What is the best way to become a successful internet entrepreneur? Find a problem and solve it. That is the advice of Anthony Eskinazi, who did just that with his award-winning online venture, parkatmyhouse.com. Launched a little over three years ago, revenue has grown 300 per cent over the past 12 months.
The business idea was to connect property owners with a spare parking space to drivers in need of somewhere to park. It now has 50,000 users across the UK, who use the service to book a driveway, garage or car park space on a one-off or regular, short-term or long-term basis.
Drivers can save up to 70 per cent off the cost of parking while property owners are earning as much as £5,000 per year renting out their space.
He came up with the idea while travelling around America after graduating from Leeds University with a maths degree. He says: "I was in California on the way to a baseball match with my friend and we couldn't find anywhere to park. I said: 'Wouldn't it be great if we could park in that lady's driveway and pay her $10, avoiding the rush at the end of the game to get to the car park?'"
Once he returned to the UK, Mr Eskinazi - a trainee chartered accountant at the time - abandoned his job at consultancy firm Deloitte after a month to pursue his idea.
Rental hotspots include Wembley, Harley Street and Heathrow
A little over three years on and things are going well for the business, which, as Mr Eskinazi puts it, is pretty much recession-proof. "When things are great, property and rental prices are going up and people are happy to pay them which is great for our business. But during a recession, people are looking at new ways to make and save money, and that's what Parkatmyhouse is, effectively. "
However, he is reluctant to say that he has "benefited" from the recession. "Companies that focus on people making money will do well in the recession."
How much can you make? One client makes £7,200 a year by renting out a single space in an underground garage in Mayfair, central London; while a clergyman in King's Cross makes £20,000 a year by renting out several spaces in the church car park. Another user made £3,500 in one weekend from renting out an office car park by Wembley Stadium during the Take That concert last July.
A majority of the clientele are centered around major urban areas, near transport hubs, sports stadiums and airports.
The average rental is around £50 a month and the average annual earning on a single driveway is around £600, depending on the location. Some of the rental hotspots include Fifth Way, Wembley - £20 a day; Harley Street London W1 - £15 a day; Soho - £7,000 a year; and Penny Way, Heathrow - £30 a week.
And how does he make money? The company takes a 15 per cent commission on all successful rentals.
But business has not always been booming. "The first year was extremely painful. There were plenty of times where I was close to giving up. When you are starting a business you have to chop and change the business model, and running your own company you get plenty of fantastic things that happen to you but you get plenty of setbacks as well, such as a really important deal that falls through."
He acknowledges that opening of the new Wembley Stadium was fantastic for business. Parkatmyhouse has 275 locations within a two-mile radius of the stadium. Each location has between one and 150 spaces.
"Every time there is a game at Wembley, around 300 people at the stadium are using the site to park.
"We are trying not to encourage car use but people drive to Wembley Stadium, so we say better they use parkatmyhouse to park away from the stadium to reduce congestion around the stadium." And he says the Olympics will provide good opportunities although "it is too far away for us to start working towards".
The company is currently trying to come up with ways to help drivers carbon offset their journey, aware of the shift towards green thinking. He explains: "If you are driving from Nottingham to Wembley for a football game and that journey is 200 miles, you generate 'x' tones of CO2 and it will cost you 62 pence to carbon offset that, we will pay 31 pence of that if you pay the other 31 pence. And by offering off-street parking, hopefully we can reduce the impact of congestion and encourage better public transport use. And electric cars still need somewhere to park."
He adds: "According to the Department of Transport, car use is set to rise by 45 per cent over the next 10 to 15 years so whatever happens, we are going to need more parking spaces."
Mr Eskinazi, who lives in Belsize Park, north London, eventually plans to sell the business and move on to a new online venture. As for other opportunities for aspiring internet entrepreneurs, he advises: "If you have experienced something or come across a problem which you find frustrating, come up with a way to try and solve it. The best way to realise an idea is to try it. The internet is so cheap now to build a product. The best products out there solve problems rather than adding value to the existing industry."
How much can your space earn you?
£45,000 — the amount one man earned in two years renting out spaces in King’s Cross, London
£3,600 — amount earned in one day from renting out an office car park near Wembley stadium during a concert
£600 - highest earning space per month, Notting Hill
£130.73 - average monthly rental price in Edinburgh
£112.69 - average monthly price in London
£90.99 - average monthly rental price in Manchester