Retail

Uber of X: Spiffy is The Uber of Car Washing

Taking the time out of a busy schedule to go get a car wash is usually a low item on people’s priority list.

With so many activities on a daily basis, making sure vehicles are clean can seem like a hassle. From working a full eight-hour workday to going to the gym and cleaning where you live, there’s not much time for extra things like making a trip out to the car wash. As a result, many people’s cars can sit for months and months at a time without a wash or vacuum, which can end up in a less than lovely smelling situation.

One company that’s looking to help move the ball for people in terms of getting vehicles clean is Spiffy. The startup company is looking to revolutionize the car washing industry with its on-demand service. Through the use of the company’s app, its technicians are sent out to wherever the user is to wash the car. We sat down with Spiffy’s CEO Scot Wingo to learn more about how the business was founded and where it plans to go within the next few years.

PYMNTS: What’s the story behind how Spiffy started?

SW: We have had two physical ‘old school’ car washes since 2003. I have an eCommerce background and had my first Uber experience in 2011. That was a big ‘aha’ moment for me because in eCommerce we saw ‘goods’ go digital — and to me, Uber was a watershed moment that all ‘services’ could go digital. So in 2014, we did a test by putting out a MVP (minimum viable product) and it really exceeded our expectations. From there, we have taken what we discovered and continued to learn and tweak and iterate to where we are today. We are 100 percent focused on taking all friction out of the car wash experience for our customers, and while we’ve come a long way, we still have a long way to go.

PYMNTS: How does the pricing model work, and how does Spiffy get paid?

SW: This is not a marketplace model where we take a percentage and share a percentage with the technicians. We are what is called a ‘full stack’ solution, meaning we own and operate the vehicles and equipment and we employee the technicians.

We offer our customers a range of five services from $19 to $249. $19 is a hand wash equivalent to a tunnel-wash (but by hand instead of machine), and the highest service is a full ‘make my care new again’ detail.

Our technicians are paid a mix of a living wage and earn bonuses for hitting revenue/service/quality goals, and our customers give our technicians pretty generous tips, which we pass straight to them.

PYMNTS: Who does Spiffy see as its competition and why?

SW: We tend to have two classes of competitors:

  1. Traditional mobile detailers — These folks are very good at delivering washes, but have no technology front end and tend to range from 1-5 vans, so they are very small scale.
  2. 1099 wash apps — These are typically technologists that have no car wash experience that want to quickly put an app out and build a marketplace of traditional mobile detailers. Where this falls apart is on the supply side and the quality of the experience. The first company in the space was called Cherry. They went out of business because of these issues, as did others like Squeegy.

We believe the marriage of these two — great technology AND great full-stack operations — is what it takes to delight customers.

PYMNTS: Since its inception, how much has Spiffy grown year over year? Does it have any future projections for where it hopes to grow within the next few years?

SW: We have been managing our growth and watching our customer ratings closely to make sure we are not getting ahead of our ski-tips. In other words, we don’t want to grow if it means we are sacrificing the customers’ experience and not exceeding their expectations. So far, that has meant 150 percent year over year growth for the last two years, and that is our plan this year (2016 to 2017). About half of our growth comes from existing cities (we are in four today) and the other half comes from opening new cities.

PYMNTS: How many rounds of funding has Spiffy received?

SW: We had some angel funding and just closed on our first institutional round of $5M in mid February.

PYMNTS: What does the term “Uber of X” mean to you, and how does Spiffy fit that mold?

SW: This is an interesting one. What I have found is consumers ‘get’ what we do when we say ‘Uber of car washing’ — to them, it means, “okay, I have an app, I pay the app, you notify me on status through the app,” etc. So it works there.

My personal preference is to use the broader term on-demand economy, because to me it speaks to the larger opportunity here that is so essential to being the sibling to eCommerce. In eCommerce, you don’t say ‘Amazon of shoes,’ because, well, Amazon is the eCommerce of shoes. Omnichannel is a good example — when you have Walmart.com, what do you call that? I think this will happen in services — you’ll still have traditional service companies with digital solutions, and they won’t call it the Uber of plumbing, they will call it their on-demand service or e-services or something like that.

All that being said, we have thick skins, so call us Uber for car washing. We’re fine with it, but we don’t waste a lot of time arguing about the purity of that with folks in the community — we’d rather focus on making customers happy.

PYMNTS: As most startups have their fair share of hiccups, can you share a few lessons-learned anecdotes?

SW: This is my fourth startup, and what I love about starting a new company is a.) how fast and much you learn and b.) how often the learnings surprise you. The first big one that we learned within three weeks of launching the MVP is that people love to have their car washed while they are at work. In the tunnel car wash industry, it’s busy on evenings and weekends. At Spiffy, most of our services are during the week while folks are at work, and Thursday is our surge day.

Another big lesson learned is that you would assume that since we are looking for folks to favor convenience over savings that our customers would be at the top of the income ranks. We definitely have those customers, but our biggest two groups of customers are millennial women and men. We rarely see those demographics at our physical car washes, so it feels like we have tapped into a group of people that are just not doing traditional washes because of its inconvenience.

PYMNTS: What are Spiffy’s 20127 goals?

SW: We want to achieve very high customer satisfaction levels as we get to profitability in our current four cities and open one to two more and prove out some things we need to go to the next step of being in 20+ cities.

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