Rover recently came out on top during luxury carmaker INFINITI’s pre-accelerator program. The fact that INFINITI chose Toronto as its first North American destination for the Lab pre-accelerator speaks volumes about the up-and-coming nature of the city; and the fact that the automotive brand chose share economy app Rover over a more directly implementable startup shows how much promise many are seeing in the company’s future. Following the pre-accelerator, Rover is looking forward to a three-month extensive development program with the legacy automotive group’s experts in Hong Kong.
The app’s appeal lies in its simple, disruptive function for users. Often spoken of as the Airbnb of parking, Rover allows property owners to list their unused parking spots and charge for their use, and enables drivers to find available parking. The cost of Rover parking spots is currently capped at $2/hour, so that the service can remain competitive with the other parking options out there. Parking providers can schedule their spot’s availability according to their schedule, making it a good way to earn some passive income.
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Just like Uber and Airbnb, Rover offers a rich review system so that spot owners and drivers can provide feedback about the use of the parking space.
As Jan Dawson said in a recent piece for Recode about tech companies creating unique spaces within consumer markets:
“Creating just the right user experience, removing barriers and simplifying transactions through smartphone apps and other digital tools then provides the differentiation needed against legacy business models. The big ecosystems so far haven’t participated in these markets at all, though ride-sharing seems to be the market segment they’re most likely to enter, with both Alphabet and Apple dabbling already. But the lesson here is competing outside the constraints of the traditional tech industry and creating an opportunity where others didn’t see one.”
Rover looks to succeed in the same way, delivering a service to users through a convenient smartphone app, avoiding some of the hangups of legacy groups along the way.
What’s next for Rover?
Company founder Grant Brigden says a lot of big things are on the horizon for Rover.
“We have raise money to survive, and we have to raise pretty significant money to not just survive but expand. In order to survive we have to start getting into other cities and start having a lot more users, a lot more transactions and a lot more revenue.”
That need to expand and grow the company is driving the startup in intriguing directions.
Rover is going strong in Toronto, but the company is readying for official launch mid-September in Montreal, Ottawa and in Los Gatos, California.
The latter will have Rover branching off into the world of IoT as the company pairs up with sensor-maker NWave. Just by pulling into a space and triggering the parking sensor, customers will be able to start their Rover transaction, simplifying the process even more.
Working with NWave in Los Gatos should be a rewarding partnership for Rover: the project pairs the convenience of the app with a rewarding IoT device. If it works well, it’s the kind of digitally transformative process that users dream of. For the time being, Brigden says that the Los Gatos pilot project is all about “doing it at a scale that makes sense for us to test with down there.” Rover is also testing out the use of their app for malls in the Bay Area to see how Rover functions with large scale parking suppliers.
Another big shift for Rover comes in the form of condo parking. The company is currently focussed on surface lots, as the issue of key fob access to private condo parking has prevented Rover from pursuing that rich source of spots. Hopefully, with the creation of a new security access option, Rover will be able to work directly with property management companies in order to open up condo parking options and provide even more spots for use through the app.
Our first test of security access parking is underway. Property Managers take note there's a better parking option @ pic.twitter.com/3GfKN669UI
— rover parking (@roverparking) August 10, 2017
Just like every other business right now, data is driving change for Rover. Brigden says a lot of the energy being put into the company over the coming months will be about ”getting operationally excellent” — that is, having data and a metric to support every move being made. The company is also teaming up with social media marketing agency Abacus in order to try and up their digital acquisition game.
As Toronto’s tech ecosystem continues to evolve, the growth and success of Rover could be a sign of the bright things ahead for the city’s other young startups. If the parking app gains a foothold across North America, it could mean a boon for other Toronto companies as VCs and innovators assess potential businesses in Toronto.