Tell us a little bit about the company?
We are the number one market place for car repairs and servicing in the UK, and by market place I mean, drivers can come on our site, post their requests for free, be it a clutch replacement, an annual servicing or an mot. We then send that out to local rated garage who come back and provide a quote. It gives the driver the opportunity to compare local rated garages and not only on price, but location, customer service and their rating from other drivers.
How did it come about?
Myself and my business partner Alastair worked in finance in London, and after Lehman Brothers went into bankruptcy in 2008 I decided I wanted to get out of the industry, and do something very different. Our first idea was a used car classified website, similar to autotrader. We built a website, but had no experience in automotive and no experience online, we realised how difficult it was going to be to compete with similar concepts with multi-million pound marketing budgets. We thought wouldn’t it be nice to know how much your servicing and repairs would be before you took your car to the garage, I know this sector sometimes has a bad reputation, and I know its unjust, but there are guys out there who give the sector a bad name. So we pivoted the used car classified side and turned it to servicing and repairs. And we’ve never looked back from that point.
How can you assure trust-worthy garages?
The industry is still unregulated, theres no register or vetting, these guys aren’t approved by a governmental body. So we have a regulatory process, once the garage has signed up to our website, we require three forms, public liability, motor trader insurance and a parts invoice, so we know their buying from a big parts distributor, and utility bills so we know they’re based where they tell us. We check in-house too, simple google searches and once they pass that process we add them to our site and they can start quoting. As they start to win work through the platform, and we encourage drivers who use them to leave a review, its that kind of review system that keeps the vetting current.
We’ve always had our headquarters in Newcastle, it started with a two man office on Collingwood Street. We moved from office to office as we grew, we ended up in the biggest office in our building, it was only a 15 person office, but we had closer to 25 people working there. It was time to move on to our own space, now we have our own fully branded meeting room, board room, its an inspirational place that makes people want to come to work, and also increases productivity, and also a place where we can attract new talent. We have all of our operational functions, finance, website development and customer service teams.
Any exciting plans for the future?
We did a big funding round last year and brought some interesting investors to the region, one of those being Shell Ventures, associated with the Shell oil company. We’re also really excited to announce our new chairman of the board, Andrew Harrison, former chief executive and chairman of Carphone Warehouse.
What’s your favourite thing to do in the North East?
Im originally from Northumberland, I always like to get home, up to the beaches by Druridge Bay and Amble.