Driving in Lagos is not for the faint-hearted. The sheer amount of traffic jams can test the patience of even the most seasoned drivers, but finding a place to park is a different ball game entirely.
The frustration that comes with driving in Lagos is what made Philip Ogunaike, build Parkwell, a platform that helps you look for the safest parking spots around your destination. An Airbnb for your vehicle, if you will.
Like many drivers in Nigeria's commercial capital, Ogunaike had constantly soldiered through Lagos roads to get to where he needed to be, but one day he'd had enough.
"It was a journey that could have taken me eight minutes but I spent more than an hour," Ogunaike recalls.
But the problem was beyond finding a suitable and safe place to park. He noticed that the challenge of finding a good parking spot also worsened traffic. Cars parked on both sides of streets made roads narrower with many at risk of getting sideswiped or even stolen.
"Can't we make a platform that helps to identify parking spaces that are around wherever you go?" Ogunaike mused.
Deciding it was possible, Parkwell launched operations in Lagos, Nigeria, in January 2023.
How does Parkwell work?
Parkwell works like e-hailing platforms and Airbnb. The mobile app interface displays a map of your current area and available parking spots. It also allows you to book spots ahead of time. Like Airbnb, you see pictures of the car park, rates charged, and reviews.
Reviews are important to the platform because of its Airbnb element. This means that people with parking spaces in their homes or offices can make some money by registering it as a parking spot on Parkwell.
Like e-hailing solutions, Parkwell has two platforms, one for users looking for parking spots and another for people who want to register their parking spaces on the platform.
The platform for registering a space is called the Parkwell Partner.
To be a Parkwell partner, you take a picture of the parking space you want to register, enter the address and lock it in with the platform's GPS. After this, Parkwell visits the space to verify that the person who registered the place own it and that it meets Parkwell's security standards.
One safety precaution is insurance. The startup has insurance partners — Pay-U and Curacel — that provide per-minute comprehensive insurance for users. It also has an identity verification system that ensures a vehicle can only be picked up by whoever parked it.
The business model
If you register your front yard as a parking spot on Parkwell, for instance, the platform will demand a 30% commission of the fee someone pays you for parking. The same goes for gated parking lots, which Ogunaike defines as an area dedicated only to parking.
However, dedicated parking lots come in different forms. Businesses like malls also have spaces just for parking, so how does Parkwell get such spaces registered on the platform?
Although the platform is yet to register such places, Ogunaike gives an idea of the planned setup.
"If Shoprite wants to deploy on Parkwell, for example, everyone who uses Parkwell will be able to see how many spaces are available. Once you book it, we'll reserve the space for you."
Once a reservation has been made, you scan the check-in barcode when you arrive at the car park. Parkwell will calculate how much you owe based on the amount of time you spend in the space till you scan the check-out barcode.
Since its launch, Parkwell has registered 80 parking lots with over 2,000 parking spaces in two African cities — Lagos, Nigeria and Dakar, Senegal — where solutions like Parkwell aren't very common.
Parchive was founded in 2020, but the app has only 100+ downloads on the Google Play Store, showing very little growth in the past three years. LASPA's parking solution, on the other hand, only provides you with information on parking locations across Lagos and their operating hours.
Nevertheless, these solutions are competitors to Parkwell, but Ogunaike is more concerned about getting people to use the solution in Africa, something that has been a big challenge for the startup.
"This is novel, especially in this part of Africa. Trust is one of our major challenges. People were doubtful of the solution when we first started."
While earning people's trust has been difficult for the startup, Parkwell has been able to get 3,150 users to park in its over 2,000 parking spaces. Ogunaike reveals no revenue figures but says the company which just left Startupbootcamp AfriTech's accelerator is in the process of raising its pre-seed round.
In the meantime, Parkwell is exploring partnerships, such as a park-and-ride initiative with bus and train stations that'll help people find parking spots while they go for a ride in a bus or train.
With these partnerships, Parkwell is gunning for an ambitious 100,000 users by the end of 2023. Ogunaike admits that it's a lofty dream but with accolades such as earning a nomination for the Global Startup Awards Africa, he believes Parkwell is a solution people need as it makes parking one less thing to worry about when driving in congested cities.