The first in a series Entrepreneur Q&As. We’re sitting down with RIoT Accelerator Program (RAP) participants to learn their stories, find what inspires them and share with the community.
ShyftAuto was founded in 2018 as the team of 3 pictured here (Marcus Aman , Peter Seymour, Matthew Blackmon). They have since grown and today are a team of six. I (virtually) sat down with co-founder, Marcus Aman. Aside from growing a business, Marcus is kind, determined, a husband, father, avid sports fan and skateboarding daredevil. In his own words, Marcus unfortunately learned last year that going over 25 mph on a skateboard is “not safe.”
Q: What does ShyftAuto do in a nutshell?
A: ShyftAuto makes service centers smarter, providing tools that help them interact with consumers better. We provide a pickup and return application that consumers can use to arrange services. This helps service facilities increase revenue and helps with customer retention by saving them time. Having a car appointment is like having a tooth pulled. It isn’t a pleasant experience. If service centers can provide their customers with a better experience, they keep coming back. It just so happens that when COVID hit, we realized there was also a safety element offering to consider.
Q: Tell me more about ShyftAuto adjusting to the COVID crisis.
A: Once the crisis hit, we were on the same roller coaster as everyone else. We thought, “Oh crap! What’s this going to do for us as we’re trying to raise capital?” But we soon realized that we could help service centers offer valuable safety measures that their customers value. Their customers don’t want to come to service centers and with ShyftAuto, they don’t need to. Despite the current situations, we’ve signed on 14 new customers during the month of March.
Q: What inspired you to start this company?
A: Growing up, my dad owned a business and my mom also had entrepreneurial skills. I worked in the automotive industry for 12 years and saw all these problems while managing the service department. Interaction with consumers wasn’t the best. Dealers were losing customers because of this and because of the perception that they charge more. I knew there was a better way of doing things.
Eventually I plateaued in the position I was in and wanted to pursue entrepreneurship. Being able to control my own destiny and build my own legacy is really important to me. I knew there was more meant for me. I wanted the challenge. I wanted it to be tough. I want to come out better.
Q: What companies or mentors have been especially helpful to you during your time in the RAP program?
Definitely Adam Covati (Bandwidth) and Lori Wachter (Advance Auto Parts). They provided a ton of value for us. We’ve met with both once a week, sometimes more. With their experience, they helped guide us in the right way.
Lori has provided us with industry knowledge and connections and helped us see ways we needed to use and provide data. We are already gathering data like traffic patterns, average mileage for customers to receive certain services, etc. She helped us explore how we can share that data with our customers to help them make more intelligent decisions.
Adam has provided a tremendous amount of value from analyzing our business, coaching us on what to expect from partnerships and how to raise capital.
Q: Do you have any other role models or companies that have inspired you, either prior to or during your time in RAP?
A: Definitely the Airbnb founders because they have a two-sided marketplace similar to what we have, catering to both the user and customer/business. We looked at how Airbnb shaped their business and it inspired us to do it for car service.
Q: Any advice for entrepreneurs?
A: Right now in the startup community, there’s a lot of uncertainty about what’s going to happen. Just stay positive. It’s going to turn around. There’s a light at the end of every tunnel. Just keep your mind right. Stay healthy and work out. I run 2-3 miles every day to help manage my stress. It keeps me going in the right direction.