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Cars are great for trips to the grocery store or getting out of town on a weekend getaway, but they can also be complicated, mysterious, frustrating, time-consuming, and expensive.
Openbay’s goal is to improve the process of getting your car repaired and maintained.
The Cambridge-startup launched its service today and revealed seed funding from Google Ventures, Andreessen Horowitz’s a16z seed fund, Boston Seed Capital, and Stage 1 Ventures.
When you require vehicular service, you enter your need or problem into Openbay’s search and the site will ask you some questions about what you are looking for and your car. Openbay also has an iOS app.
The request gets submitted to the system and Openbay finds a match from its network of local automotive professionals and requesst service on your behalf. As offers come in, you get notified and can compare price, locations, customer ratings, and reviews.
You then choose a provider, book an appointment, get your vehicle serviced, and pay through Openbay.
CEO and cofounder Rob Infantino said this approach reduces costs and makes finding skilled and trustworthy professionals easier.
To me, this process seems a lot more involved than cruising down the street to the auto shop a block away from my house. However I don’t own a car, and acknowledge that others may be more particular when it comes to their beloved wheels.
My mother, for example, drives to a mechanic an hour away from her house because she trusts him and his prices are good. Car repairs are ridden with concerns about getting swindled (with price and quality of service), and people with nice cars may not want to visit any old auto shop.
Furthermore it is a highly fragmented market, which makes searching for providers an arduous process.
Openbay vets and indexes the professionals it works with, and uses competition to get customers a lower price. It also adds the pleasant patina of clean design and an easily navigable interface.
The challenge is building up a marketplace that is strong on both sides Considering the sheer number of auto repair shops around the country, this is time and labor intensive.
Openbay currently has 400 auto service professionals in its database in the Boston metropolitan area, but will have to grow fast before competitors gain a foothold in other markets, and to please investors with its ability to scale.
Openbay also needs to offer a substantially better experience for consumers, if it hopes to lure them away from their current mechanic.
Startups are abounding that take fragmented, offline markets — such as auto repairs — and bundle them nicely together online. This is particularly clear with home services, where you’ve got Handybook, ClubLocal, Homejoy, Exec, Buildzoom, Thumbtack, Porch, Angie’s List and others angling to become the go-to place to find and book cleaning, renovations, etc.
Investors seem to love these types of companies as well and put millions of dollars into them.
Openbay competitor YourMechanic lets users call mechanics to their location, on-demand. This startup participated in Y Combinator, won TechCrunch Disrupt in 2012, and raised $1.8 million from SV Angel, Yuri Milner, Andreessen Horowitz, Crunchfund, and others.
There is nothing too innovative or mind-blowing about Openbay, but a simple case of startup using technology to improve a process that’s been a pain for over 100 years.