Estonian startup Barking wants to make cities easier to navigate by connecting drivers with available parking places. The company has now set up its first Nordic base in Helsinki.
Every car owner knows the feeling of rushing to a movie only to find out there are no free parking places nearby. This is exactly the problem Barking wants to help solve in the Finnish capital of Helsinki. Its mobile app expands available parking space by enabling private citizens and companies rent out their parking spaces while they are not in use.
“If you have a parking place to offer, you just join up on our website and it will be added to our system,” explains Tero Jousi, CEO at Barking Finland. “The idea is that our service works flexibly with any kind of location, no matter where the parking place is.”
Car drivers can use the mobile app to look for free parking places and reserve one in advance, while parking place owners can update the availability of their place in real time. Not only does this puts otherwise empty spaces to good use, it reduces unnecessary driving in city centers.
“About a third of traffic in a city center is people driving around looking for a place to park. Our service helps to reduce this,” Jousi says.
Barking was founded in Estonia in 2015. Prior to this its mobile technology was used for smart bicycle stops, expanding in 2015 to car parking and a year later to booking car washes. While the company remains young, its platform is easy to roll out and Barking is already present in a few European countries and looking at further launches. An agreement to start the service in Hong Kong has also been made.
The idea for the company’s Finnish expansion took seed in 2016 and was boosted later that year when Barking met with Helsinki Business Hub at a mobility conference in Barcelona to learn about Finland’s smart mobility environment. Barking saw there was a clear gap in the local parking services it could help fill.
By early 2017 the company was up and running in Helsinki, with the proximity of the city to Tallinn proving a key factor.
“There are only 80 kilometers between the two cities and there is a lot of collaboration between them under the ‘twin city’ label so Finland was the natural direction for our expansion,” Jousi explains. “Also a lot of people travel between the two countries and with our app you can use the same service in both.”
Barking says setting up in Finland has been easy and there is plenty of interest in the smart mobility sector right up to government level. Where issues exist they are connected to legislation and the new types/kinds of sharing services, but Jousi stresses these are being addressed.
“The Finnish government has woken up to the fact the legislation is not up-to-date in all areas and rules regarding the circular and sharing economy are being made clearer. This is a very important development,” he stresses.
Getting Finns talking
For now Barking’s primary focus in Helsinki is to grow the visibility of its parking service and increase its network of companies and consumers. The company is also targeting partnerships with the Finnish public sector which operates large numbers of parking places across the country.
In future Barking hopes to expand its user network to other big cities in Finland and eventually to other Nordic countries, using the Helsinki office as its base. New employees will be hired as the business grows.
“When you talk about the sharing economy it remains a new concept to many people, they need time to get used to it,” Jousi says. “But visibility is improving, public discussion is growing and people are starting to recognise these services exist.”
And if Barking’s service does get you parked and to your movie before the opening credits roll, it’s likely memory of this sharing economy service will spread.
Text: Eeva Haaramo