Elevator Pitch is a regular feature on Lifehacker where we profile startups and new companies and pick their brains for entrepreneurial advice. This week, we're talking with Nick Austin from Divvy.
In 128 words or less, explain your business idea.
Divvy Parking is a collaborative consumption-style business using technology to help people work together to solve a common dilemma — finding suitable parking.
For those of us who work in CBD or urban areas, finding affordable and convenient parking is a daily nightmare. On-street parking spaces are on the decline, fees are on the rise, and we have more people living and working in cities than ever before. The issue is that current parking strategies are focused on on-street parking, ignoring the thousands of privately owned spaces that sit empty every day.
Divvy lets individuals, businesses and even large commercial property owners lease out their unused parking spaces. Divvy is founded in the 'Smart Cities' mantra of using data to make cities more efficient and sustainable as they grow.
What strategies are you using to grow and finance your idea?
Before founding Divvy, I worked in finance, specifically portfolio management and investment, so I apply that knowledge to Divvy every day. At the start, we engaged a number of companies, including Blue Chilli, and built a fantastic team through networking with passionate people in the tech industry. We're continuing to grow our team and focus on sourcing the best talent and advisers available. That's really important to us.
We started Divvy in 2011 with an initial personal investment. We received an early round of seed funding in early 2014 which helped propel the business to the next stage. We've been conscious to align Divvy with strategic investors who believe in the idea and can offer their expertise.
For now, we're focused on generating strong organic growth and have just begun our national roll-out, starting with Melbourne in October. We're also growing our national network through our partnerships with commercial property companies.
What's the biggest challenge facing your business?
Getting the right business model took some time — it wasn't instant. We listened to the market, pivoted, had conversations with our members and new partners, and pivoted again. We have a better model now because of it. Finding the right software partner is absolutely key, and you need a team that is dedicated, passionate and has the necessary skills to build your business. Making changes to the technology is time-consuming and can be very costly, but sometimes those changes are necessary. The decision to build an internal IT team has definitely been a very beneficial one for us.
How do your differentiate your business from your competitors?
Being an online company, in a rapidly growing space, means there have been a few competitors emerge who are starting to adopt our idea. But we are the first and only solution in Australia that handles bookings, payments, swipe card exchanges, bonds, reporting and parking portfolio management in one solution.
Our approach to working intelligently with major property portfolios in Australia is a key differentiator between us and competitors in the space. We work with individuals who can benefit from the passive income stream of leasing out their unused parking space, but also have relationships with major property groups and are looking to build on these.
Aside from that, Divvy is also contributing to the Smart City solution — we aim to improve the way cities work and create a more connected and collaborative community through innovative technology.
What one phone, tablet or PC application could you not live without?
Love Magic Seaweed for checking the swell, and Shazam for storing the tunes I hear when I'm out and about.
What's the best piece of business advice you've ever received?
Be true to yourself and be honest with others.
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