How Businesses Today Are Revitalizing The Lost Sense Of Community And Social Responsibility In America.

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In the US, on average a driver spends 17 hours a day looking for parking spaces. In densely populated cities, this number is much higher, In New York, drivers spend 107 hours per year looking for parking. In Los Angeles that figure is 85 hours, and in San Francisco it’s 83 hours.

Top US Cities

Source

This means additional cost of fuel, loss of time, and increased emissions from cars. According to INRIX, 42% of the respondents of their survey reported that they missed an appointment due to unavailable parking space.
This is a problem that hurts most Americans, and costs an estimated $73 Billion to Americans, across different factors. So how do you solve this problem? Well, here I think community matters the most, and individual contributions can be an incredible tool.

Why Community Matters In Everyday Problems?

One of the biggest challenges that people in the US face with regards to parking is the lack of knowledge regarding everyday parking conditions.
You can’t enter a query on Google to find parking spaces because they change every day. Everyday drivers have to go out and find parking spaces, and the overcrowded nature of the city sometimes makes it impossible.
Often, a lot of people who park in public spaces trade information regarding their parking spaces with their friends informally to help them save time and effort on finding this space.
But with problems like these, it’s not so much about the lack of parking spaces rather, about the lack of information regarding them. From private parking spots that are empty at most hours of the day to public spaces, there’s always empty space available but they’re not accessible.
This is why problems such as these community-led solutions are the most important. The individuals living within the city can help bridge this information gap by relaying parking-related information to others.
The limitation here is that information will be too decentralized and there’s a lack of individualistic incentive for people to part-take in such an activity.
So, how do you manage to both centralize this information and incentivize people to take part in spreading parking-related information?
That’s where the solution from a company called Parkers come in.

The Lost Sense Of Community

Today, although entrepreneurship is on the boom, one of the things that businesses lack is a good-will approach to business. The entrepreneurship community has become more about making money and profit, rather than helping people.
Yes, most businesses help people but that’s not their primary focus in how they develop a business. Mostly, business owners create their business, and within its confine look for ways they can help people. This largely done because the outlook of a business that “helps people” is positive and makes for a great story to tell consumers.
Other than that, there’s mostly nothing related to helping people and building community in their business plans or in their company culture.
When to, and how to help people, is as much of a business decision as deciding the pricing structure your product or service will follow, and that’s the problem I’m trying to highlight here.
But to insinuate that that’s every business would be dishonest. There are businesses that are truly giving people value for their money by helping them maximize benefits for themselves.

Solving the Problem of Unavailable Parking Spaces by Empowering the Community

An app called Parkers is doing something similar with their parking app which aims to centralize information regarding private and public parking spaces. The app takes the approach of helping people publicize their own parking spaces and public parking spaces that they are occupying.
When they leave the space they’re occupying, they can use the app to pass on the information to anyone in the area who might be looking for parking about the time they will vacate a parking space. For people who might need a space on the given time can donate a few dollars to receive that information and arrive at the designated space at the time of vacancy.
What this does is not only provide the opportunity for people to list currently available spaces but also currently occupied spaces that will be vacant at a certain time, in exchange for a few dollars.
It also allows pedestrians to list parking spaces that they notice during their commute, which is available for others to see. The app comes with 3D imaging of the parking spots so that you can get a real-life feel of the kind of space you’re booking for your car.
What this ensures is that people who need parking spaces can get access to information regarding available spaces in return for a small dollar amount.
For people running to meetings early in the morning, can be invaluable information. Moreover, the small dollar amount keeps people motivated to provide this information to other people, essentially helping people build a community within the app.

A Lesson In Entrepreneurship

As a project that was completely bootstrapped, we conducted an interview of Parkers CEO Mr. Youssef Hazmut.
In the interview, Youssef highlights that from looking at the rise of apps such as Airbnb and Turo, you find out that community-driven project that adds true value will always find success, as long as you stay true to that value you provide.
The impact your solutions create on the world will always be crucial for some people, no matter how small the niche and if you can find value in small things such as the parking space you’re vacating every day at 05:00 pm when you leave work, you can use that to help others find a spot that they might not otherwise find.
The vision with this solution to the rising problem of parking in big cities like New York was people value saving time.
And If you believe in the idea that you’re endorsing, then as an entrepreneur you shouldn’t back down from it simply because 2 investors told you they didn’t believe in the idea.
If you believe in the value it provides, then you need to go out and search for solutions not just to the problem you’re solving but unique solutions to your own problems, such as not having enough investment.
“It takes years to build an idea and quitting early can be a fatal mistake” was what Mr. Hazmutt told us in an interview.
For entrepreneurs looking to start their own business, the key is to never stop analyzing the world around them and search for problems that people face in their everyday lives and come up with innovative ways to solve them. Be it through a product, or a community-driven project, where you empower others to help solve the problem collectively.

Examples of Other Businesses That Focus on Community and Centralizing Information

Airbnb, and Parkers are two examples of such businesses that have brought incredible value to the lives of people.

Airbnb

Airbnb is a marketplace for offering people lodging, housing, and tourism experiences during their travels. Airbnb acts as a broker between the owner of the offer and the buyer, and only charges a small commission on each booking.
Airbnb itself is not the price setter which makes their business model exemplary. The business focuses on ensuring that the information regarding available options is widely accessible to anyone on the app.
From people travelling to a new country for vacation or when flight delays cause overnight delays, Airbnb is a service that truly brings instant value. Instead of having to search for hotels by going there, looking for empty rooms, the app centralizes this information to bring you the knowledge you need to get a roof over your head in an instance.

Ebay

Ebay is another brilliant example of an e-commerce marketplace that allows B2C and C2C to engage in sales, acting as a facilitator.
What makes Ebay such a powerhouse that it empowers people across the world in a variety of industries to find products in just a few clicks. Founded in 1995, today It’s generating more than $11 Billion in revenue, and it goes to show how businesses that empower people to take part in a marketplace, and share their products, knowledge, and information can be a massive problem solver.

Conclusion

At the end of the day, all businesses need to showcase a tangible benefit to its target audience but most importantly for such marketplaces, it needs to exhibit a strong incentive for the community to become a part of the project.
The biggest concern with regards to a solution like this is, “why would people donate and pay?” The answer is, it’s because getting to a meeting in time is worth spending a few dollars, and by paying a few dollars, you ensure that the community keeps on providing the information you need to always find a parking spot in time for your early morning meeting, or when you go out for celebrations during the holiday seasons.
The larger point and conversation here is to understand that businesses can make profit while existing as a force of empowerment in the community and by driving positive impact on lives of people by focusing on real-world problems.
For budding entrepreneurs, this is the key to set them apart from other businesses in the future and developing a Unique Selling Point that sets them up for success.

Asim Rais Siddiqui
An innovative business technologist and strategist with over a decade's worth of experience in building scalable platforms and disruptive businesses.

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