By the year 2020, more than 24 billion products will be powered by network connectivity, including wearables, smart home devices and connected health. The ‘internet of things’ offers solutions for some of the world’s most pressing challenges, and for the most part, makes our lives better and safer. Connected car technologies, in particular, hold an immense potential to make our roads safer and our car driving experience more enjoyable.
Jooycar is one of those solutions, addressing the smart automobile market through an IoT platform. Although they primarily serve the Latin American market, clients from all over the world seek out their technology. After only three years, they’ve gained a strong reputation as one of the most innovative IoT products in the market.
They sell primarily to insurance companies, which in turn use this technology to better serve their clients. The technology comes in the form of a small device you plug into your car which is programmed to a mobile app. The device turns your vehicle into a smart car: it can tell you information about when your car is up for a repair or how you can improve your driving, which in turns allows insurance companies to provide better service.
They also assist with everything having to do with insurance claims. Whereas before you had to directly call your insurance if you were in a car accident, Jooycar automatically detects the event and immediately start the process of processing your claim. In addition, they use machine learning and AI to process data related to your driving– with this, they are hoping to predict the probability of someone having an accident based on their driving style.
I sat down with María Paz Gillet, co-founder of Jooycar, who told me about her entrepreneurial journey, which started back in 1999 when she ran the first online art gallery in Latin America, called chilearte.com. She ran it for two years while she was still at university.
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“While I was finishing my degree, I first started to learn about the internet," she said. "I knew I wanted to work on something related to it, so I decided I wanted to innovate the art gallery industry. It really didn’t exist on the internet, especially in Latin America– it was just so new. I evangelized all of these artists and taught them how to put their art up online.”
In 2002, she went on to work at a major retail holding in Chile, where she was tasked with building out their digital department and their e-commerce and marketing strategy. “I was lucky to have a manager that allowed me to be an intrapreneur and to create and build new businesses from within the company.”
Soon after, she went on to start the first mobile shopping platform in Latin America called HappyShop, which raised $6 million. At the time, it was almost unheard of for a startup to raise such a significant round of funding, especially in Latin America. They were one of the first viral apps in the region and had over 300,000 downloads, or roughly 5% of the mobile population in Chile. Ultimately, the business failed though.
“The management team and I did not scale the business properly," she said. "We grew too fast, we had a 20-person office in Brazil and an 80-person office in Chile. And we simply had not experimented enough to nail down our business model. I learned a lot from that experience.”
With Gillet’s new venture, she decided from the beginning that she wouldn't immediately raise capital. With her previous venture, she learned that to be successful, a good strategy to adopt is to run your startup like you would run a small business. She explains that with startups, the traditional mentality is that you must raise in order to hire and be successful. With a small business, the focus is on sales.
“We started thinking about it as a small business, first focusing all of our efforts on closing our first client. We wanted to build a product that someone would purchase first, so then we could start thinking about raising capital. Because of that way of thinking, we were able to secure sales and later on raise funding from Magma Partners. Nowadays, we are breaking even.”
In our conversation, we start speaking about some of the intricacies of being a Latin woman in the world of IoT. She explains that to her, it has been essential to take on strategic partners and investors that help position their company in the global market.
“I’m a mother of three, so I can’t be on a plane 24/7. I know we have a wonderful product, but I simply cannot be traveling here and there, to Silicon Valley, to conferences. So having Magma Partners as allies has been great because they really put an effort into making sure our name gets out there, ensuring more clients hear about our product.”
Despite that, she tells me that she believes that being a mother has helped her be a better entrepreneur. She explains that women have a natural knack for pursuing the route of entrepreneurship because they are talented at multitasking. This trait, she says, is essential when you are building a business.
“As an entrepreneur, you have to be ready to be wearing one hat and immediately switching to a different one. Women are constantly put into positions where they have to adapt to changes– we’re in the office, we’re mothers, we’re wives. We always have to be adapting, so I truly believe that women were born to be entrepreneurs.”
We also speak about some of the exciting trends she is observing in the field of tech, compared to when she first started her career. She tells me that whereas before, the field of technology was run by men, she’s observed a definite shift. In particular, that as technology becomes an ever-present part of our lives, women are becoming more informed consumers and voicing out the type of products they want to use.
“For example, my passion is innovating in the insurance industry. As a consumer, I noticed that insurance companies tend to have little to no contact with their clients – they sell you a policy and then you don’t hear about them until you crash your car. On top of that, when you do contact them, it’s usually a negative interaction. So our goal is to change that, and to make it more positive for people."
The power in Jooycar is easily reflected in the results their clients have experienced. They have been working for over two years with Seguros SURA, an insurance company in Latin America. Using Jooycar, Seguros SURA has started to experience a 35% monthly engagement with their users using one of their car insurance products. The industry average is around 5%.
With cases like this, Jooycar has proven to have created a meaningful digital experience that produces relevant data for clients– it provides drivers with things like data on their trajectory, risky moves on the road, discounts for safe driving, among others. “When you have a strong digital product, you have the attention of your consumer, which in turn allows you to give better service to your clients.”
This past November, they launched the first Pay-Per-Mile Insurance in Latin America. With this product, they are hoping to disrupt the way Chilean drivers protect their cars. More than anything, Gillet sees a vast potential for Jooycar to have a positive social impact on society. With their capacity to create auto-connectedness, they are hoping to enable more responsible driving, safer roads, and a cleaner environment.
“As cars become smarter, technology has the potential to have a positive impact on the environment and to reduce the carbon footprint," said Gillet. "We believe this is one of the first of many technologies that will make the world smarter and safer, and we see it becoming integrated with other technologies, such as smart cities, in the future.”