Offstreet started as a simple idea: Parking sucked.
There were only a handful of public paid parking lots in our home city of Regina servicing the downtown and core area. In between and all around these parking facilities existed under-utilized land. Empty driveways, gravel backyards and vacant dirt lots. There had to be a way to monetize this.
So we built the Airbnb for parking and people loved it.
We had tremendous support from the community, as well as the City of Regina. But we struggled to gain a foothold in other cities. Local bylaws in Saskatoon prevented a legal operation there, as we discussed with John Gormley. To the west, ParkChamp was ramping up growth in the Calgary area, and to the east Rover was gaining ground in Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal.
We realized that with this product alone, and with the tough competition in the market, Offstreet would not succeed. Four short months after we launched, we pivoted the business.
Offstreet is still very much in the parking and transportation industry. We help businesses provide parking for their customers. It’s an industry phrase called “Merchant Validation”. The merchant (business) validates (pays for, partial or in full) parking for their customers.
Now, three years later, we are experiencing growth with our flagship merchant validation product and we made the easy decision to sail full speed ahead, while burning the old ship that got us here.
Our focus was being pulled in two directions. We had our merchant validation customers to service and support, while maintaining the day-to-day operations of our Airbnb-style app.
It reminded me of a blog post written in 2014 by one of our mentors, Jordan Boesch, CEO of 7shifts, titled “Why we stopped focusing on 66% of our customers”. At the time 7shifts made employee scheduling software, but decided to focus exclusively on a single industry: restaurants. And today, they are the industry leader in restaurant scheduling and analytics software.
Jordan said, “Overall, this slight pivot has helped us define our values, our target market, and our vision moving forward. It makes me wish we had done this sooner. Picking a niche market is a difficult decision, but would you rather be a positioning yourself to be a leader? Or the jack-of-all, master of none?”
However niche it is, we’d rather be the industry leader of merchant validation.
As of Dec 1, 2019, daily parking spot rentals will no longer be able to be made with the Offstreet app.
Although we are abandoning this product, it didn’t sit right with us to abandon our amazing customers and partners that helped get us started. Our users relied on our service for supplementary income, or on-demand parking to attend their jobs. So we invited our former competitor, Rover, to fill the gap we will leave behind. And to be honest, they do a way better job at it than we ever did.
To our former customers and partners: Thank you for trusting us with your property, your backyards, your driveways and your vehicles.
To our new customers and partners: You have our full attention and focus. We will continue to provide your businesses with the tools you need to grow and succeed.