Andrew Lemoine, a former car salesman turned start-up founder, said he was kickstarting a technology revolution in an industry that had been stalled for too long.
Lemoine is the co-founder and CEO of Autocorp.ai, a three-year venture that aims to disrupt the way cars are financed in North America. The company’s subscription-based software taps into the Equifax credit bureau database to provide real-time access to a buyer’s credit history, allowing dealers to quickly assess whether a loan is likely to go wrong. to be approved and what the conditions will be before a consumer signs on the dotted line.
That may sound logical, but Lemoine says it’s anything but common in the auto finance industry. While products rolling off the assembly line now feature all sorts of advanced technology – with cars literally able to park themselves – the way they are bought and paid for has remained fundamentally unchanged since seat belts were still a novelty and tail fins were all the rage.
“Our industry, for whatever reason, has always been totally behind when it comes to funding,” the 34-year-old says. “Financing is traditionally the very last thing you do when buying a car.”
Lemoine notes that the average car buyer in Canada spends nearly 20 hours researching the vehicle they want to buy and evaluating the different models before heading to a store. Once there, they typically spend an additional three and a half hours consulting with sales staff and managers as they focus on the exact car they want.
Only then, he says — after almost a full day of trying — did the subject of paying for their new wheels come up.
As a result, a buyer who thought they were getting a good deal might suddenly find themselves shifting gears when, for example, they find out they ultimately don’t qualify for zero percent financing.
That’s where Autocorp.ai comes in. The startup wants it to be quick and easy to assess a buyer’s creditworthiness before they set foot in the showroom, allowing both parties to save time and avoid potential disappointment.
“There was this huge disconnect between people buying cars online and when they were actually going to a physical location,” says Lemoine. “That experience was very broken.”
The Ottawa native grew up in the business, landing his first job as a car wash at a local Volkswagen dealership when he was 16. Six months later he was selling them, and before long he was the top salesman in the dealership. By his mid-twenties, Lemoine had been promoted to general manager and operations manager of March Auto Group in Ottawa.
He could have just stayed on that road and headed for a comfortable boarding house. But, frustrated with what he calls the industry’s “archaic” approach to financing, Lemoine decided to abandon the security of a career in auto retail for the uncertainty of the future. entrepreneurship.
In 2019, he teamed up with partners Josh Elias and Jason Groulx to launch his new venture. Elias was a skilled software designer. Groulx, meanwhile, was executive chef at the Shore Club and impressed Lemoine with his ability to calmly manage dozens of people in the chaos of a busy kitchen – a talent that made him the ideal candidate for the role of vice-president. president of operations.
A year later, Toronto-based Kole Hicks, a former vice president of marketing for automotive service software platform AutoServe1, became chief revenue officer.
The founders spent two-and-a-half years perfecting the platform and cultivating their partnership with Equifax, a key relationship that sees the companies collaborating on “soft-pull” technology that allows dealers to perform credit checks without negatively affect buyers’ credit ratings.
To seal the deal, Autocorp had to prove that it could meet the rigorous legal, security and compliance standards of the global credit reporting agency. Lemoine says it was no small feat.
“We were doing something that had never been done before in our country,” he explains.
“There are so many times when you ask yourself, ‘Is it really worth it?’ You just have to wake up each day and reaffirm your mission.”
“There are so many times you wonder, ‘Is it really worth it? You simply need to wake up each day and reaffirm your mission. It’s got to be that excitement that pulls you out of bed or you’re going to give up.
In January 2021, the software was finally ready to hit the market. By then, the pandemic had forced the auto industry to press the accelerator pedal as it transitioned to e-commerce, with dealerships across North America forced to close their hall doors. of exposure.
More than 300 dealerships across Canada have since signed up for Autocorp’s platform, and the company passed the $1 million mark in annual recurring revenue in its first year.
But Lemoine says the company is still on the starting line.
He expects the software to be installed in more than 1,000 dealerships nationwide by the end of 2022. Autocorp plans to enter the U.S. market this summer, and Lemoine says the company is on the point of multiplying his income by five to seven in his second year.
The company helped car buyers secure more than $100 million in loans last year, a figure Lemoine expects to reach $1 billion in the not-too-distant future.
Eyeing venture capitalists
“We’re really only at the growth stage of the hockey stick,” he says.
Now at 31 employees, the company was initially fueled by less than $1 million in seed capital from friends, family and the founders themselves. Lemoine says Autocorp is close to finalizing a larger round funded by investors that include Canadian and U.S. venture capital firms as well as leading local angels.
Meanwhile, the company continues to refine its products. He is currently developing an app that will allow consumers to check their income, driver’s license and other information on their smartphone, and he is also working on integrating major banks into the platform so that loans can be approved. faster and more efficiently.
The software has caught the eye of related retailers such as snowmobile and boat dealerships, adds Lemoine. But even though he says the platform could easily be adapted to such customers, for now he and his partners are happy to stick to their current path.
“We are currently focusing quite aggressively on the automotive industry,” says Lemoine. “It’s the industry we know best and where we see the strongest growth.
“This 100% model will become the default model. We obviously hope that we can get as much market share (as possible) because we really feel like we pioneered a lot of things.