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Start Your Business Success Stories

Internet Entrepreneur Keeps Car Repair Shops Honest

Entrepreneur: Art Shaw
Business name: RepairPal
Years in business: 7 (joined in 2012)
Website address: http://www.repairpal.com

Art Shaw has a long history of bringing trust and transparency to industries that are generally distrusted by consumers. After several years in management consulting, the Stanford Business School alum worked with brokerage and banking firm Charles Schwab to launch schwab.com, growing it into one of the first billion-dollar online businesses. Shaw also successfully ran and sold myCFO, as well as an online advertising company.

Two years ago, Shaw joined RepairPal, a company that provides trusted information on auto repair and service providers. He discussed his nearly two-decade entrepreneurial journey, how technology has helped his success as CEO of RepairPal, and the important role transparency plays in gaining trust with consumers.

Art Shaw is the CEO of RepairPal.com. Credit: RepairPal.com

Business News Daily: What problem was RepairPal hoping to solve when it started?

Art Shaw: Cars are important in people's lives. According to Polk, the average age of a car is 11.4 years, up nearly 50 percent since the 1990s. This means cars are out of warranty for most of their lives, leaving consumers responsible for important and often costly repairs. When it comes to repairing cars, surveys of consumers show dire concerns: More than half feel an auto repair shop has ripped them off.  Finding fair prices and a trustworthy mechanic are what consumers hate most in getting their cars repaired. 

Consumers' needs are simple and clear: They want certification of quality and fair pricing more than anything in choosing auto repair shops. But they don't know where to find that. RepairPal is meeting that need head on with our certified shop network.[3 Ways to Keep Customers Coming Back]

BND: Could your business have existed 20 years ago?

A.S.: Auto repair is delivered locally in physical form. Unlike most industries, it remains run by independent shops. Many of these shops perform incredible work, and are as skilled in their work as doctors or lawyers, but it is nearly impossible for consumers to differentiate a trustworthy shop from a dishonest shop. 

The best answer used to be the advice of friends or family members, even though they often knew little about your car, auto diagnostics or your local shop. The reconstruction of information flow via the Internet, broadband, the PC and smartphones has enabled our company to exist in ways that were basically inconceivable 20 years ago. 

BND: What technology has most helped RepairPal?

A.S.: The RepairPrice Estimator is a fundamental technology that enables us to provide trust and transparency in the auto repair business. RepairPal started in 2007 by assembling over a hundred billion price estimates for consumers to give them a fair price for specific car repairs. For nearly all cars built since 1990, we calculate a fair price range by ZIP code for over a hundred common repairs.  This industry-leading information, licensed by leaders such as Consumer Reports and AOL Autos, is presented to consumers in a friendly way, coupled with helpful advice such as check the battery in your electric ignition key before getting a starter replacement. 

BND: What developing tech trend do you feel will most help your business in the future?

A.S.: The emerging world of telematics will help change the way consumers interact with their cars. Telematics has the potential to connect consumers and repair shops with the onboard computers of today's cars.

BND: If you could hire one extra person right now, what would you have that employee do?

A.S.: We're growing and in need of great talent. Our next hire will likely be a consumer product expert that could build more tools for consumers, helping them in repairing and servicing their cars.

BND: What app are you relying on most right now?

A.S.: On an everyday basis, I use Waze to commute from the Peninsula to SF; I love music and use a few music apps; and I follow the news through my CNN app.

BND: What technology do you think is most underrated?

A.S.: I think the most underrated consumer interface is the mobile Web, which seems to get a lot less attention than apps. We're investing heavily in responsive design, as we believe that the mobile Web, more than the desktop or the app, will be the most utilized channel for finding us. Consumers don't want an app for every interaction.

BND: What's the most valuable non-tech skill an entrepreneur needs?

A.S.: It always comes down to people. Building a strong culture and a commitment to a path that's beyond oneself is key.

Originally published on Business News Daily.

Nicole Fallon
Nicole Fallon

Nicole Fallon received her Bachelor's degree in Media, Culture and Communication from New York University. She began freelancing for Business News Daily in 2010 and joined the team as a staff writer three years later. She currently serves as the assistant editor. Reach her by email, or follow her on Twitter.