Caura, a new U.K. startup that aims to take the hassle out of car ownership, is breaking cover today. Founded by Sai Lakshmi, who previously co-founded Echo, the medication management service acquired by LloydsPharmacy owner McKesson, Caura is an iOS app designed to manage all of the vehicle-related admin that car owners endure.
Drivers are on-boarded to Caura by entering their vehicle registration number. They’ll then be able to manage parking, tolls, MOT, road tax, car insurance and congestion charges — a “one-stop shop” app in a similar vain to Echo, perhaps. The idea is that Caura minimises car ownership admin and helps to mitigate associated penalty fines.
“After my girlfriend racked up hundreds of pounds of parking fines, I started doing market research,” explains Lakshmi. “It was clear there was an opportunity to build something in the space that made life easier for drivers — after all, I’d just spent the past seven years thinking about how to make the NHS run smoothly — this should be easy in comparison! I toyed with several different models, including hardware, and after a few pretty direct conversations with some Apple engineering folks, decided to focus on the software platform: it would be more accessible to more people and easier to integrate with private and public services we’d need to interface with if we wanted to be a one-stop shop for your car.”
Lakshmi says that after purchasing his first car that shipped with Apple CarPlay, he was “blown away” by how slick the interface is for entertainment, communication and maps, but also became convinced there was more to be done in this space. “I then thought it would be brilliant to have one single app to add all your vehicle-related payments to streamline the experience, improve vehicle compliance and make paying for parking and the ever-changing digital road landscape simple,” he says.
Once you’ve downloaded the app and entered your vehicle registration number, you can view the status of your car’s tax, MOT and insurance renewal dates. From the home screen, you can also pay for selected parking, toll roads and congestion charges.
The FCA-approved app integrates with Apple Pay or will safely store payment details, which can be used to pay car charges “in just two clicks.” In-app notifications also remind you when it’s time to pay, with Caura promising to reduce the millions of automated fines or penalty charge notices that are issued to Brits each year.
“There are dozens of platforms that drivers need to manage just one car,” notes Lakshmi. “On a more regular basis, you need a dozen parking apps and other websites to manage your drive. These all have their own log-ins, forms and payment details and the whole experience is a dog’s dinner. There are apps that insist on CVC codes being entered every time you use them and others that insist on SMS messages for reminders, which is so 2000, not 2020. Also, if you get any of this wrong, you get lumped with automated fines.”
Caura can be used for a single vehicle, but can also support multiple registered vehicles, meaning it can potentially scale for fleet managers. An Android version is also promised by the end of the year.
Lakshmi says he and his co-founders — Shaun Foce (director of engineering) and Bhavin Kotecha (chief of staff and finance director) — have already raised £1.4 million for Caura. Backing comes from various unnamed angels, although he says 50% of Caura’s investors have connections to his previous company.
Asked how the startup generates revenue, “Right now, we don’t,” replies the Caura founder. “We’re just passing through these payments to the final provider like congestion charge and parking. Given the seismic shift in investor mindset from crazy growth to building profitable businesses, our long-term business model is most certainly something with sustainable unit economics. It’s currently in the oven and we’re really excited to share more in Q4 2020 later this year.”