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Interview: Louise Chen, Share With Oscar

Interview: Lisa Qi, Share With Oscar

Got parking troubles? Interested in startups? Albert Lin recently sat down with Lisa Qi, cofounder of Share With Oscar to discuss the app.

What does Share With Oscar do? Where can one find Share With Oscar?

Share With Oscar is a parking app, which lets local residents share their parking space when they don’t use it. It is also a way for drivers to find more parking, such as around universities, by parking in driveways when they’ve driven off to work. It’s all about sharing parking spaces, especially around UNSW, parking is shocking. Everywhere’s a one- or two-hour parking zone, there’s parking inspectors all the time, and with the light rail buses are horrendous as well. We’re helping UNSW students find really cheap and affordable parking, normally it’s less than $10 a day. Share With Oscar is available for both Android and Apple users.

How did you come up with the idea? And who’s Oscar?

The idea came around a couple years ago when I was trying to find parking around the beach. I was driving around Bondi for about 40 minutes, just trying to find a parking spot. I was losing my mind, I was angry and frustrated. What I ended up doing was I just pulled into a house, I stopped in their driveway, knocked on their door and asked if I could park in their driveway for the afternoon for $20, and they let me. So that’s how the concept came about. There’s so many empty driveways in the day where people could be parking but nobody’s making use of it. I went to UNSW for seven years and I was driving every single day and parking was the absolute bane of my existence. I was running out of class every two hours just to move my car, or risking a parking fine, or having a 25 minute walk from uni. If you get there after 10am, it’s an absolutely impossible situation. These were the two experiences that inspired me to develop this particular app.

It’s called Share With Oscar because we’re all about sharing. We think that the most sustainable solution to our growing cities and urbanisation is to share resources with one another without needing to build more or buy more things. We believe in the fundamental philosophy of sharing with each other. Oscar is the persona we’ve employed; that friendly neighbour that lets you park in his driveway or garage or carport when he’s not there. It’s for that community feel, really.

What was it like creating a startup in Australia? Anything interesting you’ve learned from your journey?

After uni, I went into management consulting. I was in management consulting for almost 7 years, working for the Big 4, Macquarie Bank, boutique consulting firms. Part of my job previously has been to help companies solve problems. Sometimes, the larger corporations are too big to be agile. Lots of bureaucracy etc. It was just hard to realise any true innovation, you know, to get a new product launched, it would take much longer than required because of the bureaucracy and red tape. I wanted to change the status quo in the way we do things, but I also wanted to be able to start my own business and build something for myself. IT was time for me to say, “I’ve had my corporate consulting experience. I want to venture into the startup world.” Right now, in Australia, the startup ecosystem is really blowing up. It’s a really good time to jump in. The idea was always there, it was just getting the team to build the app and launching it.

The journey? It was so different. I was so sheltered in my corporate world, where everything was structured. Jumping into the startup world, you need to be disciplined, you need to create structure for yourself, you need to constantly make decisions. It’s definitely something challenging but exceptionally rewarding. The most exciting things are the doors and opportunities you get when you start your own business because you’re the main character. You’re the boss, you make the decisions. You’re meeting hundreds of thousands of people. We had someone from Abu Dhabi ask if we could please bring Share With Oscar to the UAE; something we wouldn’t have thought of otherwise. We were randomly featured in a German newspaper. So lots of random, cool things happened just through word of mouth.

Interview: Louise Chen, Share With Oscar

Have you faced any hurdles being women in the male dominated tech industry?

I wouldn’t necessarily call it out; there hasn’t necessarily anything because I’m female. Especially since we’re doing parking, which, traditionally as part of the automotive industry, is very male-dominated. Same with the tech industry. But right now I feel like it’s a great time to be a female entrepreneur because the imbalance has been recognised, and there are so many initiatives to support female entrepreneurs now that I think it’s the best time for someone who is female to get in. Not to say that you’re getting extra brownie points just because you’re female, but there are support networks, and various groups. Ultimately, there are lots of successful female entrepreneurs who want to give back to the startup society, and they have gone through the challenges of being female and starting a successful business, that they want to give back now, and that they’re helping female entrepreneurs and helping to empower and lift each other up.

Any tips for students wanting to found a startup?

When I was at university ten years ago, entrepreneurship wasn’t a thing. Startups weren’t a thing, there wasn’t any class that could prepare you for the journey ahead. If you’re a student and you recognise a problem you’re passionate about solving, or you recognise an opportunity and you’re passionate about making a difference or a change or doing something, just pursue it. Get a group of supportive people around you, go to all the different university events, just join in a startup ecosystem, go to startup meetups, start meeting people, start understanding what it’s like. It’s not easy but these days, uni students see the world in such a different way that there’s a real opportunity to make a huge change. So I’d say, just go for it, and get your university to help you, because every university is jumping on the startup bandwagon with their incubators and programs and supporting entrepreneurship. Start there.

Rapid-fire

Worst parking story in 3 words?
40 minutes up and down three streets. That’s not three words. 40 minutes searching.

Favourite app on your phone?
Can I say Share With Oscar? Is that cheating?

Guilty pleasure app?
Hair Colour Changer. It’s so horrible, it just changes your hair colour and just potentially shows you how you’d look with blonde or red hair. That’s all it does.

 

Share with Oscar is available on the Apple App Store and on the Google Play Store.

Do you have a great idea you’d like to turn into a startup? Arc’s Innovation initiatives can help!

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