Wednesday, September 13, 2017
Interview with Bertrand Patriarca, WashOS
Story by Benjamin F. Kuo
This morning's interview with an entrepreneur is with Bertrand Patriarca, the CEO of Los Angeles-based startup WashOS (www.washos.com). WashOS runs an on-demand, car washing service. We caught up with Bertrand, who had been an entrepreneur in France, to learn why he moved to Los Angeles to start WashOS, and how his experience here in LA as an entrepreneur compares to his time in France.
What does WashOS do?
Bertrand Patriarca: We are WashOS. What we are doing, is disrupting the traditional, American car wash. We send our service directly to your place, at home, within 90 minutes, in Los Angeles and Orange County.
This is an app driven service?
Bertrand Patriarca: Absolutely. We develop the app and website in-house, and we also have an app for our technicians for them to handle booking and revenues. Everything is handled by an algorithm, which is automatic, and we do not have any interaction between the booking and the service. Everything is automated. We guarantee the reliability of our service, to make sure our technicians are arriving on time and are available when they say they are.
Does this operate as a marketplace, or are those technicians employees?
Bertrand Patriarca: We are in between those two models. We are using contractors. They are not our employees, but we have a lot of differences from a traditional marketplace. What we do, is we spend lots of time training and helping our technicians to deliver an enjoyable experience to our customers. We lvoe working with contractors, who are free to set their own schedule. We help them develop their skills and provide them with ways to deliver the job, and help them to make sure they always delivery a very high-end and quality service, make sure they show up on time, and never miss and appointment. That's really important to deliver to a customer relationship. It's really the best of both of those worlds, I would say, because even though most of the time those contractors are working full time for WashOS, they can also take on other activities and decide their won schedule. Our technology allowsu s to know when they are working, and what services they can deliver, where on the map, and ensures that we can book the right technician for the time that is chosen.
How did you start company?
Bertrand Patriarca: I arrived in the U.S. with my partners in November of 2014. I used to travel a lot to Los Angeles, when I was an entrepreneur in France, and I came to the U.S. four to five times that way. A few years back, coming here, I saw there was a huge market in the car wash business. That's a very big and traditional market for Americans, especially here in LA. I soon discovered, this was an industry that was not disrupted. There were lots of challenges in the supply side, in the car washes themselves, and in detailers, which I had noticed in the two years before we came. When I arrived in the U.S. in November of 2014, I began working on WashOS, and realized that people were not just expecting to have their car washed. What they really wanted, was a really good service. I really started to understand that in this business, it's how people feel with their car, what they expect with a car wash experience, and that you always have to deliver very good service. We wanted to disrupt the traditional experience of driving to the local car wash, and sitting there waiting on a plastic chair waiting for your car.
So how it is you decided to relocate to Los Angeles in the first place?
Bertrand Patriarca: I was in Paris, and I had just had a kid a few months before coming here. The idea, with m wife, is that life in Paris was not necessarily the kind of life we wanted to have with our kid. We thought, where is the best place to move? We wanted to move somewhere else, either a small town in France, or to relocate to the U.S. That's something we had always wanted to do. So, we combined all of these things, the family, the lifestyle we wanted for the family, and the opportunity, plus the fact that we loved Los Angeles and Southern California and its lifestyle and spirit. We said, let's move to Los Angeles, and see how it goes. And, for an automotive startup, Los Angeles is an obvious choice.
So how is your company backed?
Bertrand Patriarca: It's been bootstrapped for its first two years, and I have invested my own money in the business. I also have some friends that I have good relationships with who put money into the project. I started to raise a small seed round in May, and we raised a little less than $1 million between May and June to focus on Los Angeles and help us accelerate the business. It's really helped us to grow and accelerate. The past three to four months has been super fast for us, and we're now opening a new round which we will use to expand WashOS to other cities. The first new cities will be San Francisco, San Diego, and parts of Texas.
As someone who was an entrepreneur in France, what's the biggest lesson you've learned about starting a business in the United States?
Bertrand Patriarca: The biggest lesson has not only been on the business side, but on the cultural side. There is a big, cultural gap between France and the U.S. It took me a lot of time to appreciate the new cultural factors in the U.S. I didn't want to be that French guy in the US, I wanted to be an entrepreneur in business in the US. That was the objective. So, I had to learn a lot of new rules on how to interact with people and to get business. I think it was very important to do this, more so than developing the business itself. You can't just replicate the things you knew in France. It's a huge gap between how companies work in France versus the United States, so I had to learn a lot, and work hard to figure out how business is done here, and in those cultural relations, in order to really expand the business.
Finally, what the most important thing you are thinking about as you expand to other markets?
Bertrand Patriarca: I think the first thing we learned, when we launched WashOS in L.A. and then expanded to Orange County, is that even markets that are extremely close can be very ifferent. Even between Los Angeles and Orange County, there are big differences. We had to learn how people are used to interacting with the service, what's the behavior of a consumer in these two different areas. Our extension is based on figuring a playbook for operations. We need to comprehend the new area we are going into, and don't want to rush expansion. We need to provide a good message, and adapt our offerings and services to the new areas where we are going to go. Car washes are not a traditional service, like ridesharing or food delivery. People have their own way of dealing with car washing, including if they want to use water or not, and many other things like that you have to know about. When you expand to a new city, you have to spend a lot of time analyzing the market. That's why we're opening one city at a time. When we enter a city, we start by focusing on a very specific neighborhood, grow that, and once that city is completely stablized, and we have good revenues and understanding of that market, is when we expand to another one. That is the plan.