By Andrew Winterbottom
LONDON (Reuters) - JustPark, a London-based start-up that launched the world's first in-car parking app, is nearly half way to achieving a 1 million pound ($1.5 million) equity fundraising target just 12 hours after its debut on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube.
Around 300,000 pounds was raised in the 48 hours prior to the debut in an exclusive offer to users of the app. Over 1,100 investors have taken part, which Crowdcube said was a record for the platform. The total raised so far is 475,000 pounds and the biggest single investment so far is 50,000 pounds.
JustPark's app connects car-park owners, often individuals with a private parking space at their home, to drivers looking for a place to park. It charges the owners of the space commission on bookings and the service is used by around 700,000 drivers spread across the English speaking world.
The app's early development was backed by BMW and Index Ventures, a venture capital firm that has backed big names like Skype and British takeaway ordering service Just-Eat.
"This isn't your average crowdfunding campaign: with backing from BMW and Index Ventures, JustPark is far more established than the typical startup using this form of fundraising," said Luke Lang, co-founder of Crowdcube.
The current funding round will allow BMW to sell down its stake, bought for 250,000 pounds in June 2011, while Index Ventures will be converting a loan into equity at the same price as the crowd.
Money raised will be used to support product development and engage in a more aggressive marketing campaign, said Anthony Eskinazi, JustPark's co-founder.
"We wanted to do crowdfunding," he said.
"We talked talking about it with Index Ventures in late 2013 and they were on board. But the main reason we did it was that we wanted our customers to be part of our success."
JustPark was offering up 4.76 percent equity through the funding round, giving the business a valuation of just over 21 million pounds. The minimum investment to participate is ten pounds.
Crowdfunding is an increasingly popular form of financing for start-ups seeking to circumvent the traditional angel investor route and cash-in on popularity with the public. Its growth has contributed to a burgeoning alternative finance market expected to be worth 4.4 billion pounds in Britain this year, according to a report by charity Nesta and the University of Cambridge.
But crowd-style financing has fallen under increased regulatory scrutiny, with the EU markets watchdog saying in December that investors need greater protection against significant risks in the evolving sector.
JustPark said that searching for parking in cities accounts for around 30 percent of urban traffic and amounts to 106 days of wasted time over the average lifespan. The firm doubled its gross profits last year and grew its annual booking revenue to 3.7 million pounds.
(Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)