Catching up with Naomi from Hozah

Hozah’s fully-automated parking payment system is revolutionising car parks around the country. Naomi Bishop and David Fowle co-founded Hozah in 2017 with the vision of transforming the UK’s car park infrastructure. Their fully automated parking payment system connects drivers' credit/debit cards to number plate recognition cameras. The cameras detect when drivers enter and exit a car park and then they are automatically billed for the length of their stay. No action is required from the driver.

This is an exciting time for the company, who have been expanding rapidly over the last 8-10 months. They have raised their second round of investment and significantly increased the number of Hozah-enabled car parks grows across the country. Following a move into a larger office in Sussex Innovation Croydon, they are hiring new team members to support this growing client demand.

Hozah was recently selected as Innovation Trail finalists for their parking solution at ParkEx, Europe’s largest parking exhibition. It’s the ideal time to catch up with Naomi and hear all about what’s in store for the business.

Tell us a bit about your investment journey: How long were you seeking investment?

We've raised twice, both of which were quick rounds. We are lucky that our investors are incredibly supportive and believe in what we are trying to do. They have followed our progress over the last year or so and have been keen to continue supporting us by helping us reach our funding goal for our second round.

As ever, the most time-consuming part of a round is not raising money but rather the paperwork!

What was your experience pitching for investment?

We like to think of our investors as partners, and therefore I’m not sure we’ve pitched as such. Of course, at the core of any investment, there is an element of explaining the product and how you intend to capitalise. However, we’ve always gone down the route of having simple, frank and open conversations with key people that we want to join us as investors.

We’ve got a mixture of experienced investors who have done it before, who can really add value from their past experiences, along with newer investors who specifically care about the success of Hozah.

Were there any challenges you faced?

One lesson from our first round was, if at all possible, you should get somebody to do the paperwork for you! It's one of those things where if you don’t get it right the first time, it will come back and bite you in the ass. You can’t do that and your full-time job, particularly as a startup. The first round we wanted to experience doing everything ourselves, and I’m glad I did as I learnt a lot very quickly, but would now advise anyone else to outsource this.

What is the investment enabling you to do?

It is helping us expand the business as quickly as we can. We've been offered a lot of new sites to provide Hozah in and the only thing holding us back was the resource to get them up and running. We needed more staff to help chase suppliers and carry out site visits to install hardware.

Hozah - Naomi and David

Where are your newest sites?

Croydon Council has recently come on board, which is really exciting as a Croydon company. We have two sites initially with them, with the idea to roll out to the rest of their sites. We also have sites with Coventry Council as well, which are going very well. We have sites coming on board with us in Sheffield, Hull, Cornwall, Oxford and closer to home in London and Essex.

Our sites are local authority car parks and private operators. With private operators, we get the opportunity to spread to different regions. So, although one might be based in Sheffield, they’ll have locations all over the country. Local authority sites can be very good for us… it means there's a concentrated area where we might have 20 Hozah-enabled sites where drivers can clearly see the benefits.

When did you open your first site?

Nearly a year ago, our initial test site was in Keighley, Yorkshire. It was an opportunity for us to fine-tune any issues we had. Meanwhile, we were working on getting other operators and local authorities on board. For anyone that’s worked with local authorities, they know it can be a long process. During that time, we managed to get 3 local authorities working with Hozah to offer their residents a better way to pay for parking.

What has been your proudest achievement so far?

Last week I was in Birmingham for ParkEx, which is Europe's largest Parking Exhibition. I went initially two years ago before we started the company to understand the industry and to see if anyone was offering anything like us… they weren't and still aren't! This year we decided to go for it; the head above the parapet and bare all.

It went very well. It was really good product validation for us from the number of people who had heard a lot about us and people who were totally on board with what we were trying to do, even in that sector. We knew drivers would like it but knowing that the operators, local authorities and people in the same sphere liked it as well was a very proud moment for us. It was 3 very long days, but totally worth it. We got to mix with lots of people in our industry and off the back of that we've had offers to expand into other car parks.

What's next for Hozah?

We want to expand Hozah so that all drivers have the option to choose a payment mechanism which is easier, faster and won't lead to them receiving a PCN [penalty charge notice]. We want people thinking "right, where are Hozah car parks?" when looking for parking.

We're seeing more inbound sales, more interested drivers and hearing promising testimonials from users, particularly in our hospital sites from staff and patients. If we get more car parks in those areas then it's not just that they can park there, but there could be another Hozah car park two minutes down the road; we can't wait for that story to happen. I think what's next is to have more Hozah-dominated areas rather than sporadic sites.

We've expanded our offices and are expanding our team. We've moved down to floor 6 [at Sussex Innovation Croydon], doubling the space we're taking up, doubling the team and doubling everything we put into it. It should be an exciting next few months for us.

If someone was looking to start their investment journey, what would be your tips?

Don't accept money from people you don't feel are a good fit for the company. The synergy needs to be there. Whatever happens, they're going to have a say in what the business does and how you operate it. You must obviously think about how much money you're raising and how important that is, but also think about the advice you're getting - what they can give you aside from the investment?

Read more stories about Sussex Innovation members' journeys and successes here.