How a Bad Experience at a Car Dealership and my Love for Spotify Shaped my Entrepreneurial journey

Vikrant Pathak, CEO and Chief Data Scientist of myautoIQ

If you have an idea that you truly believe is going to be successful, you need to pursue it. Don’t doubt yourself, give it your all, and if it fails, try again. You will fail many times. Get up, learn from it, and continue the marathon. This is how success manifests itself: in a perpetual cycle of belief, perseverance, and positive thinking.

In my case, I used an unsuccessful trip to buy a new car to identify a problem within the automotive industry – and I aimed to solve that problem.

Here’s how I developed myautoIQ from a tiny idea in the back of my brain to one of the most exciting AI-driven companies in the automotive industry. 

Bringing Spotify concepts to car dealerships 

A few years back, I began an active search for a new car. In the process, I became increasingly frustrated with the automated, standard responses I would get to my leads or dealer visits. It was a very transactional, non-engaging interaction from the get-go. 

One day during this car-searching process, I went to my local dealership to get my current car serviced. When I arrived, my service advisor began the tedious process of gaining information about me and my car, but even though I had used the same dealership for years, they still didn’t know anything about my personal preferences, personality, or basic car needs.  

"Core to all of the above steps is having the right team, with each person bringing their strengths and complementing one another"

I spent two hours at the dealership that day, and not once did anyone approach me about potentially buying a new car. In fact, the only marketing offers I had received were the periodic advertisements that I received in the mail – all of them for vehicles that I was simply not interested in. They clearly didn’t have a plan other than wait for me to come to them. 

On my drive back that day, I started listening to my favorite music streaming station – Spotify’s Discover Weekly playlist – and ended up streaming it for an hour. After discovering multiple new songs that I had never heard before, I came to the realization that Spotify knows my music taste better than me or anybody I know. It continuously predicts and recommends new music that I would like, resulting in an engaged and loyal customer who ends up listening to more than 80,000 minutes per year.

As I came to this realization, I began thinking about how I could apply the Spotify model to Car Dealerships. Car dealerships don’t seem to know who is looking for a car in their neighborhood – even when potential customers are sitting right in their lobby. They don’t know customers’ needs and preferences, and when they do get leads, they don’t know how to engage with them. This is where the idea behind myautoIQ formed: By aiming to solve these fundamental automotive customer acquisition and engagement problems.

Getting through the growing pains 

Next is the fun part. Once you have an idea that clearly solves a problem, you can begin the challenging process of building and growing your new company. Startup life can be very stressful, but the best way to get over that stress is to live in the present and focus on the small steps you need to complete while keeping a view of the future. 

The first step at myautoIQ was to establish a clear vision in order to fully conceptualize our solution. Dealers have over 40,000 unique human interactions with their customers every year. Our goal was to provide predictions, recommendations, and scoring for the entire auto customer journey from acquisition to engagement to the retention and embed it in the business workflow when the interaction is happening or needed.

 Once we established this long-term goal, the next step was to see if our clients were interested in it. It’s essential that any company validates the problem with industry experts and potential customers to make sure that there is a need for it. So we tested out our concept with future clients in the automotive industry to understand product friction and business workflow challenges. 

Our next step was finding the exact product-market fit. You need to know what specific business problem you’re solving without getting too broad. To do so, we identified possible business workflow challenges, piloted with customers, and kept iterating until we found the right solution to the right problem that car dealerships were ready to pay for. Remember, you’re not selling a product or solution that you want to sell, you’re selling a product that customers want to buy. It may seem simple, but it’s an important distinction. 

Core to all of the above steps is having the right team, with each person bringing their strengths and complementing one another. I was lucky to have Rohit Sharma join as a co-founder early in the cycle and James Fleming a little further down the line when we were ready to start tuning our product-market fit. 

The three pillars of a successful business model 

At myautoIQ, our business model rests on three pillars: customer focus, customer success, and innovation.

For us, the customer always comes first, so we focus a significant amount of our time on making sure that we know the customer, how their business works, what strengths and weaknesses they may have, and how we can establish a successful relationship. 

We are also obsessed with providing our dealers with the best avenues for success and tying our success measures to theirs. When a customer is successful, we make sure to celebrate with them. When they fail, we work tirelessly to find a way to figure out why and improve. After all, a profitable customer means that we’re doing our job right. 

Lastly, we focus on consistent innovation. This is what makes the team excited to come to the office every day – knowing that they will be innovating to make our dealers successful. If you come to our office, you’ll see our walls full of post-it notes where we capture any idea that may come to mind – some of which may ultimately find their way to the product road-map. 

The startup world is very difficult, but it all starts with an idea. However, the idea itself isn’t worth a dime if you can’t execute it. As Elon Musk said, “The first step is to establish that something is possible; then probability will occur.” We continue to develop myautoIQ into a leading company in the auto space; with some hard work and belief in yourself, you too can find your own entrepreneurial success.

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