Worth Trying: Never Pay Too Much for Auto Repairs Again with Openbay
You’re driving on your way to work and then you hear it again. That squealing noise that started occasionally but now seems almost constant. You know your brakes are probably going and you should get them checked. But here comes that uncomfortable feeling that we all get unless we have a mechanic in the family. Is it just the brake pads or could it be a lot more? If I bring it to the local garage, are they going to magically find other problems that will make this repair astronomical? Maintaining your vehicle can be very stressful.
The team at Openbay in Cambridge have come up with a solution to this problem. Their free app for iPhone will allow you to post your auto service requests through the app and have garages compete for your business. Participating service stations post real quotes for you to review in response to your questions. You can select from this list of community-reviewed vendors, book the service and even pay all through the app.
It’s actually amazing the variation in price you can find for the same service. My Jeep and Honda are both in good shape but I should need brakes for the Jeep soon. Within 15 minutes, I had over 10 offers and an associate from Openbay even called to offer help coordinating the service. You can see the map of offers for replacing both the front and back brake pads on my 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee.
Which brings me to the next consumer value for the app; I’m actually not sure when or if the brakes on my Jeep have been replaced. If I had used the app since I bought the Jeep in 2011, I would know. It keeps an ongoing service record for you and can even recommend factory suggested repairs.
Openbay is one more iPhone app in a list of services that continue to turn your smart phone into a valuable virtual assistant. Especially if you have an older vehicle, you need to have Openbay on your iPhone.
As an aside for the content marketers reading this, Openbay has a built in treasure of marketing data that they could mine to package into very shareable content. What’s the average price for a given service or have there been sudden price changes in a local market and why? All of the data being generated by the app could be aggregated into various forms of media that news outlets could not help but share and, in turn, promote the app for free. I am sure that they already are or plan to do this but it’s a marketers dream to have a wealth of renewable content at your fingertips.
What is your elevator pitch?
Openbay is an online service and mobile app that helps consumers find, book and pay for local auto repair and maintenance services. It allows consumers to compare competitive offers based on price, convenience and ratings, choose a preferred local shop and then pay for service, all through a secure website and mobile app. Consumers benefit from Openbay by getting quality service at a fair price. Vehicle history is automatically maintained. And manufacturer recommended maintenance scheduled is provided for their specific year, make and model vehicle to include pricing for parts and labor.
What is your founding story?
The genesis of the idea behind Openbay came from the Founder, Rob Infantino’s personal experience of getting handed a $4,000 repair estimate for multiple service issues when he brought his car into a local well known Boston dealership for a simple wheel alignment. After reviewing the estimate, he respectfully declined all services and left after sampling the premium coffee and snacks they were offering.
Rob’s immediate mission was to pause the process of getting service and seek an alternative solution that matched his need with a trustworthy automotive professional offering quality service and not take advantage of him when it came to price. There had to be a better way. He wanted an easy way to get multiple quotes from local mechanics on what a wheel alignment service would cost and then connect him with the shop. After a search for this type of service proved to be non-existent, he started on a new quest to create a hypothesis for this type of online marketplace. He entered a customer-discovery phase as part of the validation process. He spoke with service providers and consumers who’d experienced pain when it came to auto repair. Feedback was consistently positive, with, “It sounds like a great product and I’d use it,” coming from both marketplace segments. A prototype was created and shared and the evolution of Openbay commenced.
Openbay’s initial target market was the greater Boston, MA area. In this market, the business model was tested and refined. Openbay serves two market segments: vehicle owners and automotive service providers. For vehicle owners, Openbay targets owners whose cars are out of warranty (80% of cars on the road are.), and in the maintenance phase (typically cars between 2-6 years old) or in the repair phase (6-11 years). The average age of a car on the road today is 11.4 years old. For automotive service providers, Openbay targets three categories: dealerships, independent shops and mobile mechanics. The market for automotive repair and maintenance, where $164 billion is spent annually, in the U.S. is growing.
What is your business model?
Openbay is free for the vehicle owners. The company collects a 10% fee only from the service provider that is awarded the business, and customers decide based mostly on convenience, ratings and reviews and then price.
What milestones can you share?
Openbay’s web app was in public beta for most of 2013 and then it went into production on October 28, 2013 with its mobile app launching nationwide. Since then, Openbay is now available in 44 states, and it’s adding new service providers across the U.S. each day.
The company was originally funded by the Founder for the initial year, and then it attracted investments from Google Ventures, Andreessen Horowitz, Boston Seed Capital and Stage 1 Ventures, and several angel investors. Openbay is the only Company in Boston to be funded by powerhouse venture firms Google Ventures and Andreessen Horowitz.
The Company is also thrilled to have recently entered into a partnership with Boston.com, providing its readers with car-servicing tips and access to the Openbay service.
Who is on the founding team?
Rob Infantino, founder and CEO. He started four companies in his career all in enterprise software. His last company, Astrum Software was acquired by EMC (NYSE:EMC). He shifted his focus toward the consumer market after identifying a need and following his passion for cars.
The original prototype for Openbay was built by Rob and used for customer validation. All design, development and Q/A activities for its Web and mobile app are performed in house.