Dash Labs, an automotive data platform, is currently raising £600,000 to invest in people, the product and the pipeline. We spoke to co-founder and CEO Jamyn Edis about why the company has turned to the crowd.
Can you tell us a bit about Dash Labs?
We first got the idea for Dash after getting a massive repair bill on a recently purchased used car. It’s a situation many of you have probably faced in some incarnation. As we started digging into the technology beneath the hood, we realized there was a treasure trove of data locked into the ‘black box’ of the car – data that, if we unlocked it, could help improve maintenance, reduce repair bills and make driving safer.
In order to earn this telematics data, we built a hardware / software product using an on-board diagnostics device (OBD) and our Android and iPhone apps, which act like a smart driving assistant. We make driving smarter, safer, greener and more affordable. It’s like a Nest for Driving. Since we launched in 2014, we have acquired nearly 500,000 new drivers in more than 100 countries. The UK is our second largest market, after the USA.
At its core, our technology talks to your car in ways that hadn’t been possible prior to the smartphone era. The app functionality is rich, providing maintenance alerts, Check Engine light diagnostics, repair estimates, trip tracking, behavioural feedback, crash alerts, roadside assistance and more. And it’s all for free, after you’ve bought the OBD device, which starts as low as $10.
But now that we’ve been studying the data, we can see that we have just scratched the surface of what’s possible. Our current focus is “predictive analytics,” where we monitor streams of data from your vehicle and, using algorithms we develop, Dash will be able to forecast when your car needs servicing. We’ve already developed a new algorithm for the battery’s state of health (co-developed with market leader, Johnson Controls), and now we’re developing models for others, such as filter changes (partnering with Mann+Hummel, a leader in their space).
You have won plenty of awards for your tech, can you tell us more about these?
Our recent award from Fast Company was being recognized on their ‘Most Innovative Companies of 2018’ list for our work in data science – this was great because it highlights the work we’re doing on predictive analytics. That award was certainly a good way to show that we’re on the cutting edge technically, where any forwarding-thinking tech company wants to be; it’s also great because that award was for enterprise-focused work, which is something we’ve been developing since 2016.
We have also been recognized with awards from the White House and Department of Energy, as well as companies like Ford and Edmunds.
We definitely value the idea of innovation; one of the big ideas around Dash is being ready for the future. If the world is really going to move toward autonomous vehicles and ride-sharing – and we believe it will – then existing vehicles on the road are going to have to get smarter. Our infrastructure is going to be there to answer that kind of need, whether it’s providing training data for autonomous vehicles or as a retrofit for vehicle-to-vehicle communication.
Another of my favourite awards was the Editor’s Choice from Better Homes And Gardens in 2015. I think that particular award was important because it shows that our app isn’t just for the “early adopter” types. The Dash app is a tool for anyone who wants to watch their automotive expenses, and it’s great for everyday drivers: people who aren’t petrol-heads, but just want to learn a little more about their cars.
You have some great VC backing (Slow Ventures, CyberAgent etc.), can you tell us how you acquired this investment, and how being backed by these names has helped you to grow the business?
We’ve been very lucky to have had access to folks like Dennis Crowley, Dave Morin, and Bre Pettis; the Techstars program really opened doors for us, especially to VC in the New York area. And having investors of that pedigree – who have gone through very successful exits themselves – is also very helpful. They have certainly helped us shape our approach to media and promotion. Since the start, we’ve focused more on “earned” media vs. paid advertising – we’ve been covered by hundreds of outlets including Wired magazine, Popular Science, Fortune, TechCrunch and the Verge. We’ve been on the BBC as well, which was a thrill for me, as a Brit by birth.
Following on from that, can you tell us why you have now turned to the crowd for investment?
Great question. Equity crowdfunding is an exciting phenomenon, and on one level we just wanted to take part in it – it’s great that there’s an egalitarian alternative to the usual world of VC and finance. In fact, after the JOBS Act change in the USA in 2012, we were one of the first companies to take advantage of it, via AngelList’s crowdfunding platform. So, when we went back out to fundraise for our new growth strategy, we knew we wanted it as one component of our raise, alongside targeting traditional institutional investors.
What will the funds raised on Crowdcube be used for?
We are investing in People, Product and Pipeline - in that order. We are enhancing our engineering and data science team, as well as adding sales and business development resourcing. Our product roadmap is focused on our new enterprise mobility products, around licensing fleet products and predictive maintenance algorithms, as well as a self-serve data dashboard for enterprise partners to access aggregated, anonymised driving data for intelligence insights. Finally, we will allocate capital to B2B marketing, which we have not traditionally done before, to help drive the enterprise sales pipeline. We anticipate being able to scale revenues much more quickly with the capital from this raise.
You can find out more about Dash Labs by visiting the pitch page today.
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