Tell us a little bit about how Openbay. Explain what your company is and how it came to be.
I have a fair amount of experience with cars. I went in for a simple wheel alignment in Boston. That simple wheel alignment turned out to be $4k in repairs so I said, ‘Give me my keys back. There has to be a better way to do this.’ I felt like I was getting taken advantage of by this dealership and I thought maybe other people have the same problem. I did a lot of research and found that there are a lot of fears about car repair. The challenges of getting your car repaired spans across multiple generations. I thought maybe I could start a company that can solve this problem and remove a lot of the friction from the process.
Take us through the consumer experience. Let’s say “Dennis” hit a pothole on the way to work with his Nissan Rogue.
Dennis would download our app or go to openbay.com, plug in his zip code, select the year, make and model, then search or describe the service needed. As soon as you click submit, you’ll get multiple quotes sent to your dashboard. Then you can select the provider that best meets your needs. We ask you for your credit card to secure your appointment. You show up to get your car service and don’t have to give your card to the service provider. We don’t charge the consumer any fees.
It sounds a bit like Uber or Lyft that once you have your card entered in their app, there’s no money exchanged between you and the driver.
That’s correct. What’s fascinating is that the average vehicle age on our platform is 10 years old, so people are holding onto their vehicles longer. The average age of an Openbay user is 24 to 34 years old, so we’re getting a lot of younger drivers who generally don’t like to talk on the phone.
To your point, it’s people who order their rides on their phone, buy movie tickets on their phone. These are the customers using our platform: Millennials, Gen Yers and Gen Zers. They generally don’t like speaking to people and they like having everything on their phones. Openbay is perfect for that customer segment.
Now when “Dennis” brings his car in for an oil change, while it’s there, the technician in the shop tells him the air filter needs replacement. Is that a separate transaction?
Everything takes place on the platform. You have the option to deny or add modified services. You’ll get a notification that your service was modified, and you can agree or deny the new quote.
For repair shops, besides the benefits of filling their open bays, is there tech in place for them to see how they’re doing?
We formed relationships with State Farm, the top insurance company in the US, Allstate and Liberty Mutual. They have very high standards in terms of what services they promote to their policyholders so we do net promoter scores on every single service on our platform. Customers will complete net promoter score surveys after their service.
Shops need to maintain a certain level of ratings to stay on Openbay. We keep a diligent watch on who is participating on our platform because we want to deliver a great service to our customers.
Does the shop have an Openbay portal in their shop?
Not only does [an auto repair shop] have a portal, but they have their own mobile app that we built. They get notified in real-time when appointments are booked and when consumers want to communicate with them.
We also just announced an AI product for their website to give customers a way to message shops in real-time. Openbay Otis can understand and respond to human language, which allows shops to interact 24/7 without any resources required. We have close to 200 shops using it and the performance has been outstanding. Shops have never seen anything like this before. We have some shops booking over 90 appointments in a single a month using this product. Not only do we provide a marketplace for consumers, but we also provide online digital tools for our shops.
Being a frugal Bostonian, can I shop around?
The nature of the marketplace means that you’re getting multiple competitive quotes. If you’re on a tight budget, you might want to travel another mile or two or three to get a lower price. Every quote that is generated on our platform is generated by Openbay, not the shop. We take in the shop’s margins and their labor rates. We want to make sure we deliver an apples-to-apples comparison in the service quotes.
There can be a difference in part quality. Is there some recognition of this on Openbay?
You have the option to request OE [Original Equipment] parts or aftermarket. What we found is that owners of top-end vehicles generally pick OE parts.
Is there an implied warranty that comes with having a relationship with Openbay?
You get the shop warranty, which varies by shop. We also provide a guarantee on our platform that you will be satisfied with our service. If you’re not, we get in the middle and try to resolve it. In some cases, we will pay for the service if the customer is not completely satisfied and the shop owner feels that they weren’t at fault. We want to make sure that both parties are happy with the service.
How quickly can a consumer book an appointment?
We have generated millions of service quotes on our platform. You will get a quote within seconds. Depending upon the shops availability, some will take customers right away.
It sounds like a really interesting company built out of great ideas, maybe a little bit of frustration, and some good thoughts.
I think our biggest challenge is that nobody really knows about us. The capital we just raised will be used to create awareness of our company and the platform is working beautifully, so we’re in a good spot.