Driven: the urban space man who built a £12m parking site
To any parent worried about their child quitting a steady, well-paid job in a global corporation to “do their own thing”, take heed from Anthony Eskinazi. After passing the long interview process to secure a graduate job at Deloitte, he quit after six weeks to spend four years working, alone, on a parking business idea he’d had during a gap year.
“I knew nothing about funding, or business, and the start-up scene had barely started in the UK,” Eskinazi says of his early days as an entrepreneur, launching what was then Parkatmyhouse, back in 2006. Today that business, rebranded as JustPark, has been valued at almost £90 million. It’s safe to say Eskinazi isn’t missing his short-lived role at Deloitte.
He first had the idea behind JustPark, which connects drivers looking for parking with empty driveways and parking spots, when he was unable to find parking around a sports stadium in San Francisco.
“I was off to watch the SF Giants play,” Eskinazi recalls. “I noticed an empty driveway and thought it would be win-win if I could pay that homeowner to use their space.”
The 38-year-old had dabbled in entrepreneurship before: “I bought and sold second-hand games consoles on eBay while I was at uni, which taught me a lot about marketing, marketplaces and customer service. And I started building very basic websites when I was 12, my dad taught me how to code.”
Initially the site just hosted driveways — the first two spaces Eskinazi sold were near a hospital in Aberdeen. “Six months in, I realised that I was potentially on to something, but I couldn’t grow the company while also coding, doing customer support, marketing, etc. It was a struggle to raise money back then and I wasn’t sure how I would survive financially. It caused me to burn out and not touch any technology for about 10 days.”
Eskinazi picked it up again though, and interest took off. The business was initially funded via Eskinazi’s credit cards plus side projects including a lucrative poker referral scheme that at one point netted him $9000 a month. “There was barely any revenue until year three, but as I was a one-man band, upfront investment was minimal.” He estimates putting in £40,000 to run the site for its first three years.
In 2011, Eskinazi secured £250,000 investment from BMW i Ventures for growth; JustPark has since raised four further rounds, from VCs including LocalGlobe and Index Ventures, raising a total of £15 million.
The firm’s name change came in 2014: “I felt ‘ParkatmyHouse’ was too limiting. And people couldn’t spell it! We had to diversify from just driveways. A driver doesn’t care what type of space it is as long as it is safe, affordable and convenient.” Today 10% of locations are in commercial car parks and non-residential sites.
In the early days, parking checks were an amateur affair: “I went for a drive with my first three employees late at night to locate empty driveways. Our hypothesis was that it’s not helpful surveying during the day, as cars will be at work or the station. But one of our cars broke down, and the other was followed by security who thought we were thieves scanning houses to see which ones we would rob.”
At one stage Eskinazi took time out, appointing a chief executive in 2013 “mainly for personal reasons,” he explains. “My wife and I were expecting our first child, I’d burnt myself out many times and I realised my decision-making wasn’t as strong as it needed to be. I returned to running the company once the company had reached a new stage on our journey.”
The business scraped through the pandemic. “Nobody was driving, all car parks and local authorities stopped charging and enforcing. There was literally no reason to use our service,” Eskinazi recalls. “On dark days I felt everything I’d worked on for over a decade was going to evaporate overnight. But our balance sheet was strong.”
Today JustPark is profitable, with £12 million turnover; it sold £100 million-worth of parking places to customers last year. Eskinazi is focused on JustPark’s role in the electrification of driving, honed in on drivers who don’t have access to an off-street overnight charger.
Will he stay at its helm as JustPark turns 18 and grows up? “I can’t believe I’m saying this,” he laughs, “but I’m still excited by parking! Who knows what the future holds, but things at JustPark are going well.”