Four WHU students help find parking spaces

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Just over a week ago the parking service startup Evopark received over a million in financing by Porsche. This marks the first investment of the German carmaker into a young company. But what is the concept behind the two year old Cologne startup?

The story of Evopark began at the business school WHU. During the four years the founders Maximilian Messing, Marik Hermann, Tobias Weiper and Sven Lackinger studied there, they already planned to start a business together.

The decisive factor for creating a park service, Evopark, came from Maximilian Messing, co-founder Tobias Weiper said in an interview with Gründerszene. The now 26-year-old was on the way back from France to Germany and annoyed that he was stopped at a tollbooth due to cash payment. This led him to the fact that the situation in German car parks is similar and equally annoying.

Messing and his three fellow students then founded Evopark in 2014. The concept consists of several aspects: Firstly drivers can search the app for nearby car parks and underground garages with free parking spots. Secondly, they don’t need to pull out a paper ticket, but will be registered and let through using the wireless technology of the electronic parking card from the startup. The exit works like that as well – there is no cash or paper required. In the map there is a so-called RFID chip, which sends signals to a reader at the bar. At the end of the month the motorist gets an Evopark bill.

The startup collects diverse data from their users: from parking behaviours to credits from partner shops, that they can use to refund parking fees. Partnering companies, like car park operators, can see these anonymous data, according to the privacy policy of Evopark. “We do not collect more data than we need for our business,” said Weiper. He emphasizes: Privacy is very important to them.

In order to make the concept work, the founders are working with park operators and barrier system manufacturers such as Scheidt & Bachmann. That was not always easy: Samuel Spaltner, Director for the DACH region of Scheidt & Bachmann, told the Rheinische Post that he had found it difficult. “The guys were rebuffed a few times, but eventually they got an appointment.” Even Weiper recalls: “Initially, we were met with disapproval because some car park operators and barriers manufacturers in the past have had bad experiences with new technical solutions,” he says. “But then we were persistent.”

For motorists, the app and the map of the startup is free. However Weiper and 16 employees work on a fee-based model for business customers. In this package, for around five euros per month the user could reserve a parking spot, for example. The founder did not want to give away more details.

Evopark gets a commission from the car park, which depends on how much a car park is frequented. In return, the startup tries to get higher utilization of the parking garage, the company says. Through partnerships with companies such as Axa Insurance or even gas stations, the startup also secures a license fee. For these companies Evopark offers individualized park cards that are branded.

Meanwhile, the technology of Evopark is available in 16 cities – in 37 car parks and underground garages. By the end of the year about 63 more parking places will be added. By then, they want to be represented in 25 cities in Germany, says Weiper. The money from Porsche among others will be used in this growth.

In Koblenz and Düsseldorf, where it all began, they have about 8,000 users. Why the Cologne company launched in Düsseldorf is for a simple reason: “Our first city was Düsseldorf because there the readiness of the car park operators was bigger,” said the 27-year-old founder.

This article was originally published on Gründerszene.

Image: Evopark