This is the story of a small team that decided to build a product that can make us all happier. A few days ago we launched publicly our prototype to test market reaction, gain feedback and improve it. If you want to know how, read the following:
Silicon Valley. January 2016. The winter this year is calm. Temperature is on normal to high levels for the season and the sun is shining. The scenery is wonderful with the mountains crossing the horizon and the trees ready to blossom. Among the huge buildings of the tech giants, a small team is conceiving an idea that can change the world forever. However, that is not us. We, on the other hand, are located in Athens, Greece. We, aka the Parky founders, Maria-Zoe Papaioannou and Thodoris Sotiriou (Theo) were downtown Athens stuck in the traffic and struggling to find a parking spot… and we were late to a birthday party.
- Is that a spot?
- Nope. No parking sign.
- You know what really grinds my gears… There are so many free parking spots in every building’s parking lot, laying empty and we cannot rent them… Why isn’t there an AirBnB for parking in Greece?
(Hint: that was the epiphany moment by Maria-Zoe)
Maria-Zoe’s epiphany was not taken under serious consideration for yet another two months, when we started discussing the potentiality of a peer-to-peer parking platform in Greece. We met and discussed about the feasibility of such a platform financially, technologically and legally. We started mentioning the idea randomly to friends to test their reactions. Upon hearing the idea everyone had a brief “Mother of God, why haven’t we implemented this yet” moment as the simplicity of the idea shocked them in a positive way.
Testing your ideas with friends is like asking your mom if you are smart. Therefore, we had to find a new audience, close to our target users in order to test it pragmatically. The Athens Startup Weekend University 2016 had just been announced. The timing was perfect. The aim was optimal. We had our chance to transform everyone to our “mom”. After 54 hours of “no talk all action” (although “no talk” was being used figuratively as we had to communicate somehow) it was pitching time! Theo pitched and we got the bronze medal! Apparently not everyone was our “mom” but almost everyone was a very close “sibling” to the idea!
Learn & Execute
Yes, our idea was great. But, our execution was far from optimal. It was time to get serious. We agreed that we needed a formal place to meet and work. Since nobody had a 1970s looking garage available, we decided to find an incubator. After visiting the biggest names in the city, we felt that the one suiting our needs was the Athens Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (ACEin). ACEin is the epitome of the book “Lean In” and we loved the attitude this place offers right as you enter it. We got accepted after the Entrepreneurship bootcamp and decided to set a meticulous plan.
Theo spent hours with Chris, whom he met during the Startup Weekend and Vassili, whom he met during Stanford Summer School, together aka our dev team. The initial plan was to read the books ‘Hard Thing About Hard Things’, ‘Platform Revolution’, ‘How Google Works’ and ‘Design to Grow’. Then, they watched countless videos from the CEOs of Airbnb, Uber and other startup related videos (How to start a startup, Y combinator startup school, etc.). All that led Theo in becoming obsessed with the product, producing mockups constantly, embedding them in presentations and spending hours discussing with the dev team their feasibility and other details…. (Actually, Theo started receiving emails from canva.com as being ‘one of the most active users of the week’ to which the rest of the team cannot decide whether to applaud that or ask for help).
Maria-Zoe decided to focus on elevating the business side and understanding better the analytics behind reaching critical mass and how we could enable network effects to kick in. She also developed a huge excel sheet to test countless hypothesis. She also contacted plenty of friends she had made from Stanford Summer School to get feedback, suggestions and advice.
Is this the real life ?
It was time to test our improved plan against new audiences. We applied for the “ΜοΚΕ 2016” and “e-nnovation 2016” competitions. After numerous meetings and pitching rounds, Parky had made it to the final round in both competitions. The other teams were much more mature, with products launched months to years ago. We just had our strategic and pitching skills. Oh, and a waitlist of more than 400 people who subscribed on our info-site to check Parky once available! Creating a waitlist for anyone interested was the single most valuable piece of advice we had been given (thank you Panagioti). In less than 6 weeks, we accumulated the “early adopters” list without spending a single dime and without knowing the vast majority of the people on it. Verdict: we got awarded in both competitions.
Private impressions, public feelings
[Right now you probably wonder if there is much more to read. It’s a good story but we’ll not make it a Peter Jackson film(s)(trilogy), promise.] Winning competitions validated our idea, people applauded the simplicity of it and the multiple benefits it can have for owners, drivers and every city. Professionals also started believing more into our long term vision and short term execution plan. We had our first edition ready a few weeks later and started distributing the link of the website to a few people from the “early adopters” waitlist. Feedback was great, debugged a few issues and prepared for the moment of truth. And at that point we launched our prototype.
Internally we call it the iPhone 1. Firstly, because no one had the first iPhone on the team and now we feel kinda more complete. But more importantly, because it is indicating the road we have ahead of us. Marc Andreessen once said referring to startups “You only ever experience two emotions: euphoria and terror. And I find that lack of sleep enhances them both.”
As we enter the “valley of death” signal will be low and cannot guarantee blog updates. Also, we feel that things are starting to get more serious from now on (meetings for seed, legally finding the company, potential first hires, etc.) and this is why we wanted to publicly have a lighter version in order for us to never lose “it”.
If you liked the story then check out parky.gr.
We really hope to continue optimising the world’s urban landscape.
Originally published on Feb 10 2017: https://medium.com/parkygr/la-la-landing-our-prototype-c1bc51f0fa55