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Venture capitalists have shown a healthy appetite for the automotive assistance market — i.e., those connecting drivers with providers that can change a tire, tow a vehicle, jump-start a battery, or unlock a car door. Statista pegs the segment’s overall revenue at $481 million this year — up 26.1 percent year over year — and projects that it’ll reach $827 million by 2023.
Urgent.ly is one of the companies leading the charge. The Vienna, Virginia-based startup, which was founded by Ric Fleisher, Surendra Goel, Luke Kathol, Lokesh Kumar, Rick Robinson, and Chris Spanos in 2013, offers a digital-first roadside assistance service that’s available 24/7. Over 200,000 drivers have signed up directly, in addition to millions who’ve accessed the Urgent.ly network through integrations with mapping and connected car platforms like Volvo Roadside Plus, Roadside Assistance, Uber, and DriveMode. Building on that impressive momentum, Urgent.ly today announced that it has raised $21 million in a Series B funding round.
Three top auto brands — BMW Group through its i Ventures fund, Jaguar Land Rover through InMotion Ventures, and Porsche through Porsche Ventures — participated in the oversubscribed round, which had the support of existing investors, including American Tire Distributors, the largest tire distributor in North America. The round follows a $10 million Series B in October 2017 and a $7 million Series A in September 2015 and brings the total raised to $39.7 million.
The fresh capital will be used to fuel “world-class customer experiences,” Spanos said, and to position the roughly 120-person strong Urgent.ly for growth as it teams up with BMW Group to integrate its service with the latter’s BMW Assist offering. Urgent.ly’s been selected as the vendor partner to provide roadside assistance to owners of all four of the automaker’s brands in the U.S.: BMW, BMW Motorrad, Mini, and Rolls-Royce Motor Cars.
“We are truly gratified by the support of our investors, including some of the world’s top global automotive brands, as we work to define the future of mobility and roadside assistance experience customers demand and deserve,” said Spanos, who was previously general manager at Repair.com and now serves as Urgent.ly’s CEO. “We look forward to continuing to advance our connected services across the global automotive, insurance, and mobility markets, where we have consistently driven increases in customer satisfaction.”
Urgent.ly’s platform is divided into four core pillars: requests, dispatching, communication, and completion. Customers contact Urgent.ly call center agents digitally or via phone, and those agents optionally send a text that allows them to share their exact GPS location. Then, Urgent.ly’s cloud backend “programmatically” matches the customers with one of 55,000 available service vehicles in the U.S., Canada, and Puerto Rico. Throughout, all parties involved — customers, agents, providers, and even customers’ family members — can chat with one another with real-time tracking. And when the job’s done, dispatch provides both a job-level and aggregate summary.
The model’s a bit like Uber’s, in that roadside assistance crews can see and respond to jobs closest to them, while customers can track providers’ progress and see an estimated time to arrival. Urgent.ly claims it can reduce response time by 50 percent.
Moreover, customers pay only flat-rate pricing, in contrast to auto clubs like AAA that charge a recurring fee.
“The old model of roadside assistance must make way for a modern, more digital approach,” said Kasper Sage, partner at BMW i Ventures. “Urgent.ly will allow OEMs around the world to provide their customers the kind of real-time and connected digital experience they now expect in everything from food delivery to ride sharing. Urgent.ly enables unparalleled transparency connecting dealerships, OEMs, providers, and customers in real time, with actionable data-driven insights to optimize the experience along every step of the way.”
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