UNSW is a hub for start-ups, with many companies trying to break through into the world right from our Kensington campus.
The Michael Crouch Innovation Centre on lower campus is home to many of the initiatives the uni runs to encourage new business ideas and growth. In 2018, the university supported 140 start-ups and the Founders program currently hosts over 20 of those in the MCIC.
One of these companies is Share with Oscar, which aims to “make cities more liveable through sharing, starting with parking space”. Users of their app can book private parking spaces that aren’t being used during the day, in order to ease congestion and reduce parking mayhem in busy areas. I talked to Share with Oscar’s co-founder Louise about her experiences starting a company, and what their goals are for the future.
I wanted to start with how you got into being involved with Share with Oscar, and how the company came about?
I'd always been interested in innovation. In my previous job at Deloitte I was on the innovation teams, and we were constantly building new products for large corporates. Often those products had to do with a P2P sharing aspect, so engaging with the community to share what already exists.
One day Lisa and I got talking. She was experiencing a lot of frustration around parking. There was this one moment in Bondi where it just kind of clicked for her, and she actually pulled over and asked a local if she could park in their driveway, and he let her. So that's kind of how it all started. We were at Deloitte together, and then we slowly started to kind of work on Share with Oscar on the side of our jobs, on the weekends. From there it built into a bigger thing.
What we're trying to build is more than just a parking app. We're trying to build a community whereby people are sharing things. At the moment, they're sharing their parking spaces. We've also got people sharing their electric chargers. In the future, we want to build a community of people who are just sharing with one another so that we can eliminate waste and better utilise what already exists.
Could you give a little bit more context about what the app is and how it works, as well as what you want people to get out of it?
For the driver, the app is basically a solution to help you find parking when you need it. People describe it as the AirBnB for parking, but kind of more instant. Just look on the app, search for where you're going. If it's around UNSW, you've got plenty of spaces. And then you book, pay through the app, and once you've booked and paid, you'll get instructions, additional photos, and also be able to get navigated to the spot.
I saw that you guys initially started in Bondi and Coogee. How did you choose where you kicked off?
Well, it's kind of where the pain point began, so really where the idea started was Bondi. It was also timing. It was the summer, and we figured it was a good opportunity and the thing with Bondi is everyone can relate to that pain. So that's kind of why we chose to start there.
Yeah, for sure. What did you study at university?
I did commerce and law.
Do you find that that has been a useful degree in starting a business?
Yeah, I mean, the law parts came in handy in terms of writing all our Ts and Cs. There's a lot of components to the business around accounting etc that involved things I had studied. But I did find that the experience in innovation at Deloitte came in handy more.
How did you guys end up in here in the Michael Crouch Innovation Centre?
Lisa is an alumnus of UNSW. We had found out through a friend of mine, actually, about how great the UNSW network was for start-ups. We reached out quite early on in our journey to the team and they have helped us since the beginning. They helped us incorporate the business. They helped us understand how to grow the business. We've recently also done the Founder 10x program, which is an intensive 10-week program for 10 start-ups. You get incubated, and they try and help you understand how you can grow 10 times. The uni has been super supportive.
This is maybe a bit of the less glamorous side of things, but have you encountered challenges doing this, and how did you manage them?
Yeah, absolutely. I think with start-ups a lot of the time what you see is the exciting stuff on the front, but behind the scenes it's a lot of hard work. It's really challenging. There's a lot of sacrifice as well. We've made a lot of personal sacrifices in terms of weekends or spare time, and having a social life.
It's challenging and I guess in the front end you see a lot of the wins. You don't see the rejections - and there is constant rejection. What we've just had to do is develop a really thick skin. I think at the end of the day, it's just kind of having that perseverance to know that hopefully one day we'll be able to make a real difference and build something that's making a real impact on our community. That's keeping us going.
And if someone was to come to you asking for advice about how to start a business, what would you tell them?
I would firstly ask them: why you? I think that was asked to us early on in our journey. I think it's a really good question, because in this day and age there is no really unique idea. I feel like everyone's kind of... somewhere in the world someone would've come up with it. So why you as opposed to the next person? Are you more passionate about it? Are you willing to go that extra mile? Have you got experience in it? I think that's a really important question that you'll consistently get throughout your journey. So yeah, why are you willing to do what it takes?
Finally, where do you want the company to go in the next, say, five years?
We're consistently growing our footprint. So at the moment, we've got a great footprint around areas like UNSW, universities, the CBD, stadiums, and beaches as well. We just want to be literally everywhere in Sydney. So we want to be the app that you keep turning to, and we want to be just simple and seamless. But not only Sydney. We want to be across Australia, and hopefully in five years time or so, we’ll have a bit of an international presence as well.
Share with Oscar is an app that lets you book a parking spot instantly. It’s Australia’s largest community of people sharing their driveways and garages to solve our nation’s parking pain! For more information, head over to their website. The app is available to download from the App Store and Google Play.
Georgia is the Managing Editor of Blitz. She is a Journalism/Law student with a passion for all things music and culture. When she’s not at a gig, you can find her watching NCIS and tagging her housemates in memes. Her go-to coffee is a skim mocha. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.