Let the story begin

Rome is a beautiful and magical city but it is one of the worst places in the world if you have a car and you need a parking spot. The first time we started thinking about MonkeyParking was a Saturday evening on June 2012, when we spent more than 1 hour looking for parking in Trastevere (a parking-nightmare district in Rome). We thought that this painful problem could be solved finally getting rid of circling the block through a community in which drivers could help each other in finding on-street parking spots. 

So we checked the web for available solutions and run some surveys aiming at understanding how drivers would like to interact with each other when they are looking for parking. The results were interesting: drivers would love a mobile solution able to find a parking spot in minutes and they would also like to help other drivers to find it, but for a reasonable reward. 

Consequently we design the first version of our app: MonkeyParking was a mobile community where users could trade information about parking spots, gaining and spending virtual banana credits (yes, we said “banana credits”). Drivers could gain a banana credit by posting the spot they were using and setting the time in which they were supposed to leave. They could also book a spot spending a banana credit making that info exclusively available to them.

To validate the concept, we built a very basic version of the app and started running some tests distributing flyers in front of a movie theatre in Rome where drivers could get free pop-corns by using banana credits they previously earned with MonkeyParking. We collected few hundreds downloads during a 2 months pilot, with about 10% of drivers posting their spots and a comparable amount booking spots within the app, but… few of them were able to park their car. 

We learned that drivers could be aware of the exact leaving time just about 10 minutes and that they need to keep in touch with each other during all the process to provide updates and directions.

So we modified our app into a mobile community with a virtual chatroom where users could chat to exchange information about their spot-leaving schedules. We run another month of testing, collecting about 200 downloads with 30% of drivers posting their spots and about 20% starting a conversation on MonkeyParking chat. 

Results told us we are heading on the right track but it looked like people need a more immediate incentive to remember to post their spots and be more accurate in sharing their leaving time information.

Few weeks after Roberto (one of MonkeyParking co-founders) went to the soccer stadium of Rome to see a pretty popular match. After spending more than 30 minutes looking for parking he decided to go to a garage, but he had no luck as it was completely full. At that point he realized he was ready to pay in order to get rid of circling the block and get to the match on time.

After Roberto’s experience and some good beer-brainstorming we came out with MonkeyParking current solution: we connect drivers looking for parking with people about to leave from a parking spot, helping both of them to have a better day. Drivers looking for parking can finally get rid of circling the block by bidding $ to know in advance when a parking spot opens up while people already parked can make some money out of something that they do everyday: just leaving a spot.

MonkeyParking FAQ

1. What is MonkeyParking?

MonkeyParking is the first app which connects drivers looking for parking with people going to leave from a parking spot, helping both of them to have a better day. Drivers looking for parking can finally get rid of circling the block cause they can bid $ to know in advance which will be the next parking spot to open up. On the other hand people already parked can make some money out of something that they do everyday: just leaving a spot.

2. Why do I need help in finding on-street parking spots?

Street parking is currently not a first-come-first-served process, but still a random-served one: you can go in circles for hours, wasting time and burning money while a lucky driver can find a spot in a minute, right in front of you. It is an old and painful problem and we believe that you deserve a better solution to get rid of circling the block, turning a random parking process into a predictable one.

3. Why should I have to pay in order to park with MonkeyParking?

MonkeyParking is all about its community and both drivers involved in a parking swap should be happy about it. That is why the money is involved in the process: if you think you can refund your metered parking expenses with MonkeyParking you are much more willing to use it. More people using MonkeyParking means more spots and more chances to get it the next time that you will need it.

4. I already pay for the metered parking. With MonkeyParking what exactly am I paying for?

You are paying to reduce the time that it takes to find a parking spot. The parking spot itself is a public space and has to be regularly paid to the city through the metered parking, MonkeyParking is providing a service to ease your life when looking for it.

5. Why don’t you do MonkeyParking just for good karma instead of money?

We started working on MonkeyParking two years ago and we made a lot of surveys and tests (read more on our blog): drivers want a mobile solution through which they could find a parking spot in minutes and they want to help other people, but for a reasonable reward. So we run some test in Italy (Rome) with a free version of the app, like other startups have done in different country, but we learned that this solution do not work (neither in Italy nor in other country) because drivers need an immediate incentive to remember to post their spots on the app and be more accurate in sharing information.

6. Are there people holding parking spots only for MonkeyParking?

No. MonkeyParking users are regular drivers like you who parked their car on-street like they currently do everyday (no parking squatters as neither MonkeyParking nor our users own those spots). Drivers have the right to use public parking spots as regulated by their city transportation code. MonkeyParking simply lets drivers easily communicate about the time in which they will leave the parking spot they are using.

7. Why if I pay but I do not succeed in getting a spot?

This is not possible: you will pay only if you find the parking spot you were looking for. You will be asked to confirm that the other driver provided all the information you needed to be in the right place at the right time to get the parking spot he is going to leave.

8. Should I use MonkeyParking while I’m driving?

No. As addressed by state laws using cellphones and other devices while driving is prohibited. Make your bid at your destination before you move your car as you do with directions in Google Maps or Maps by Apple. We’ll alert you when a MonkeyParker accepts. Once your bid is accepted contact the MonkeyParker by the phone before you move your car again and get all the information you need to park successfully (exact position and timing information).

9. How does the payment process work?

MonkeyParking lets you pay for other drivers information with your credit card and receive money from other drivers directly in your bank account. All the payment process is handled by our payment provider Stripe (stripe.com). We do not collect your credit card or bank account info. Transactions on MonkeyParking are composed by three main parts: user earnings + MonkeyParking fee + Payment provider fee. MonkeyParking fee is currently set to 0% and Stripe charching policy are available on their website (stripe.com/us/pricing).

The bidding service has been temporary disabled in SF

Dear MonkeyParkers,

the bidding service on MonkeyParking has been temporary disabled in the San Francisco area. In light of the cease and desist letter that we received from the City of San Francisco, we are currently reviewing our service to clarify our value proposition and avoid any future misunderstandings. 

Street parking is currently not a first-come-first-served process, but still a random-served one: you can go in circles for hours while a lucky driver can find a spot in a minute, right in front of you. It is an old and painful problem and we believe that drivers deserve a better solution.

Our mission is to get rid of circling the block turning a random parking process into a predictable one, saving people time while also reducing traffic congestion and generated pollution. We want to achieve our mission within the intent and letter of the law and in full cooperation with the local authorities.

We are working to avoid any possible improper use of our service and provide a positive tool for the City of San Francisco and its inhabitants. Stay tuned on monkeyparking.co, news coming soon!

The MonkeyParking Team

What is MonkeyParking

MonkeyParking is an innovative social sharing app that lets registered users communicate with each other when a parking spot becomes available. Users have the opportunity to be paid for the information communicated based on whether or not the communication successfully identifies a parking spot that is available. MonkeyParking is not in the business of selling or auctioning parking spots.

The cease and desist letter that we received from the City of San Francisco is premised on a fundamentally wrong assumption: that our application purports to allow users “to buy and sell” parking spaces. That is not the case.

So, the real issue here is that a local ordinance is being misapplied to wrongfully target our service. This is happening with our company and other companies operating in the social sharing space. This is yet another example of a local ordinance that was drafted in a world pre-shared economy which local authorities are improperly applying to a shared economy service.

The shared economy trades on information, not on goods or services or other commodities. We are very surprised that the City of San Francisco, which prides itself of being a liberal and tolerating city, does not see that their cease and desist letter is an open violation of free speech, contrary to the First Amendment of the US Constitution (“I have the right to tell people if I am about to leave a parking spot and they have the right to pay me for such information”).

We are consulting with legal counsel as we speak but we are confident that we would prevail any such legal challenge against our service.