Podcast Ep 162: Wayleadr CEO Garret Flower talks about his entrepreneurial path and his belief that car parks are the greatest misuse of land since golf was invented.
Flower, founder of Wayleadr (previously known as Parkpnp) is of the opinion that if car parks were optimised for their actual usage, land could be given back to the public for housing and entertainment. Counting businesses like Uber, ESB, eBay and L’Oreal as customers, he talks to the ThinkBusiness Podcast about his scaling journey into the US.
As we talk over video link between Ireland and California, I am reminded how far Flower has come since he discovered his entrepreneurial chops back in boarding school. His parents were entrepreneurs and an enterprising streak naturally followed when he and a classmate initially began making money in their dorm using a kettle and a wholesale supply of noodles.
“We looked at the entire picture and realised that arriving anywhere sucks. So we were building this arrival technology and by helping you, our mission now is to make arriving easier than leaving”
A panoply of ventures followed from an events business to a renewable energy firm and the popular Krüst Bakery in Dublin.
But it was while trying to find a parking space in Ranelagh one afternoon and after convincing a homeowner to allow him to rent her parking space that an idea was born.
Smoothing the next billion journeys
“So it’s taking this massive, under-utilised asset class and solving all of these other problems associated with arriving somewhere – the future’s bright for Wayleadr and we’re growing very quickly around the world”
What began as Parkpnp to enable a market for available parking spaces is today known as Wayleadr, a business that last year raised $3.7m and moved to New York to join the dots between smart cities and smart vehicles. In effect, Wayleadr wants to change the way that buildings manage traffic coming to and from their properties using machine learning.
The software-as-a-service (SaaS) business is making inroads in helping businesses and their staff streamline commutes and reduce car dependency and counts clients in more than 21 countries, including customers like eBay, Sanofi, L’Oréal, CBRE and WeWork.
So why the rebrand and the pivot last year? “Well, we had spent the previous five years building the number one-rated parking management solution globally. And what we realised was we were working with clients across 24 countries around the world and while parking was the main problem, they had all of these other problems on top of that. So we took a step back.
“We realised that we were solving more problems than just parking. Some of these problems included desk booking, electric vehicle (EV) charging or even finding a charging point, and carpooling. We looked at the entire picture and realised that arriving anywhere sucks.
“So we were building this arrival technology and by helping you, our mission now is to make arriving easier than leaving.
“As Wayleadr we are leading the way to a new way to save time and remove congestion. Last year, we improved more than a million journeys around the world. And our journey, as we see it, is to improve 1bn journeys over the next few years.”
I point out that for most people just getting to their seat on an airplane is an exhausting journey in itself.
While he doesn’t claim to have cracked that one (yet), he points out: “Our role is to integrate with the various access systems so we allow people to just seamlessly drive in and out and fin their space. We also map spaces to show people exactly where they are going and that eliminates a lot of time waste. We show people where the busy areas are so they can avoid them in advance.
“In the hybrid working world this is very important as we move to people going to the office on anchor days. Maybe you need an EV charger where you park Getting a space on a Wednesday is now much different than it used to be getting a space on a Monday.”
Flower says that while the last 20 years have seen the arrival and consolidation of mapping systems, no one is taking care of what happens at the final destination, if you need help finding that space or that space must have an electric charging point.
“It’s about helping businesses make maximum use of those EV charging spaces. We’re working with companies from Uber to eBay to Huckletree in Dublin. We’re powering ESB’s EV parking and they are powering the country. It’s really exciting because we’ve found this clever way of doing it.
“As we grow as a business we can start to open up more of this space to more people. Right now we are helping businesses and offices but the next step is to help everyone find a space, because the truth is parking spaces are the most under-utilised asset in the world. It’s the most egregious use of space since golf was invented.”
He makes a valid point: what happens to all of those parking spaces when businesses’ staff are remote working or gone home for the weekend – can those empty spaces benefit more people?
Through the clever use of AI, mobile devices and software, it’s Flower’s mission to ensure people arrive smoothly, unruffled, and unstressed wherever they go.
“So it’s taking this massive, under-utilised asset class and solving all of these other problems associated with arriving somewhere – the future’s bright for Wayleadr and we’re growing very quickly around the world.”
Follow your passion
“I think Ireland is benefiting hugely from the entrepreneurial ecosystem that is evolving right now”
The Longford native is as passionate about entrepreneurship as he ever was. “I was blessed with entrepreneurial parents who always said you can do anything you set your mind to. And that was a a really powerful message to send to kids. It worked for me and has stayed with me and resonated with me ever since.”
Flower was also lucky in his friendships and collaborations, whether it was with Krüst Bakery co-founder Rob Kramer or Buymie CEO Devan Hughes. In the case of Krüst Bakery, the business had grown to 50 employees by the time he was only 34 and had become both a catering business and a wholesale business. “It became a very big business very quickly and we were young guys. We probably needed more mentors and advisers around us and that taught me a huge amount of life lessons. We left that business in good hands with good owners.
“Although the food industry has some of the best entrepreneurs in the world and the most creative, passionate people, it’s one of the toughest industries to be in. But you don’t think about that when you’re young.”
Still a reasonably young man at 34, Flower is as passionate as ever about combining technology and innovation to make a global impact.
“I think Ireland is benefiting hugely from the entrepreneurial ecosystem that is evolving right now.
“If you think about it, entrepreneurship is creation and wealth generation requires a huge amount of energy. It’s about creating something that wasn’t’ there before, whether it’s a coffee shop, an app or a website, or a new home, you get that same energy and euphoria when you see new things being created.
“And so I actually believe we’re going through this entrepreneurship revolution across the world. I believe entrepreneurship will be as popular and prominent as being a plumber or a tradesman. In 30 years’ time, I think you’ll have a huge population who will see this as a career path.”