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.