Openbay CEO: Diagnosis Software for Connected Cars Is a Big Market

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the data fee for a certain period of time. In return we want feedback from users, behavior, usability, their experience. We want to learn. The goal is to get enough customers on the platform so we can fully understand behavior, and then we’ll partner with a vendor who will provide the devices at scale.

X: What kind of vendor do you mean?

RI: There are many vendors who would love this business in a variety of different industries. It could be the automotive industry, it could be in the insurance industry, it could be the parts industry. We’re focused on our platform, and the service that we deliver. We’ll let another partner handle the device portion of it. Our goal is to not be the hardware vendor, our goal is just to be a provider of auto repair service over the connected car.

X: You want to eventually partner with someone who has connected devices in cars, so you can offer OpenbayConnect on it?

RI: When you think about the connected car market, the partners we will probably target are insurance companies, followed by parts companies. These are people that have built relationships with the consumer. There’s a big trend right now of usage-based insurance. If you are speeding, braking hard, driving at night, you may pay a higher insurance rate. To do that, they need a way of monitoring driving behavior. They need to put a device in the vehicle to monitor driving behavior. Once the device is connected, all kinds of services can be sold over that wire: insurance services, repair services like us, roadside assistance services. If a big partner of ours has a big installed base of connected cars, we become a service offered over that platform.

X: And you’re expecting an increase in the number of connected cars?

RI: Right now, if you want a connected car you have to buy it. It’s an expensive option. But there are 200 million cars right now on the road, those manufactured after 1996, that are connectible. That’s the audience for the device when we talk about OpenbayConnect. All of the new cars coming out that are connected, we can work with the manufacturers and talk to the API so we can deliver service to those cars.

X: You can give away this diagnostic software for free because you’re hoping it will help more users schedule appointments through Openbay, which you make money on, right?

RI: Yeah, well, the device communicates directly with our platform. If you enter in a request for service, or if the device or car is speaking to our platform, the result is the same. We’re going to come back to you with offers and providers to choose from.

X: You charge a 10 percent fee?

RI: The user is free, we charge the shop 10 percent.

X: You’ve said you founded the company based on a personal experience?

RI: My car needed a simple wheel alignment, and I brought it to a local dealership here in Boston. I was in the waiting room, and the guy came out and said to me, we can’t do an alignment on the car. He hands me a 12-page document, and says, you need all these repairs done on your vehicle. It was for like $4,000. I said you’re insane. I went home to look for service online to see if there was any place out there. I couldn’t find any service like Openbay. I’ve started three other companies, and I decided I’m going to build this thing.

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David Holley is Xconomy's national correspondent based in Austin, TX. You can reach him at [email protected] Follow @xconholley

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