A Seattle startup called Wrench has raised $4 million in Series A funding for an app that sends certified auto mechanics to the customer’s door. The round was led by Madrona Venture Group, according to Wrench CEO and co-founder Ed Petersen.
In general, people dread cars repairs. According to a AAA survey, 2 out of 3 people in the U.S. don’t trust auto repair shops and more than half have had negative past experiences. Two of the biggest concerns are that mechanics will recommend unnecessary services and overcharge for their work.
But repairs aren’t going away. Americans bought a record number of cars last year, 17.5 million to be precise. Petersen said, “We really want to remove the hassle of car ownership.”
Wrench gives users an option to book tuneups and a good range of repairs, a la carte. But it is also rolling out a subscription for regular upkeep. For certain jobs, like transmission work or rim repair, Wrench refers drivers to a network of partners, rather than attempt to do that heavier work “in your driveway.”
The deal marks the third automotive investment in Madrona’s portfolio. The firm has also backed Echodyne, a company making lightweight radar technology to enable self-driving vehicles, and Booster Fuels, an app that allows users to have their cars refueled in the lot while they are at work.
Madrona’s Managing Director Len Jordan said, “This is a big market that hasn’t changed much in probably 100 years. What we specifically like about Wrench is that they provide a managed service, owning the customer experience from the moment you ask to have your car repaired until you are happy with the service and pay your bill.”
Other startups have cropped up to offer auto repairs in your own driveway, including: YourMechanic and Fiix in the US. But in Petersen’s view, these are more like classic, peer-to-peer marketplaces that help qualified mechanics find flexible freelance work.
We asked Petersen if he’s worried about the fact that fewer people are getting their drivers’ licenses these days. “Somebody has to own all those ride-share and self-driving vehicles,” the CEO said. Wrench actually does a portion of its business with corporate clients. For example, it has a partnership with Lyft in Seattle, and provides inspections for new drivers before they are on-boarded in that market.
Given the new funding, Wrench will aim to further saturate the major markets where it has rolled out its service already: Seattle, San Diego, Portland and Phoenix. It also wants to expand into a few new markets in the West but isn’t making a “land grab.” Too many “on-demand” startups and marketplace have made the mistake of rapid, geographic expansion, Petersen said.