Smart Parking: Amirkhan Omarov about the Smart Parking project, the company's income and export
The Smart Parking Technologies project is a system for managing parking spaces using license plate recognition technology. How did the idea to create a startup come about, what advantages does the project have over competitors, how did the startup enter the markets of Ukraine, Russia, the USA, and what difficulties did the project face during the passage to the Y Combinator accelerator? Amirkhan Omarov, Smart Parking Technologies project manager, told.
How did you come up with the idea for the project?
I worked for Mercury Properties for a long time, which focuses on commercial real estate - shopping centers, business centers, hotels and warehouses. It was then that I noticed that an effective arrangement and automation of parking is too expensive, on the one hand, and on the other hand, there are few experts in this field not only in Kazakhstan, but throughout the world. At that time, I just started doing co-working spaces, and at the first co-working space, SmArt.Point, in the Almaty Towers business center, we tested for the first time a smart parking system based on number recognition technologies.
How is your service? What advantages does Smart Parking offer over other competitors?
We have the only in Kazakhstan and one of the few in the world car number recognition algorithms with an accuracy of 99%. This eliminates paper or plastic tickets, because the barrier is controlled by a camera that records the entry and exit of the car.
The software allows you to integrate with payment systems and applications. For example, you can pay for our parking lots through the Kaspi bank, Qiwi, Halyk Homebank, Sberbank, Rakhmet applications, SMS messages and shopping center applications.
In addition, our software is easily integrated with the marketing campaigns of shopping centers. For example, a mall visitor makes a purchase for $300 and gets three hours of free parking as an incentive to make purchases. Also, our software gives the user access to direct payments. Let me tell you about Esentai Mall as an example: guests download the shopping center app, link their car and bank card numbers, and never again think about paying for parking - the system automatically debits the payment from the card.
We allow parking owners to see analytics: occupancy by the hour and free spaces in real time. Another advantage of ours is that the system works on almost any equipment and eliminates dependence on a specific brand/vendor, reducing the cost of equipment by several times, because the equipment is the same everywhere.
Our business model deserves special mention. Often we ourselves bear the capital cost of refurbishing the parking lot instead of the owner of the parking lot, and offset our costs with a share of the parking lot's future revenues. This allows owners to increase parking revenues, reduce operating costs (operators, security guards, tickets), and significantly increase the level of convenience for customers at no cost on their part.
Are there similar systems in Kazakhstan and in the world?
We have no analogues in Kazakhstan. There are several similar players in the world - in the USA, in Australia, in England, but not so many.
How many clients are in your company portfolio? Can you tell us about your clients abroad.
Now we have about 50 clients. Of the shopping centers and houses, these are Esentai Mall, MFC Globus, Promenade, MEGA Silk way, Trade House Eurasia, Trade House Aimaktau, Green Mall. From business centers - this is the Almaty Towers business center, from the residential complex - BI Family Village in Nur-Sultan, the launch will soon be in the Baisal residential complex in Almaty. We work with all major construction companies and property owners in Kazakhstan - Mercury Properties, BI Group, Basis-A, RAMS, etc. We have clients in Ukraine, while only in Kyiv - this is a multifunctional complex "InterGal City" ”, LCD “Sonyachna Brama” and the Unit City complex. Clients in Moscow are Adamant shopping mall chains, the largest shopping and entertainment center and the parking space of the CIS and Europe - Aviapark for 10,000 parking spaces are under negotiation. In the US, this is the Cornish City Garage in New York. Every month we add 5-10 new iconic objects.
Thanks to my past experience in commercial real estate, I am well aware that the problem of efficient parking management is relevant for the whole world, therefore, through various channels, we contact the owners and managers of shopping centers in Ukraine, Russia, the USA, Malaysia, the UAE. Many are interested in the project, given that we have a working and proven product.
If the product has real value, as in our case, then it will not take long to convince customers - we solve problem areas in many countries at the same time.
How many people in the project team? What income does the company receive?
The team consists of about 35-40 people. The startup is operationally self-sustaining: we close our expenses, but there is still not enough for rapid income growth. Now we earn about 50-60 thousand dollars per month, and this figure is growing by 15-20% monthly.
Did your project qualify for the Y Combinator accelerator? Can you tell us about this experience?
We got into the top 7% of startups during the winter selection in Y Combinator. Additionally, we passed several selections for other accelerators in the US and Europe - MassChallenge, WiseGuys, Pi Labs, Plug & Play, etc. Most of all we wanted to get into Y Combinator in order to effectively enter the US market. We got into the top 7%, but did not go any further: Y Combinator partners did not like the idea that we have not only software, but also a hardware solution. They see the deployment of the parking infrastructure as a long process (reduces scaling speed) than just installing software, so they replied that they were not ready to consider the project in full. On this they did not agree.
What advice can you give to start-ups to get into international accelerators?
To successfully enter the global accelerators, you need to very convincingly formulate the uniqueness and competitive advantages of your startup, show the value of the team and how you will ensure the conditional capitalization of the project. For example, achieving a capitalization of $100 million within 5 years. To begin with, deal with these questions yourself.
Recall that all participants of the international technopark of IT start-ups Astana Hub receive tax preferences. Preferences exempt participants from paying taxes such as CIT, VAT, VAT on imports of goods, royalty tax, PIT and social tax for non-residents. Such a measure of state support allows IT companies to reinvest the saved funds in the development of their projects.