Life & Culture

Car parking guru finds a space in the market


Gap-year student Anthony Eskinazi was on his way to a baseball game in san Francisco and couldn’t find anywhere to park.

Frustrated and driving round in circles,he spotted an empty drive metres from the Giants stadium. This was the moment that lay the foundations for his latest enterprise.

He decided to build a business that allows people to rent out their parking spaces to desperate drivers. and so, a few years later, aged 23, and having left Leeds University, he quit a graduate training programme at Deloitte and set up

He spent a year teaching himself how to write web code and trying to make his business work online. He recalls: “I was living in my parents’ attic so I didn’t have to pay rent for a couple of years. I became quite
anti-social, almost a recluse. I had no professional experience in building a business website that had to be reliable.”

He admits there was some “pretty bad credit card debt at the beginning” — but taking the risk has paid off. Now renamed Justpark, his is one of the biggest start-up success stories to come out of the UK. It is the world’s largest parking marketplace, attracting 500,000 drivers.

Last month, Justpark announced a world-first in motoring — an app that lets drivers find a parking space from their dashboards. MINI is the first car brand to integrate the app, with plans by BMW to roll it out across its entire range later this year.

“We want to become ‘the parking app’, in the same way that Hailo is ‘the taxi app’,” says Eskinazi, a 31- year-old father-of-one who is expecting a second child with his wife Lisa early next year. Leading venture capital firm Index Ventures recently invested an undisclosed amount into the business.

I met Eskinazi at a coffee shop local to the company’s new offices in Kentish Town, north London. Casually dressed, the affable businessman clearly has a brilliant entrepreneurial streak. The former UCS pupil, who lives in West Hampstead, has pursued online ventures since he was at school.

He built his first website aged 13 for a charity set up by family friends in memory of Joshua Gilbert, who died from leukaemia.“I think I got recognised in the JC for doing it,” he recalls. “That was when I taught myself to use the internet and create a web page.” As a student, aged 19, he started a forum buying and selling second-hand games consoles on eBay. “It wasn’t the most profitable but it gave me a taste for the market place.”

As part of his degree he did a sandwich year at the University of California in Berkeley and fell for online poker. “I came home and found out that by promoting and advertising casinos and poker rooms online, they will pay you $200 for every person you refer. “I thought: ‘Well, I know 10 people interested in poker, maybe I can sign them up?’ And I did. Suddenly I had $2,000 in my bank.

“Then I thought: ‘Well I know enough about the internet and buying and selling on eBay so maybe there’s an opportunity to actually promote and sell some information to see if I can reach more people’, so I did and suddenly I was making $1,000 a day from people buying my e-book for 49 pence.

“The amount of money gambling companies were paying me just for referring people was incredible. It was my first little business.”

However, it died a quick death when online gambling became illegal in the US. But Eskinazi wasn’t too fussed — his earnings paid for his gap year ravelling and the beginnings of JustPark. The business has grown to a team of 18 people.

Perks of working at JustPark include an infinite number of holiday days.“We are all about hitting are objectives and as long as those are met, then we are relaxed about holidays.“We find it makes people feel empowered. As long as people are doing their jobs properly and achieving their goals, I am happy.”

What’s more, the offices are equipped with Nintendo Wii consoles, a table tennis table and a chef who comes in to cook the staff a free lunch every day.

Employees also get treated to a quarterly head and shoulder massage. JustPark — formerly one of Wired magazine’s start-ups of the week — taps into the “sharing economy” trend. The sharing concept has created markets out of areas that wouldn’t have been considered monetisable assets before.

He says: “I love businesses that solve real problems. I love disruptive businesses. There is so much inefficiency in this world and technology has the opportunity to change this.”

So what’s next for the JustPark entrepreneur? “I would like to start investing in start-ups but don’t have the time at present — or the money.”

But for now, Eskinazi is very much committed to the JustPark journey. “We are not thinking about selling. “We have just got this money from Index and we are focussed on growing this company and really solving a problem. “Parking is a nightmare and people moan about it. We want to alleviate that stress.

“And not just in city centres. Imagine you want kosher meat and you want to go to Golders Green. “The reason I can’t be bothered is because I don’t ant to circle round and round for five, 10 or 20 minutes. “How many journeys go unmade because of fear of parking?

“That’s what the team and I love about JustPark — we are actually solving a real problem. Ideally, we want to help tens of millions of people find parking.“There’s only been one time in the past eight years where I didn’t think about work and that was having a kid.”

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