An instinctive entrepreneur, Garret Flower acts on his ideas and has started numerous businesses. His latest venture, ParkOffice.io, is all about getting people back to work safely.
Some people are born with entrepreneurial flair, most become entrepreneurs out of necessity, while others study it from books. But when Garret Flower, co-founder of Krüst Bakery, founder of Parkpnp and now spearheading a new enterprise called ParkOffice told me about how he first got into business – selling noodles using wits and a kettle to hungry classmates at boarding school – I knew he was the instinctive type of entrepreneurs who takes cues from the world around him.
After leaving college he and Devan Hughes, founder of online grocery player Buymie, ran a number of enterprises ranging from pre-nightclub parties to a renewable energy start-up and he co-founded the popular Krüst Bakery in Dublin which is still operating today.
“Entrepreneurship will be as common as plumbing in a few years’ time, you know, that’s because people are starting to realise how beneficial it is to follow your dream”
A few years ago, he was out driving his new car through Ranelagh en route to a meeting and couldn’t find a parking spot when he noticed an empty driveway. He knocked on the door and asked the homeowner if it was okay to park in the driveway and duly returned hours later with chocolates to say thanks. But an idea was born and today Parkpnp is a popular app known as the “Airbnb of parking.”
His latest venture, ParkOffice.io ensures employers can mitigate risks for employees who are commuting to offices. Using the Covid-19-focused solution employers are able to track which staff members require parking at the office on a given day. An algorithm then allocates available parking to those who are most vulnerable or whose need is greatest. By leveraging the ParkOffice solution, companies will be able to increase parking availability by up to 40pc. While at risk or non-essential staff can be automatically advised to work from home if parking facilities are not available. The technology is already being used by several Fortune 500 companies.
Seizing on inspiration
Looking back on his early days as an entrepreneur, the Longford native recalls. “I think I became an entrepreneur out of necessity. When I was young my family was going through a difficult time and cash flow wasn’t too good. And I suppose I was always trying to figure out ways to get pocket money for myself.”
Flower said that he was always surrounded by people who had entrepreneurial flair. “I was lucky enough and fortunate enough to have good friends and one of my good friends was Devan Hughes who was also very entrepreneurial-minded.”
They tried everything from importing golf products to LED lights, started a renewable energy company and at night worked at the Hard Rock Café in the States.
He tried his hands at setting up an entrepreneurial society in college and sent out an email inviting anyone interested to sign-up. He received just one reply from Rob Kramer with whom he started Krüst Bakery.
The inspiration for the Parkpnp parking app has grown into a business that has more than 75,000 users and 25,000 parking spaces across Ireland but which is also active in Belgium and the Netherlands and most recently the US.
“We have a very innovative team and we have been able to create a host of other solutions and one of those that we are actively focused on right now is ParkOffice.io. There is an enormous amount of parking spaces in offices that are never used – on any given day between 20pc and 40pc of these spaces are empty every single day. It’s an enormous market. We created this clever solution that large and mid-market companies across the world can use to manage their parking spaces better.”
But in these Covid-19 times, the technology has even more applicability. “We rolled out ParkOffice.io 18 months ago and it was scaling and our best month ever was in February. But then March hit everything went silent. What we did was we talked to our clients and asked them what they were thinking about the next steps? And the real answer is nobody really knows what to do. So everyone is trying to figure out and calculate what is the safest way to get back to the office?”
With a clever pivot on the existing parking technology, Flower and his colleagues were able to take their booking algorithms that use for parking spaces and apply them to desks.
In doing so, ParkOffice.io find itself at the business end of the new future of work where people will marry remote working with going into a working world with less office real estate.
“So, we’re one of the first into this space and we are offing employers and employees a way to manage themselves effectively.”
Driving the innovation nation
Asked about his thoughts on entrepreneurship, the impact of Covid-19 on the start-up landscape and preparing for what lies ahead Flower believes the best of entrepreneurship lies ahead.
“As Winston Churchill used to say, never let a good crisis go to waste. When you have a great capacity for change and when you look at Ireland, I think we have a huge opportunity to create some of the world’s leading companies from the ground up. We have the foundational strength and the education to do that and there are great people in this country.”
Both Flower and his ParkOffice.io co-founder Daniel Paul make themselves available to meet and chat with young entrepreneurs to help them figure the road ahead and Flower welcomes the advent of Scale Ireland, a long overdue lobbying organisation for entrepreneurs.
“I think entrepreneurship will never die. Entrepreneurship will be as common as plumbing in a few years’ time, you know, that’s because people are starting to realise how beneficial it is to follow your dreams. Follow your passion and find that sense of creation. When you start to experience it, you feel that everything you’ve put towards it starts to pay off. And even if it fails, you can take incredible learnings from it.
“So that’s my prediction. I think Ireland has a strong future, we have a strong education system and we have plenty of good people in this country to bounce ideas off. I do believe the Government can make changes to improve this situation. I think we can have more incentivising share schemes for employees. Whoever came up with putting a tax on shares given to employees in return for their hard work in a start-up wasn’t thinking that through too clearly. I can’t imagine the country making too much money off of that.
“Ireland should be at the forefront of innovation. And, as a small island, we should definitely do that with a great reach.”
Written by John Kennedy (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Published: 6 July, 2020