Incubated out of the Vivid Theory studio in Calgary, HeyAuto is Canada’s newest and fastest-growing online automobile “ecosystem” for car owners and auto dealers.
The legacy automobile dealership shopping experience often has the customer feeling vulnerable from start to finish. It’s considered transactional, sometimes uncomfortable, and it doesn’t have to be that way.
HeyAuto is a powerful and thoughtfully designed and developed two-way online SaaS platform that support and enhance the car shopping, car purchase, car ownership, and car retailing experience for both car owners and automotive dealerships.
Brent Lane and Brett Jones are co-founders of both Vivid Theory and HeyAuto.
With Vivid Theory, they set out with a vision to build a revolutionary new business model where employees, investors, and technology founders can all be successful.
After processing hundreds of ideas and discovery sessions in some exciting large markets, HeyAuto was the runaway favourite identified for buildout.
In this Q+A with Brent we dive into the two-sided SaaS marketplace that Vivid Theory has built for HeyAuto.
Tell me about Vivid Theory, how you came to be, and what your mission is?
BL: Vivid Theory is a studio model focusing on large market opportunities. Specializing in marketplace technology, two-sided SaaS, and PaaS products, we work towards building exciting internally held products for commercialization and sale.
Brett and I set out with a vision to build a revolutionary new business model where employees, investors, and technology founders can all win in a repeatable way. With a strong background in business feasibility studies, a new way of looking at opportunities was constructed called the Rapid Feasibility Model (RFM).
Our mission: to continuously innovate and evaluate the viability of new concepts for success through clear, actionable plans, something we call Vivid Theories.
HeyAuto is built on a two-way SaaS platform. Was this always the vision for HeyAuto?
BL: HeyAuto is an innovative, all-in-one tool that empowers the vehicle ownership experience. Whether looking to buy, sell, or connect – we’ve built a full-service automotive ecosystem that makes the entire experience simple and enjoyable – for all users.
The product is a three-fold build:
- Retail SaaS car ownership platform (Glovebox)
- Retail Automotive Marketplace (2000+ dealerships)
- Dealer facing SaaS marketing and retention platform
The platform/ecosystem uses two-way SaaS integration that includes a marketplace where dealers can advertise and promote dealers to consumers.
Originally we set out to become one of the most connected marketplaces in Canada. But we have grown from a place for consumers to connect with dealers – to a place where dealers can interact with consumers on a more personalized, connected level and can elevate their customer lifetime value.
Today, HeyAuto is car ownership, reimagined.
What are the other technical features that you’ve designed and developed for the HeyAuto platform?
HeyAuto is incredibly deep in the offerings. Within Glovebox, users can upload their vehicles and all sorts of maintenance records and receipts and they can connect directly with not only their preferred dealer but also their chosen salesperson. Through AutoTrusted, we have a platform that enables authenticated user reviews for dealerships and their individual team members.
We have an environmental program—Keys for Trees—where dealers may donate (plant) trees for their customers and pick from geographical locations for tree planting or select a specific cause. This program is powered by our work with One Tree Planted and is available for users to participate in as well.
MyOffers is a place for users to sell their vehicle and collect current offers from multiple dealers, but also view their trade-in values. Through MyOffers, dealers have the potential to connect with and bid on sellers with independent inventory, which is a completely unique feature.
All of these tools are available with our powerful chat function – any user can connect with any dealer on any piece of information they are seeking – without having to physically call or go to that location.
How do these features differentiate HeyAuto from platforms where consumers and dealers can advertise their cars for sale?
By being involved earlier in a person’s purchasing life cycle to be part of their education in a way that builds up the trust and rapport – prior to test drive – the HeyAuto experience increases the customer’s comfort and enjoyment. But it also increases the sales person’s loyalty and conversion rate.
Other digital remarketing companies are attempting to bridge those gaps but there is still ultimately just one dealership. So their message is hey you don’t need a sales rep – but that doesn’t solve the problem of “lack of comfort for the consumer,” it just removes the sales team so the customer ends up having to do all the research.
HeyAuto is helping to support BOTH!
Instead of trying to get the sales person out of the way, we bring their energy and expertise into the light.
How do you capture revenues with a two-way SaaS platform? Does that mean multiple potential revenue streams?
BL: Short answer, yes – there are multiple revenue streams with a two-way SaaS platform. We focus on value added packaging for our dealership clients, such that they are always able to bring deeper value to their users and customers. Through Glovebox we generate multiple opportunities to connect with channel partners; those in the automotive industry that have after-market services to provide or unique offerings that can be presented through our platform.
The retail customer facing experience is FREE. We promote the use of the marketplace and the Glovebox offerings to engage with the car ownership experience. Whether that’s through aftermarket services (related to Glovebox), storage of receipts and documents, maintenance suggestions and tips, all the way to shopping, getting trade-in values, and listing through MyOffers private auction process.
HeyAuto transforms the dealership experience on the car owner side by empowering the user to curate a customized journey that feels more personal – from our high-powered search experience to controlling by who and how sales people interact with them, the users are in control of a process that often has felt daunting and filled with high pressure.
Ultimately, HeyAuto transforms the dealership’s ability to gain new customers, boost trust and retention, increase loyalty and brand advocacy, and ultimately, their overall engagement – both during the initial search phase, during the time of consideration and long after the customer has made a purchase.
Do you believe other online platforms could utilize a 2-way SaaS structure? Will you look to commercialize this structure, and what other industries would benefit?
BL: Other platforms could definitely use a 2-way SaaS structure. We build reusable composable code and through this can rapidly replicate the success of the HeyAuto infrastructure to serve other industries or automotive platforms. There is an opportunity to commercialize this structure and the platform but that is not on our immediate roadmap. Major industries that could benefit would be other recreational vehicle markets, real estate, and environmental marketplaces.
You’ve also shared that HeyAuto is passionate about the environment, but we know that the internal combustion engine sector of the automotive industry is a large contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. How do you reconcile these facts?
BL: Rather than shying away from these stats, we believe the industry can benefit from the opportunity to step towards being part of the solution. Our KeysForTrees program is just that and does so by supporting small, consistent actions that create real change. Simply by using the HeyAuto platform users can be rewarded with trees. The user chooses where in Canada they would like them to be planted, or which initiative they would like them to be a part of.
It’s our belief that together we can take real action to improve the health of our ecosystems.
How do you see your role in the Calgary tech space today, and where do you foresee yourselves in the future?
BL: Too often, successful concepts have been limited to specific industries. Vivid Theory was built on the premise that a proven model could provide a solution by successfully testing and scaling ideas.
Vivid Theory blends entrepreneurship, tech and design. We are a fast-growing, forward-thinking family of diverse and talented individuals with a proven strategy that brings products from concept to commercialization.
Vivid Theory’s limitless scope provides a unique opportunity for Vivid Theory’s staff, investors and the Albertan startup community that surrounds it. Together, we are reinventing how successful solutions are brought to life.
This is all made possible by focusing on three large principles of the business.
- Build incredible teams.
- Craft sophisticated technologies for large markets.
- Provide repeatable returns for our stakeholders.
Short term, Vivid Theory is working hard to grow HeyAuto.com into the #1 integrative automotive platform in Canada, followed by North America — without taking our foot off of the gas pedal.
But – we aren’t simply waiting for HeyAuto to conquer the market. Vivid Theory is always exploring the next round of innovative opportunities with our talented team. We have deep connections to research groups and continue to be on the leading edge of development. Using our unique approach and expertise, we are exploring exciting opportunities in many verticals and our internal professional development teams are gearing up to attract the international community.
Our vision is to become the world’s most successful Product Development Company. And by doing so inspiring innovation, connecting talented people, and aligning investors so together we maximize success.
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