
Yespark was created in 2014 by two French students, Thibaut Chary and Charles Pfister. When Thibaut tried to rent a parking place in Paris he was asked for deposits, supporting documents, references, etc. He couldn’t believe that something so simple could be made so complicated. There were unused spaces in basements across the city. Through a mutual friend Thibaut met Charles Pfister (“in the cellar of a somewhat creepy café” as Charles puts it) and the two agreed that with the right technological solution they could solve the supply-offer gap in parking. Jérémy Seyman provides more detail on the story.
A change in social housing law in France delivers more parking supply
I joined the company in 2018 and by that time Yespark had 20 000 parking bays. The vast majority of these were owned by the local French government. In France around a third of all communal property –flats, housing estates, etc. – are owned by the government and leased to deserving tenants as ‘social housing’. In 1989 the law governing these properties was amended in favour of tenants who were no longer saddled with a parking bay they did not need. Suddenly local governments all over France had these parking spaces that were no longer bringing them money. Yespark had a solution for them and today around 90% of our bays are socially owned.
Building the tech to build the trust
Our founders knew that they could make landlords happy and provide drivers with a parking place in the right area. And they knew there would be a potential ongoing revenue stream for a business that developed a seamless platform for putting the two parties together.
By today’s technology our solution is not rocket science. The IoT communicates via sim cards, using 3,4, or 5G. When the subscriber hits ‘open’ on their app, it sends a message to our server, which runs the necessary checks, before communicating with the sim card in the gate.
Once a potential subscriber becomes interested in our service they can find the right parking space for their needs and be paid up and checked out within minutes. And if it doesn’t work for them, they can unsubscribe in a month or two.
We know exactly who is going in or out of which parking and when they’re doing so. We link it all to our subscription payment model and consult the data when we need to make smart business decisions about managing demand and pricing.
It would have been impossible to create a business like this without Fourth Industrial Revolution technology. And yet this is primarily not a tech business. An example of this is how Yespark is solving security problems in the areas where it is active. Parking landlords were at first concerned about strangers being given access to their property via an app. But having tried the system, landlords now tell us that these ‘strangers’ have actually improved security. Vacant buildings can attract criminals and vagrants and result in neglect. Our system puts paying customers (whose identity and movements we have records on) through otherwise unused spaces. Their presence and feedback improves security and maintenance, adding to the overall improvement of the city in which the parking is located.
Short term versus long term
When the founders started the business there was talk of providing short term as well as long term parking solutions. The complexity of handling an hour, or even a day or week, of once-off parking is not viable. We deal in ‘months’ and currently the average length of subscription is around ten months. We’ve got around 21 000 subscribers and around 45 000 parking spaces, the vast majority of these in France, with some in Italy and the Netherlands. Our business goals are to continue expanding internationally and then find new ‘partners’ from the private sector, be it individuals, hotels or asset managers.
Electric charging and micromobility
Today there are 210 000 electric vehicles (EVs) registered in France but only 30 000 charge stations available. Surveys show that two thirds of French car-buyers are interested in EVs but half those are worried about the constraints…like charging. I am told that one in five EV owners in California are going back to ICE because of lack of charging infrastructure. Yespark has ReCharge to solve for this. ReCharge is very similar to our standard offer but includes a charge point.
With ReCyclo we are aiming at the e-bike and micromobility market.
The future of mobility is, autonomous, connected, electric and shared, as convincingly argued by Hogan Lovells. With this thinking in mind, our strategy includes: connecting car parks, electrifying our spaces, offering services to vehicle fleets, adapting our offer to all types of mobility and micro-mobility.
Things are already happening along these fronts. The carsharing company Getaround is proving a good fit for our solution. Within Getaround you have smaller entrepreneurs using the platform to share perhaps ten or more cars. Our system gives these operators a digital customer-driven solution to what would otherwise require serious infrastructure investment in safe parking. And some of our backend is synced up with Getaround to facilitate integration.
Our ReCharge (parking bays with e-charge points) is proving extremely popular. It’s clear from our numbers that there is massive demand in France for charge points. There is exciting potential for Yespark to solve for micromobility storage (our ReCyclo solution). But this is an aspect of our business that perhaps needs more innovation and maturation before it takes off.
As founder Charles Pfister acknowledges: “we still have a lot to do, we haven’t proven anything. We just have a cool story behind us.” There are great incentives for companies that can ride the IoT wave. As Charles adds: “History is in front of us, not behind us.”
We have a virtuous business model, whereby growth is sparked by customer demand, not cash investment. This will help us ride the wave of new tech and keep solving city problems.
Interested in joining YesPark as an Autonomy Industry Partner? Learn more about our 2022 event today!