Art Agrawal: CEO & Founder of YourMechanic

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Bio: Art is the founder and CEO of YourMechanic, a startup that connects car owners with top-rated mobile mechanics who make house calls for 20-30% less than going to a dealer. YourMechanic, Art’s second startup, won TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2012. Art has raised over $30 million from some of the leading investors in Silicon Valley, including Y Combinator, SoftBank, Greylock, DFJ, Andreessen Horowitz, Jeff Clavier, Yuri Milner, SV Angel, and Ashton Kutcher. Prior to starting YourMechanic, Art founded Care Workforce, an online marketplace to help hospitals hire temporary nurses on demand and lower costs by 10-30%. He studied Liberal Arts at Drexel University in Pennsylvania.

How did you get into the industry?

As an owner of a used car that frequently broke down, I was fed up with the runaround at the repair shops. It was always a hassle and I often felt like I was being taken for a ride because I didn’t really understand how cars worked. After wasting a lot of time and energy - not to mention money - I thought to myself that this is an industry that needs to be turned upside down.

The initial model for the business wasn’t mobile but was based on trust and upfront pricing. Then I met several mechanics who did repair for UPS and was blown away. I’d always assumed that mechanics could only work out of shops because they needed heavy-duty equipment but when I realized this wasn’t the case I quickly switched the model to mobile.

We then developed a business model that focuses on matching mechanics to the right job, amazing customer service, convenience, and lower prices due to low overhead. Most of all, though, we pride ourselves on being transparent every step of the way.

Any emerging industry trends?

I’ve witnessed a shift from brick-and-mortar repair shops to more mobile-based businesses, but this is a slow and gradual shift. Our main competition is still repair shops (not the franchise chains or dealerships) - at the end of the day we’re up against the traditional status quo. People are used to taking their cars to garages and are inherently distrustful of the industry so we have our work cut out for us in that regard.

People, especially in the 20 to 40 age group, are using mobile increasingly more and we’re focused on making our app clear and simple to use. Making our business easy and straightforward to use sounds obvious but it takes a lot of effort to have all the moving parts of the back end and the front end work together in a seamless way.

Any industry opportunities or challenges?

We’re always engaging in conversations with potential partners and considering new technologies to help us advance in different directions. The market is big enough and flexible enough to go in a few different directions and we’re still keeping an open mind. Right now our main challenge is really more of an opportunity: we’re growing really quickly and we have to make sure that the infrastructure remains rigorous across all facets of the business. 

Inspiration for YourMechanic, and your vision for it?

The car repair industry, as it has stood for over a hundred years, is often met with skepticism. As anyone with a car quickly finds out, this wariness is often justified. I complained about how things were done until I decided to do something about it. In a culture that caters increasingly more towards making things better for the user, the car repair industry remained almost anti-customer - it was such an obvious shift I couldn’t believe more people weren’t doing it.

I talked with a lot of mechanics to really understand how the existing business worked and to find out the major pain points. It was eye-opening to find out how these guys perceived the industry and what they wanted to see changed proved to be more than enlightening; it added another, essential layer to the YourMechanic mission.

Empowering mechanics to take charge of their own work, connecting directly with car owners, and giving them full autonomy of their schedules and the type of work they want to do solves the last piece of the puzzle. When mechanics have control over their work and are recognized and appreciated, they’re happier and work harder to deliver a better experience. Customers can see this and respond in kind - and mechanics are seen in a whole new light.

The YourMechanic mission to build the most convenient and trustworthy car repair service is also built around saving customers money. Without the overhead of physical shops the cost of almost every service and repair is substantially less than what’s charged by a brick and mortar shop.

What's next for YourMechanic in the near future?

We’re growing fast and plan to launch in a lot more cities in the next couple of years. We’re going to get major markets covered in the U.S. and then launch in Canada later this year or early next year. We also plan to scale existing cities.

Currently, we’re opening in about 2 new areas every month and are in about 700 existing markets. We’re halfway to our goal of 1,500 U.S. cities.

Further down the road, we’ll look at international opportunities for growth, including Australia, the UK, and Scandinavia.

Your key initiatives for the success of YourMechanic?

Giving the control back to the mechanics was instrumental in reshaping the industry. Giving mechanics a high percentage of the hourly rate only made sense. Customer satisfaction depends on a few things: timeliness, presentation, cleanliness, accuracy of work, and clear communication. Incentivizing the mechanics to do a good job adds up to a great customer experience.

We ask all our customers to review and rate each mechanic after every appointment on a number of metrics. Our mechanics work hard to earn high reviews because they know they get higher pay based on good performance.

Reviews have been overwhelmingly positive and customers and team members are happy. Appreciating and rewarding the team is paying off.

Your most difficult moment at YourMechanic (and what did you learn?)

We haven’t experienced one specific moment that was difficult. Our main challenge is really just figuring out how to scale quickly while retaining a solid infrastructure.

Ideal experience for a customer/client?

The best possible scenario for the customer is having an instant quote right after booking a service, having an appointment soon after booking, and having a friendly, knowledgeable mechanic who efficiently solves whatever issue the car is experiencing. Happily, I can say that this experience is the most frequent one.

How do you motivate others?

As a company, we recognized early on that our mechanics need to be valued as the experts they are. Appreciating them and supporting them as best we can has proven to be our best move. We motivate them not just by incentivizing them to perform well but also by rewarding them in non-financial ways. I’ve found that if people are respected and thanked for a good job done, they’ll work hard.

Career advice to those in your industry?

I’ve learned a lot in the last few years, not least of which is to do your research before launching a new company. Talking to mechanics while I was still in the development stage completely shifted the focus of the business to mobile and I’ve never looked back. If I hadn’t spent that time finding out the pain points of the industry, YourMechanic would look very different today.