Parket’s Joshua Raphael plays middleman between business and tech

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Wearing multiple hats has given Joshua a good ear for what customers need.

Joshua Raphael, Founder and CTO at Parket believes that being technical is something that you are born with, not something you chose. According to Joshua, some developers don’t necessarily have the passion for it, and are merely doing it to make a living.

“I’ve had a passion and curiosity for technology from as early as seven years old,” he says. “I remember when my father bought our very first PC running on Microsoft Windows 95, and within a few months of having it, I had already taken it apart and changed the software,” he recalls.

“I had reconfigured the software so that instead of the Windows 95 logo appearing when you switched on the PC, a skull and crossbones would appear. Let’s just say my mother wasn’t too pleased about that.”

Joshua‘s interest in technology stuck with him and after completing matric he studied civil engineering, which included a module on Java as part of the course. “One of the most valuable parts of the course was that they would present real-world engineering problems to you and coding solutions for you to use in order to solve those problems,” he explains.

A short course kicks off a long-term business
In relation to coding, Joshua says that coming across an online learning platform, Udemy, was the best thing that ever happened to him. The platform charges R250 for a course that could last six months: either learning Python or Android Studio, and learning how to use Android Studio was where Joshua cut his teeth as a developer.

At a certain point, Joshua decided to learn more about web development and enrolled for another short-course through Udemy. “I remember my first class on HTML, and the lecturer told us that we would replicate the BBC website, I felt like I was in way over my head, but as a few weeks went by, I started picking up on it,” he says.

This was a pivotal moment for Joshua because it made him realise that he didn’t necessarily need six years’ experience or a degree to pursue his passion. A short course was just as sufficient. “Among all the programming languages I have learned, Python was the most valuable for me,” he notes.

In fact, he says, most of Parket’s business and backend is based on Python. He adds that for any aspiring developer, the quickest way to master the programme is ‘stack overflow’: building as much as you can, and once you learn one language, then learning another is simple – the logic remains the same.

Joshua had become so proficient with Python that he could have worked as a senior developer had he wanted to, but instead he took the entrepreneurial route and founded Parket.

“I started off developing a web application as a marketplace for parking for my apartment block,” he says. “And at a certain point my shared workspace approached me to develop something similar for them and I built it for them, created a payment gateway and within the first two weeks, the first transaction came through. Both sides of the marketplace were pleased with the product, which actually indicated to me that this was a viable market to enter into.”

As the business grew and was generating revenue from all the bookings, I managed to persuade some angel investors on board,” he says. “This allowed me to grow my team and today, we currently have four engineers and one sales representative, and even with a small team we have managed to build a world-class parking management product.”

The CTO as a middleman
Joshua does point out that because a bulk of the work lay solely on his shoulders for some time, it did mean that he had to wear multiple hats as CTO: as CEO, marketer, recruiter and head of sales.

“I even did B2B sales myself before hiring a salesperson, but the idea is to hire someone who knows and can do the job better than me. This includes our engineers,” he explains.

“My role as founder and CTO is to listen to what the market wants and communicate the message back to the engineers, and we, in collaboration, define the feature or issue that the customer is facing, and solve for that problem.”

A CTO, according to him, must have the ability to pick on what the market needs and translate that into a product: much like Steve Jobs who had a good ear for grasping what the market needs, and was the middleman between the market and the product.

The business is steadily growing and Joshua has big plans for Parket. He is currently working on securing contracts with huge shopping centres, and is even looking to tap into the facilities management market.

Away from business, Joshua is a big believer in cryptocurrency, he bought his first bitcoin in 2016 and has been hooked ever since. “I even had a cryptocurrency business, which consisted of 250 crypto miners in Bellville, Cape Town, we had a big factory with huge fans. But, electricity became too expensive and we decided to relocate them to Kurdistan, where they currently work from,” he says.

Joshua also enjoys reading, he prefers reading two books at a time, usually one book business and the other on fiction. He is currently reading Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear and Predictable Revenue by Aaron Ross and Marc Benioff, who founded Salesforce.

He has also read quite a few books on startups, he recommends Crossing the chasm by Jeffrey Moore, Founding Sales: The Early Stage Go-To-Market Handbook by Peter R Kazanjy, and The Lean Startup by Eric Ries for anyone looking to kick off their own startup.

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