Venture Capital

Automatic Labs: Connecting Your Car to Your Digital World

Comcast Ventures along with USAA and CDK Global recently joined in Automatic Labs’ $24M Series B round of funding. With Automatic, drivers can diagnose engine trouble, detect accidents and send emergency responses through a simple smartphone app.

With nearly 250M passenger vehicles in the US alone and an average American family spending $3,500 on fuel, maintenance, insurance and annual repairs, the $800B US car industry ranks as one of the largest consumer markets.

The power to turn almost many cars on the road into a connected car lies within Automatic. With the help of the app, drives can diagnose engine trouble, detect accidents and send emergency responses through a simple smartphone app that Automatic Labs pairs with an in-car device. Through the Automatic car adapter and free mobile app, customers can drive safe and smart while saving money.

Comcast Ventures sat down with Automatic’s co-founder and CEO, Thejo Kote to find out how Automatic brings the power of connectivity and apps to nearly every car on the road.

1. What's the problem you were trying to solve for with founding Automatic?

I was inspired to create Automatic in 2011 while researching consumer transportation choices with my co-founder Jerry as part of our graduate studies at UC Berkeley. It was during this research I realized that while the rest of the world was already online, cars were still somehow not connected to the internet. This intrigued me because cars happen to be the most expensive computers we own, and software and design could make the experience of owning them a lot better.

I wanted to create a new way for people to experience driving, to transform the relationship people have with their cars. The true potential in connected car capabilities lies in providing a platform that enables connected car software to transcend the few token "connected car" features we have today, such as streaming radio and GPS.

2. What's a real-world example of how Automatic works?

With new apps being continually added to the Automatic App Gallery, there are so many to choose from. I think one of the best examples of how Automatic can transform the driving experience is the frictionless mileage expensing app from Concur. The way it works is simple: Automatic tracks your mileage for you so submitting for reimbursement is a breeze. Each expense includes important data like your mileage, route map, start/end address, and even a visual receipt, so your expenses are accurate and defendable. You can access your full history and add the details of a trip to expense reports right from your phone, anywhere in the world. Best of all, with the Automatic Apple Watch app, you don’t even need to use your phone - it’s just a tap of your watch.

3. What’s item one on your agenda right now?

My main focus at the moment is continuing to foster rapid growth for the Automatic App Gallery and Developer Platform to ensure a rich ecosystem of apps for the car. Just as Apple’s App Store unlocked the power of the smartphone, the Automatic Developer Platform makes it possible for the world’s best developers to build amazing apps that enhance your car, regardless of its make, model or year. We believe the key to unlocking the full potential of the connected car is a thriving ecosystem of apps for the ubiquitous mobile device we’ve all been using for decades: our cars.

4. What advice would you give to fellow startups/entrepreneurs?

I’m not sure I’ve yet earned the right to give other entrepreneurs advice, but there are a few things that I wish someone had told me before I started. The most important one is not procrastinating on the hard decisions. There have been lots of instances when I knew what the right thing to do was, but it was also very hard to make the decision and deal with the aftermath. Not once did waiting help. Also, the single most important thing which can move a startup forward is having the right people in the right roles at any given time. It’s easy to lose sight of that in a growing company and lose lots of valuable time.

5. What do you do when you’re not at your day job?

Working on a startup is all-consuming. If I’m not working, I spend time with my family. We usually find ourselves going on long drives, hikes or just lazing at home reading a book.  

6. What differentiates Automatic from the competition?

We have a thriving ecosystem of apps that work with nearly every car on the road today, regardless of make, model or year, and a fast-growing developer community on the Automatic Developer Platform to fuel it. We believe the future of innovation in the automotive industry lies within the talent of developers building connected car apps all over the world. That’s why we have built a modern and open development platform where anyone can tap into the power hidden within the hundreds of millions of cars that are already on the road.

7. What has surprised you the most about this space?

The greatest surprise has been the lack of attention paid by others in the space to the mountain of valuable data hidden under the hood of our cars. When most people hear the term "connected car" the first thoughts that often come to mind are streaming music and GPS. While these are - and will always be - popular "connected car" features, it only scratches the surface of what’s possible.



The Automatic adapter can easily be installed by plugging the adapter into the standard diagnostic port under the dash in most cars since 1996. The Automatic app is then paired with the adapter allowing customers to access their car’s data from the Automatic App Gallery. The app is packed with remarkable features like, calling for help after a crash, remembering parking spots and displaying trip history. The App Gallery connects customers with dozens of online services making the car experience convenient, safe and enjoyable.

Automatic views a car as a computer with data hidden inside about mileage, gas, usage, performance and engine health no matter the age, make or model.

Automatic’s Link product is available at major retailers such as Amazon, Apple and Best Buy for $99.95.