Interviews

How an incubator has put a car mechanic recommendation service in the fast lane

7 min read

19 October 2015

Customer reference and recommendation sites such as RatedPeople and VouchedFor have radically changed the way in which millions of us find tradespeople and even professional service providers.

While he was running a car parts aggregator business, following a career in banking, Andrew Jervis began to notice how little car owners trusted their mechanics.

A chat with his mechanic brother helped him to realise there was simply no easy way to book a mechanic that was trustworthy and reliable. Having sold his previous business, he carried out further research as part of a master’s degree – writing some 85,000 words in the process.

Jervis then moved from Manchester to London where he met Felix Kenton, who had identified these same problems. The pair decided to team up and in 2012 they launched ClickMechanic with the aim of providing car owners with the easiest and most transparent way to book a mechanic that they could trust.

“It’s well documented that the automotive repair industry is fraught with problems. A lack of transparency, poor quality labour, and wasted time taking cars to garages have all led to a large amount of distrust in the industry,” explained Jervis.

“The UK repair industry has an abundance of repair data and thousands of great mobile mechanics. We saw ClickMechanic as the best way of bringing the mechanics together in one trusted network while using data to further bring trust to users on the prices they pay.”

Customers simply fill in an online form with information about their car and their location, as well as what they need to have fixed. If they’re not sure what’s wrong they can request a diagnostic test. 

They then receive an industry-standard, approved quote based on millions of data points. Once they accept the quote they can specify when and where they’d like the work to take place, such as home or office. When the customer is satisfied with the work, the agreed amount is charged to their credit or debit card.

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ClickMechanic was launched via a startup accelerator called Entrepreneur First that focuses purely on taking on individuals with talent, mainly with a technical background, even if they don’t have a business idea yet.

“Once on the programme it’s your job to find a co-founder and then set about proving your hypothesis and assumptions leading to your business goal,” said Jervis.

Jervis and Kenton were two of just 30 people who were granted places among more than 500 applicants. As well as the kudos, acceptance by Entrepreneur First provided them with contacts among investors. ClickMechanic has raised £420,000 to date and in April it announced the closure of a financing round of £320,000 from angel investors, led by Klaus Nyengaard – former CEO of Just Eat.

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Despite the benefits offered by Entrepreneur First, Jervis said: “There have been so many challenges. The biggest so far have ranged from identifying the correct business model, to recruiting mechanics, to getting customers and raising investment. We’re still in the early stages. With the business accelerating, I’m certain there are plenty more challenges around the corner.”

That said, working with Entrepreneur First, Nyengaard and the team has taught Jervis and Kenton a lot about what appeals to investors about a startup. “If you ask any investor what they look for when investing they’ll state: team, market size, traction and timing and perhaps a couple of other things,” he revealed.

“I think we do a pretty good job of ticking all those boxes for investors and if you can do that, it’s just a case of getting out there and finding the best match for you.”

Jervis added: “Growing a startup and creating a successful company is not easy. In fact, it can be darn hard at times and requires a variety of different skills, lots of hard work and some luck. At the different life cycle stages of ClickMechanic we have required all these attributes and going forward we’re going to need more of the same.”

Jervis, Kenton and the team have put in long hours and have missed out on seeing family and friends. Jervis stressed that despite the success that ClickMechanic has enjoyed so far, building a startup is not something that happens overnight.

“Many successful companies can take years to build and when I say years it could easily be a decade,” he detailed. “So when you start, you have to have a mindset that you are doing this for the long haul.”

The plan for ClickMechanic includes refining the data. “We’re doing more work on understanding our customers to get the best possible product market fit,” he said. “However, we have some very aggressive growth targets we want to hit and to help fuel this we’ll probably take on more investment. We also cannot rule out going into other countries before the year is up.”

Certainly working with a network, in this case Entrepreneur First, has brought great benefits. “Wherever you are, you need to get involved in the local start p community and get networking,” said Jervis.

“London has a huge pool of talent, tons of great investors, a huge community of people to share best practice with, and tons of great startup events. Many have already enjoyed a lot of success. To be around and work with these types of people is only going to help encourage you to be better at what you do.”