'I was checking emails in the labour room' - Anthony Eskinazi, JustPark

20 QUESTIONS: The founder of the parking app talks about his 'property porn obsession' and why he offers his staff infinite holidays.

by Adam Gale
Last Updated: 17 Mar 2015

1. IF YOU HAD DONE SOMETHING ELSE WHAT WOULD IT HAVE BEEN?

When I had the idea for Just Park, I’d been accepted onto the graduate scheme at Deloitte, so some people would say I’d be a chartered accountant. But anyone who knows me knows that I’m not the best at being told what to do, so I was always going to gravitate towards being my own boss. I don’t think anyone was ever passionate about parking, so it wasn’t really parking that did it, but I’d probably have started something in the tech sector.

2. WHAT ELSE WOULD YOU NAME YOUR BUSINESS?

I’m a big fan of having animals as brand mascots, so maybe Parking Penguin.

3. IF YOU COULD BE BASED IN ANOTHER CITY WHERE WOULD IT BE?

San Francisco. I did a sandwich year at Berkeley in California, and I think it would be a pretty fun and vibrant place to bring up a family. Also, it has an extremely vibrant and smart tech community and high availability of venture capital.

4. WHEN YOU STARTED, HOW DID YOU RAISE MONEY?

I didn’t. It was a real struggle. I was 23 years old, the sole founder and I didn’t really know what I was doing. I found out very quickly that if I wanted to raise a decent amount I’d have to give away a huge slug of the company, so I actually went five years before I raised any kind of capital. I was living in my parents’ attic, so I didn’t have to pay any rent for a couple of years. I made £70-80,000 running a gaming affiliate website, and I did some consultancy work on the side. I’ve always had enough to get by, but there was some pretty bad credit card debt at the beginning.

5. WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR MOST IMPORTANT DECISION SO FAR?

Not giving up. I’ve been running this business for eight years, there have been plenty of times where I’ve burned out, or another opportunity’s come along, and each time I decided to give it one more go.

6. WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR BIGGEST MISTAKE?

Not trusting my gut enough, especially when it comes to hiring and firing. You know pretty quickly as an employer when someone isn’t performing to the best of their ability. When you get even an inkling that something’s awry, most of the time you’re probably right. I made a few mistakes by choosing to ignore it.

7. WHAT IDEA DO YOU WISH YOU HAD COME UP WITH?

Airbnb’s an obvious one. Before Airbnb was even founded, I owned the domain name liveatmyhouse.com and sleepatmyhouse.com, and I’d always seen the whole sharing sector as a really interesting market. I owned workatmyoffice.com, which is obviously very popular now - people always joked, ‘Did you also register sleepwithmywife.com?’ I didn’t! Someone else had that, apparently.

8. HOW DO YOU HANDLE STRESS?

Badly. There’s only been one time in the last eight years where I can honestly say I didn’t think about work, and that was having a kid. My son was born in March last year and I took two weeks off. In the labour room, while my wife was asleep, I was checking emails. But as soon as the baby started opening his eyes and there was an opportunity for me to spend a bit more time with them, I decided not to think about work during the day at all. And that was really liberating.

9. WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST JOB?

When I was doing my sandwich year at Berkeley, I worked in the campus computer store. There I met other people fascinated by technology – they opened my eyes to the major technology blogs, made me fall in love again with the internet and have a thorough understanding of how these companies worked.

10. WHAT WAS YOUR WORST JOB?

What I do now! It’s definitely the hardest. But I have to say I have enjoyed all my jobs, so I don't really have a 'worst'.

11. WHAT WAS YOUR BEST JOB?

Being a dad. It’s what I look forward to every morning when I wake up and every night before I go to bed, because I know that when I wake up I’ll get to see him. There’s not one activity, from cleaning up a messy nappy to anything else, that’s not an absolute joy because of spending time with him.

12. IF YOU WERE ON THE APPRENTICE WOULD YOUR TEAM BE NAMED?

Arrogant and Proud. Because I think everyone comes across as extremely arrogant and proud of it. I think that adding a bit of humour and self awareness is a great asset in business.

13. WHAT COMPANY WOULD YOU INVEST IN RIGHT NOW?

I'm very excited by crowdfunding, the ‘Internet of Things’ and the wearable tech industry. I recently invested in a ‘sleep wearables’ business that can detect and optimise sleep patterns and the time that you should wake up.

14. APART FROM PROPERTY, WHAT IS THE MOST EXPENSIVE THING YOU’VE BOUGHT?

We’re not a very spendthrift family. I didn’t even buy my car – it got handed down! It would have to be my wife’s engagement ring, though. And she’s worth every penny.

15. SUIT OR JEANS?

Jeans, all the time. Saying that, wearing a suit you get taken more seriously, especially starting a company when you’re so young. But it’s also doesn’t fit with the culture I’m trying to start at this business. At lunchtime we have a game of table tennis – it’s not very appropriate to wear a suit to that.

16. FLEXIBLE WORKING OR OFFICE HOURS?

We offer infinite holidays here. We say, get shit done. If you need to take ten extra days of holiday a year to do that, then that’s absolutely fine.

17. WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE THING ABOUT THE OFFICE?

We have an absolutely amazing team. I’d be happy going out with a drink with any of them and I know a lot of actual friendships are developing as well. That’s not just great for morale, it’s also great for retention – you’re less likely to leave if you’re leaving friends as well as a job. Also, we offer chef-cooked lunches every day. It’s a great chance to get the whole team together.

18. WHAT APP CAN’T YOU LIVE WITHOUT?

The RightMove app, because we’re looking to move house. I must be on it 2-3 times a day. My wife and I have this mild property porn obsession.

19. WHO IS YOUR BUSINESS IDOL?

I kind of fell into running a business, so I've never really had a business idol. I've got a lot of respect for the founders of Google and Facebook for building huge, life-changing and sustainable businesses that touch all of our lives.

20. IF YOU WERE PRIME MINSTER FOR THE DAY, WHAT WOULD YOU CHANGE?

Where do I start? Definitely the mortgage affordability rules for entrepreneurs. It is nigh on impossible for entrepreneurs to get any kind of mortgage. At the moment, we’re stuck in our existing property. Literally, we can’t move. I’ve spoken to all the high street banks and they’ve all said no, despite having a great deposit and everything else. It’s ridiculous.

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