Craig Mcdonald – Yalla Parking
Now imagine if these wars could be avoided by a simple website that you could use on a daily basis that gave you an access to an online market place, for private parking space, or in simpler words, “a kind of airbnb for parking space”. Craig McDonald and Harrison Jones aim to do just that with Yalla Parking, one of the promising start up ideas that have emerged from the U.A.E in the last year.
The Dubai Connection.
McDonald, though born in a small town just out of Glasgow, Scotland, moved to Dubai with his family, when he was 5 weeks old, studied at Dubai College, and moved to Glasgow to study Economics and Business at the University of Glasgow in 2008. After graduating in 2012, he spent a year interning at various places across sectors like investment banking, strategy houses, corporate finance firms, etc. And later joining as a full time employee in a corporate finance division, till destiny decided that entrepreneur was probably the role that he was best suited for.
Dubai has changed tremendously in the last 20 years though, he says, to grow to become the entrepreneurial hub that it has and which he gets to be a part of, “There is this mentality in Dubai that anything is possible, you want the tallest building, you want the 1 st 7 star hotel, you can do it, you just need to have a plan that you need to go out and execute.” For start-ups, he believes that it’s a great place to be because of all the help available today, “From a regional point of view, Dubai is the best place to be because anything is possible today. And there is a growing entrepreneurial hub here, with places that want to help entrepreneurs, they are here and they are ready to help, it’s great to be here.”
Name, place, plan, target market.
But in this age of start ups, how does one narrow down on the perfect idea? He kept it simple, he says, “We kept it very lean. We launched using like 20 dollars a month for software to get our idea up and out there and we tried to gage response, you know, sharing on social media, Google ads, what type of traffic we were getting, what everyone was saying about it and over the course of 3-4 months, we kind of just saw Yalla Parking was becoming very popular, everyone was giving it good feedback, because it was solving a problem almost, an existing problem.” And ofcourse it was also everyone around him cribbing about parking that played a part, “The real Eureka moment was just friends complaining, I am lucky to live at home, and don’t have any parking issues, but friends who have moved over and are living in say, JLT, or JBR, they complain about parking, if they have a roommate, or a wife, and only one parking space, they constantly complain about it, you constantly read stuff in the newspapers, and then it just got to a point when we decided that it’s an issue and we want to solve it.” They seem right on track to solving the problem, with a goal of 500-600 parking spaces on the website by the end of 2016, and by developing an app that they are hoping becomes a habit for everyday use by consumers on a daily basis.
Once the idea is set, how does one decide on the perfect name for a start up? “Well, my partner and I had the same idea, we discussed it and he was like what about Yalla Parking, and instantly we like it, we think it’s good, it’s simple and it’s regional.” The good thing about Yalla Parking is that it appeals to almost anyone with a car or a parking space, about the target market, McDonald says, “Simply, anyone with an unused parking space that can rent out to a neighbour and earn some cash, or anyone that is looking for a private parking space, say in their building or their office can be the target market.”
The funding and it’s source
Besides name, and target market, the harder part about a start-up is usually the funding and it’s source. Currently, Yalla Parking is bootstrapping and McDonald is very excited about using bootstrapping for funding in a start-up, his logic being, “The reality is if you are a young guy and a first time entrepreneur, you are not going to get someone who is going to come in and give you 250,000 dollars, so I personally really like bootstrapping because it gives you a focus on return on investment on every Dollar/Dirham you spend, you want to get something back for it because it is so vital, so I think boot strapping in your early days is a great thing to do.”
Listen to the experts
For parting words, he keeps his advice simple for those looking to start their own businesses, like most of Yalla Parking’s philosophy and says, “Do your research and jump in, and solve a problem.” Sounds exactly like what he did.
You can visit Yalla Parking at www.yallaparking.com