MonkeyParking founder Paolo Dobrowolny now considers himself a true disrupter.
In a missive posted on Linkedin, Dobrowolny publicly reflected for the first time on his experiences launching the MonkeyParking app in San Francisco over the summer. It’s the app that enabled drivers to bid on empty parking spaces on city streets, and he touched on the ensuing firestorm it created and why he pulled the app from the Apple App Store in July after being threatened with a lawsuit by San Francisco city attorney Dennis Herrera.
In his Linkedin post with the headline “What Happened When Someone Called my Startup Disruptive,” Dobrowolny ruminated how his life had changed since his controversial app ignited a global calamity with serious ink given to MonkeyParking in many publications, including VentureBeat, the Financial Times and even the Economist.
“There is a lot of talking about disruption lately, and I touched with my own hands what does it feel to be tagged as one of the people ‘disrupting’ something,” he wrote. “Being disruptive today is considered a kind of value, especially in the startup movement, and every time that there is a new disruptive startup there is a lot of rumour about it. I can tell you I didn’t imagine there were so many journalists on this planet interested in learning more about MonkeyParking until someone said that we were disrupting something.”
This isn’t Dobrowlny’s only post. In fact, he has another he’s writing, as he made clear in an email to VentureBeat over the weekend:
“I hope you are doing well. Thanks for the appreciation on the post, I am planning to publish another one called ‘How to convert $20 ads into a Cease and Desist letter’ on Monday. Have a good weekend!”
Clearly, according to the Linkedin post, Dobrowolny was taken aback by the attention his app generated. It touched a nerve in a gentrification-weary San Francisco, which has seen bad blood emerge over the last five years as more startups and established IT players have moved in, with rents going up accordingly. For his part, Herrera deemed the Monkey Parking app illegal, and while Dobrowolny initially vowed to make a stand, ultimately he and his team caved.
Indeed, politicians in San Francisco accused Dobrowolny of creating “parking rage” in the city.
For his part, the affable Dobrowolny has vowed to continue with MonkeyParking, but not in San Francisco, and he told VentureBeat the ensuing maelstrom of controversy taught him plenty, about so-called disruptive technology, for example, and his own role in it.
Dobrowlny, in his Linkedin post, added: “I will tell you my opinion now and I will support it in my future posts with some shots of my experience with MonkeyParking, but here it is: Disruption is already there. It is just sleeping and waiting for someone to step on it in order to wake up and explode. It totally depends on the status quo of what is going to be disrupted: If it sucks it will explode, guaranteed, but you have to step on it brutally (possibly jumping) to make it happen.”
Dobrowolny’s Linkedin post itself ignited an outpouring of feelings, with over 4,000 people reading it. It also ignited a healthy debate in the comments section, where many took to the ether to voice their support for Dobrowlny and his app, with some likening MonkeyParking to Uber. So the dialogue has been robust, and the young Dobrowlny took time out to respond to most of those posting their responses.
Like Diarmuid O’Meara, a product manager at SourceDogg based in Ireland, who posted this in the comments section of the Linkedin post: “Disruption is the result of change and people saying no to “We have always done it that way so why change?” I think things that are truly disruptive like Uber, Airbnb, and MonkeyParking are deserved.”
And there you have it.