Internet of Things connected-car startup GoFar has secured $1.3 million in funding as it strives to iron out everyday annoyances for Aussie drivers.
Founded by Danny Adams and Ian Davidson in 2015, GoFar gives drivers access to holistic data on their mileage, fuel consumption and vehicle health. The idea is to empower drivers, helping them improve their driving in terms of safety, fuel efficiency and environmental impact.
In June 2015, the Sydney-based startup raised more than $200,000 in a Kickstarter campaign. Now, it has 14 staff on board, and “thousands” of customers in 53 countries, Davidson tells StartupSmart.
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This latest funding will be used for further developing the technology, with new features in the pipeline.
The startup is focusing on “what’s annoying to drivers, and how we can fix that problem”, Davidson says.
It’s working on features like speed alerts and a parking reminder widget to help drivers avoid copping fines, as well as a service integration feature, letting people know when they’re due for a service and providing quotes from five trusted, local providers.
It’s about “making the device more engaging for the driver,” Davidson says.
While there is an environmental element to GoFar, in terms of improving driver habits in order to reduce emissions, it’s removing irritations and economic payoff that will appeal to most people, he adds.
“Only so many people will do it altruistically. It doesn’t hurt to provide an economic incentive,” he says.
“Motoring costs going down appeals to everybody.”
The funding will also be used to grow GoFar’s data science team, and to extend its operations overseas — particularly in the US.
While the startup already has users Stateside, it is rolling out in a more proactive way and forming more partnerships on the ground, Davidson says.
Avoid the “ugly baby”
Davidson’s biggest piece of advice for other founders is to always listen to your customers — something he says the GoFar team have been getting better at.
“When you start off, your startup is your baby, and you don’t want anyone telling you that you have an ugly baby,” he says.
The temptation is to work on it in private and “hiding it until you’re happy”.
However, if you share it, talk to your customers and really listen to their feedback, “you get better faster”, he says.
You have to be solving a problem your customers care about, he adds, and be willing to react to their needs.
For example, the GoFar team realised customers were using the device to log their driving expenses, but it was a difficult process. The startup then brought that functionality to the surface, Davidson says, “so it became really easy”.
Equally, and especially when looking for funding, founders must be able to tell a story and connect with potential backers.
It can help if you know you’re solving “bigger problems, and important problems that humanity needs to solve”, he says.
If a founder can talk passionately about the non-financial reasons their business is important, they may be more likely to get an investor on-side.
While Davidson is currently happy with GoFar’s alignment in terms of profit and social and environmental impact, he acknowledges that things may not always be rosy.
Things will be easier is backers are on board with the broader vision too.
“They’re like us. People do want to make the world a better place,” he says.
After all, “there are easier ways to make money than starting a startup,” he adds.