TEF Entrepreneur Stories: Founder Parkupp, Palesa Moloi, shares the Mistakes She Made in Business

In this interview, South African entrepreneur Palesa Moloi, founder of ParkUpp, a mobile parking application that helps users find parking off-street and on-street, shares with TEF how her company is using technology to achieve their business goals.

What does your business do and how do you differentiate yourself from your competitors?

We are a digital platform connecting property owners who have idle parking spaces to companies and individuals who need parking. How we are different is that we know our customers better than our competitors. We’ve spent a good amount of time doing some design thinking to build our product which empathizes with our customers’ needs. 

What were the problems you faced when you were starting up, and how did you resolve them?

We made the mistake of building the product before understanding the problem, which we had to pay school fees for by being stumped by industry barriers to entry and non-receptive clients. Once you identify the problem, it will be easier to build a product that customers want to use. We’ve also made some costly co-founder hires in the past which we were able to solve by having the correct controls in place i.e shareholder agreements etc. 


What were the problems you faced when you were starting up, and how did you resolve them?

We made the mistake of building the product before understanding the problem, which we had to pay school fees for by being stumped by industry barriers to entry and non-receptive clients. Once you identify the problem, it will be easier to build a product that customers want to use. We’ve also made some costly co-founder hires in the past which we were able to solve by having the correct controls in place i.e shareholder agreements etc. 

How does technology play a role in driving your business success?

We do all work digitally – from our marketing through social media to operations using online platforms such as Trello. Our working arrangement has been remote since inception of the company so, when COVID-19 came along, we did not struggle. 

How do you ensure business continuity? If you had to step aside for years, how would business continue running? 

Business continuity is based on the timing and other external factors of the business. Timing has been the biggest factor in our business. Pre-COVID-19, our timing was impeccable and now that we are here, we have had to rethink our business because many people have been working from home and not necessarily using their cars.  

At the same time, COVID-19 has been changing consumers/corporate property usage patterns where they are now demanding more flexible terms. We are now adding other types of property on our platform to cater for this new changing need. 

We are using our existing network and technology infrastructure to add more features to our platform so we can cater to the flexible office space market. We also had a slight detour in our business operations to raise brand awareness by providing drive-in cinema experiences with our property owners. 

It is easy to get caught up in the hype of new products and technologies. What are some things you consider when aligning your technology roadmap with your overall business strategy? 

I’ve always encouraged the team to focus on solving the problem and keep our eye on it as much as we can. Tech is cool but it’s even better when we are solving a problem. In terms of road mapping, we first consider the problem using the design thinking tools to carefully map out what we are dealing with. Then the design and user experience, while the business development team comes up with growth hacking and sales strategies.

What are your expansion plans for your company in the next 2-5 years?

To be honest, it is hard to say – we are still doing research, speaking to customers and some advisors but also observing the market. There’s a lot of uncertainty now in the world but we are constantly refining our plans with new light of information.

If you had the chance to start over again, what would you do differently?

Speak to people who are potential customers and ask what they would pay for. There’s a lot of invaluable insight that you can gain from just listening instead of bombarding everyone with your ideas. 

What are you looking forward to for the rest of 2020 and 2021? Any exciting projects underway? 

I’ve been featured on Mail & Guardian 2020 Top 200. We are planning to test our new platform, which includes both parking and flexible space via https://www.troob.space/ . Exciting stuff! 

SOURCE: Tony Elumelu Foundation

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