EDEN SHIRLEY: READY TO TACKLE ‘GENUINE IS BEST’
Eden Shirley has built AutoGuru from the ground up into a business which has made it to the Winners Circle in the Deloitte Fast 50 Rising Stars Awards and seen him announced as a Startup Founder of the Year finalist in the StartCon Awards. Now, he is preparing to launch an offensive on behalf of his workshop customers against the ‘Genuine is Best’ campaign
A passionate and energetic leader with a single-minded vision and a relentless and unwavering drive to succeed, Eden Shirley is the kind of leader who commits fully and encourages all around him to dream big.
With a head for problem solving and a dedication to see things from the customer’s viewpoint, Eden has been driving forward AutoGuru (formerly Fixed Price Car Service) since he established it in 2009 and the recognition is starting to roll in.
“I was surprised to recently find out that my team, whom I have the highest respect for, took the initiative to enter AutoGuru into the Deliotte Fast 50 Awards, and also nominated me for Startup Founder of the Year in the StartCon awards,” Eden said.
“I don’t typically chase awards, but I couldn’t be happier that AutoGuru has made it into the Rising Stars winners circle in the 2017 Deloitte Technology Fast 50 Awards. And I’m really chuffed to be one of five finalists selected for Startup Founder of the Year.”
The AutoGuru story started when Eden moved to the Gold Coast from Melbourne. He needed a car service, rang a few mechanics, and soon felt like every workshop had a different opinion on what was included.
“I started asking my friends what they thought and quickly realised that no one really knew what they were paying for at the workshop. Not one of my mates had a clue about what was included in a service, or how much it should cost,” he said.
“That was the moment I found my problem of scale. I was determined to take the guess work out of booking mechanics, and help millions of mechanically illiterate people, like myself, better care for their cars.”
“The online shopping trend is only growing stronger, and these days it’s simply a numbers game; the more consumers you’re in front of, the better your chance of getting jobs. Understandably, most mechanics are great with cars, but not so good with digital marketing!
“I quit my job as creative director by mid-2014 to work full-time on the business – then known as Fixed Price Car Service. The start-up raised $1.5 million in funding from Super Retail Group later that year to properly kick-start its growth.
“Over the years, we have diligently worked at increasing the amount of consumers viewing our network of trusted workshops and exposing workshops to new markets. We now rank first or second place for tens of thousands of google searches; no small feat in the tech world.
“In 2016, based on customer demand, we diversified substantially to include hundreds of mechanical repairs such as timing belts, brakes, engine faults and a comprehensive range of vehicle inspections. We developed a hybrid e-commerce/ tendering model using real-time quoting when data is available, and a job bidding model (similar to Hipages), when there’s a need to tender out the request.
“Then, in February of 2017, we changed our name to AutoGuru, a name which instils a sense of knowledge and trust for the consumer and has elevated the perception of our network. Our new name also allows us to open up to a more diverse range of automotive services in the future, such as tyres, batteries, windscreens and more.
2018 will be our biggest year yet as we’re looking to trial mainstream media with gusto.
“If you’re looking for a job, you go to Seek.com.au. If you want to buy a car, you go to carsales.com.au. We want AutoGuru to be the first-place online consumers go to book qualified professionals to service, repair or fit anything and everything to their cars. And the wonderful thing is Aussies are creatures of habit and loyal to websites that solve simple problems well and with ease.”
While confessing to no longer having time for hobbies due to the demands of a start-up business, Eden says he is very lucky when it comes to his family.
“I have a beautiful family, with an incredibly supportive wife and kids. I have an 11-year-old daughter, and a four-year-old son – both red heads and full of spark! We live in Burleigh on the Gold Coast and we keep things simple, but have loads of fun,” he said.
Today, scheduled logbook servicing accounts for 77 percent of quotes requested on the site, and 79 percent are for vehicles less than 10 years old. Toyota, Holden, Ford, Mitsubishi, Mazda, Hyundai, Nissan and Honda make up 72 percent of bookings. AutoGuru also books a lot of Brakes, Timing Belts and Clutch repairs. For more complex mechanical tasks AutoGuru invites mechanics to quote jobs manually at their discretion.
The AutoGuru.com.au website attracts around 160,000 Australian visitors per month and generates over 40,000 quotes per month. The bulk of its users are 25 to 55 years old, with one or more vehicles. Eighty-five percent live in major cities and do not know how to service their own cars. Interestingly only 32 percent of users are female, but they represent over 50 percent of the bookings captured online.
“That’s says something about the transparency of the service we provide,” Eden said.
“I made the decision to focus on the consumer from the get go, which I see as one of the things we have really gotten right in this venture,” Eden explained.
“There seems to be plenty of companies developing innovative solutions to improve operational efficiency or streamline business costs for workshops.
“Workshops are still our real customer, but when you ask them what they need most, the majority will say more cars to service. We figured the best way we could service workshops was to find more customers for them.”
All businesses need to keep an eye out on the road ahead, ensure they maintain their competitive advantage, and be ready for threats. One threat in particular Eden sees, and is preparing to tackle, is the efforts by dealers and manufacturers to push the ‘genuine is best’ message.
“AutoGuru is Australia’s number one and only automotive service marketplace with significant traction and adoption, and while we do not have any direct competitors, the market is fragmented and consumers are influenced by many factors when choosing a service centre,” Eden explained.
“We see our greatest threat coming from the dealers themselves. They are well funded, organised, and use deceptive market practises to cause consumers to fear using aftermarket repairers. Just look at the Nissan Beware of Strangers campaign – seriously what a joke!
“I created AutoGuru to help aftermarket repairers thrive in the digital age, and we intend to fight back in 2018.
“It’s been a long journey to get this far, but we are just about to finalise a major capital raise which will give us the funding required to launch mass media TV, Radio and Digital marketing campaigns on behalf of our quality network of repairers.
“Starting in South East Queensland, then heading down the East then West Coast, we plan to invest millions in educating consumers that they can book highly trusted, quality aftermarket service centres with confidence through AutoGuru, and on their mobile phones.
“My vision is to use our advanced consumer technology to unite the aftermarket and take the ‘Genuine is better’ campaign head on, and I am confident that if the industry rallies behind us, we will have the strength in numbers to defend our reputation.”
If anyone is hoping Eden will give-up on his pursuit of this campaign, they may be waiting a while – indeed, not giving up has been a key driver of his success so far.
“I never gave up when I was repeatedly told no. The automotive industry has been slow to move towards the digital trend, but AutoGuru is giving many local workshops a viable platform to trade online. Our technology enables franchise and independent workshops to come together and use their strength in numbers to unlock innovative commercial opportunities like the Uber Car Service Booking Portal,” he said.
“It has taken nine years to gain traction, but things are really starting to accelerate now. We have experienced significant growth, have lots of exciting new partnerships to announce and have been approached by several key aftermarket manufacturers asking about sponsorship opportunities.”
When it comes to his desire to contribute to the future viability of the aftermarket industry, Eden points towards AutoGuru’s membership of the AAAA as an important cog in the wheel.
“My desire has always been to build a great company with passion and purpose. To create something truly unique, by equipping the best workshops with booking technology to trade online 24/7,” Eden said.
“I’m so proud to represent such a quality network of automotive professionals and I think the work that the AAAA is doing is critical to preserving the viability of the aftermarket. I personally believe the AAAA is the peak industry association taking action to represent the interests of aftermarket repairers and manufacturers.
“We all benefit from this, and I think it is in all of our interests to support the work Stuart (Charity – AAAA Executive Director) and the team are doing to protect and preserve the industry for years to come.
“From a personal perspective, I’ll be happy when I am invited to sit on the AAAA council and recognised as a key contributor and advocate of the aftermarket. I believe the aftermarket will grow and adapt to the changing and increasingly competitive automotive world, and I’m determined to enable the best industry service providers with the technology necessary to compete with the OEs looking to squeeze the independents out.”
For more on AutoGuru, visit www.autoguru.com.au