Foundergiant: Hello! Tell us a bit about yourself and Smartcar.
Sahas Katta: I am one of the founders of Smartcar, Sahas Katta. I am the CEO and Sanketh Katta is the CTO and my brother. Both of us grew up in San Jose, California and studied computer science. I actually dropped out to start my first company. While that first company didn’t work out, I ended up pursuing this in the automotive space, specifically in automotive technology. That’s when the idea of Smartcar came about. Sanketh and I were always excited about coding and the technology in cars. We both love the excitement of working on Smartcar every day.
FG: Introduce your company and the creators of Smartcar.
SK: Smartcar is the car API platform for developers made by developers. We understand as creators of Smartcar how important it is to be able to have open access to API references and documentation to ensure a smooth implementation process. We are opening the gate for developers to connect to cars without any hardware and we’re so excited to be a part of this technological shift into the future of mobility companies.
FG: Tell us about your product.
SK: We’re a company based in Mountain View, California. Smartcar is the world’s leading car API platform. We make it really easy for mobility companies to integrate with cars without having to ask customers to plug an expensive hardware device into their vehicle. At the end of the day, we as a company are excited to make mobility more equitable for everyone.
Smartcar is the car API for mobility companies. We make connecting to cars easy so developers can focus on what’s important: building the future of mobility. Smartcar allows developers to instantly capture data from vehicles like odometer reading/location or send commands to like lock/unlock.
FG: How did you come up with the idea for the product? What inspired you?
SK: I was trying to build an app for a car and there was just no easy way to do this. No car company offers a developer portal. There were no API docs. There were no SDKs.
I started to understand the mobility landscape, it became clear that there was a huge gap between OEMs and developers. Instead of building an app, we realized there’s an opportunity to build a developer platform and turn it into a business. We ended up pitching to VCs once we built the first prototype. Ben Horowitz and Marc Andreessen at a16z, a VC firm here in Palo Alto, CA, led our first round and continue to support us through our Series A along with NEA (New Enterprise Associates). Today, Smartcar is compatible with 18 car brands and we’re excited to see where we can take the future of mobility.
FG: How is your product different from your competitors?
SK: Companies providing aftermarket hardware devices like OBD dongles do not offer a custom connected car solution that integrates with OEMs. However, it’s mostly professional services that use these devices. Smartcar on the other hand is a self-service platform. Our customers incorporate our APIs into their own products & services themselves with their own engineers.
We’re doing for the automotive space what Plaid did for banking, Twilio did for communications, or Stripe did for payments.
FG: What was the biggest challenge during product development and launch? Could some of these difficulties have been avoided by making different decisions?
SK: There is no easy way to integrate with cars because of the OEM landscape. Smartcar is democratizing this landscape and opening the gates so developers can build on our platform and connect to vehicles.
FG: Was Smartcar bootstrapped or did it receive outside funding?
SK: After about 1 year of prototyping, we raised a $2M Seed Round. We have since raised a $10M Series A. Our investors include Andreessen-Horowitz and New Enterprise Associates.
FG: What is the pricing model of Smartcar?
SK: SaaS (software as a service pricing model)
FG: Where can people learn more about Smartcar?