Nicolas Guillon and Sulaiman Azhar have an ambitious plan to revamp the way people find their parking spots. We explore if this young business could be the next big thing…
As the sharing economy across the globe heats up, we’ve seen several disruptive ideas come to the forefront. From Airbnb and Uber to WeWork and Deliveroo, there is a platform filling a critical gap in almost every prolific sector. Nester is one such concept that is taking on the challenge of creating an app that enables you to share parking spots.
We sit down with Nicolas Guillon as he explains: “We are two co-founders, Sulaiman Azhar and I, and we are aiming to tackle parking woes in metropolitan cities like Dubai. We are developing a smart parking marketplace that connects parking seekers with private parking owners to rent parking without the need of exchanging access cards or remotes.”
Nester’s premise is simple. It identifies empty parking spots and shares them with people that are looking for parking. “There are a lot of unused private parking spaces in residential and office buildings throughout the day. Our platform will enable parking owners to put their unused space on the market when they are away at work or on vacation, and parking seekers to search and book their parking ahead of time from just an hour to an entire month and access it from their smartphone,” he adds.
On the fast-track to growth
Nester was founded in early 2017, which means it’s obviously in its nascent stages of growth. Speaking of the status of his business, Nicolas says: “We are an early stage start-up, and the product is currently under development. We have designed, prototyped our smart hardware and app, which are now being tested in a closed pilot since last month, where buildings are using it as a smart access control for their tenants.”
Many might argue that it’s quite early to assess the young start-up’s true potential. Yet, this hasn’t stopped it from receiving attention – and appreciation. Nester won the seed-stage start-up competition at STEP Conference in April, the same month the company was established, and last month Nester was named the third winner of the Dubai Smartpreneur competition organised by Dubai Chamber in association with Dubai Smart City initiative office.
In fact, this recognition also came with a financial incentive. As a great bonus, the start-up received a cash prize at the Smartpreneur competition as well as the marketing consultancy prize from Tonic International, which it won at STEP Conference.
So, what does Nicolas regard as the X-factor that makes their concept appealing to investors? Perhaps, it’s the fact that the concept is new in this region? Nicolas reasons: “Other services that exist in the market use a traditional approach, and require a physical exchange of access cards, or remotes and money. We use a smarter approach, and give full control to the parking owner, who can with a toggle button put the parking away from the market for personal use. Due to the limited human friction, Nester is safer and is easily scalable. Each Nester user is identified which is an added safety for the buildings. Moreover, we are a solid team solving a universal problem of parking with an innovative and scalable solution with a potential for global growth.”
Nester has a solid pitch, so have they considered approaching investors? “We are a self-funded start-up, but Nester has generated a great interest from VCs and angel investors alike and we are looking to build relations with them for funding in the future. The future funding will be used for rapid expansion in Dubai and Abu Dhabi and for strategic marketing. For now, we have a simple mantra: focus on executing the idea, talk to customers and validate the market needs. Once we are on the right track, money will inevitably follow.”
It’s safe to say that the entrepreneurial duo has gotten off to a brilliant start. But, how do they plan on successfully implementing their concept and launching it to the market? “Currently, we are solely focusing on executing the idea and tackling the challenges that come our way. Sales, marketing and product development are on the top of our agenda. We are also looking at expanding the team to launch quickly,” shares Nicolas.
Nester’s short-term plan is to launch in Dubai and expand to neighbouring Emirates within the year. The long-term plan is to expand to the MENA region and across the globe within the next three to five years.
The regional transportation sector has been quite fertile in terms of opportunities and is undergoing rapid transformation. Nicolas is pinning the progress of Nester on this growth. “The Smart Dubai initiative has created a lot of momentum and enthusiasm in adopting smart solutions for a better living and promotes a seamless city experience for residents and visitors. This initiative is driven to make Dubai the happiest city on earth and we are really thrilled and proud to contribute to it.”
Taking on the future
With his finger on the pulse of the market, there’s no one better than Nicolas to share his take on what the future of this industry will look like, four years from now. “The sharing economy will inevitably become a major part of the global economy. Parking industry is no exception with an ever-growing demand and limited spaces. We expect shared parking to be used around the globe as a solution to tackle traffic congestion, pollution and stress. There is also an ongoing shift towards driverless cars and we are paving the way for self-parking with smart access control systems,” he says excitedly.