In this episode, we interviewed Andy Chatham, CEO and Co-founder of DIMO. DIMO is an open platform that connects data producers like cars, consumers and business applications to unlock next-generation mobility services.
Today, we explored the potential of Web3 as an enabling technology for the automotive industry. In particular, we discussed how Web3 provides a convenient infrastructure to conduct business transactions on which innovative business models can be designed.
- What technology and market changes have made DIMO’s business model feasible today?
- What are the challenges of hardware-software integration for applications used in cars?
- When does the Web3 approach make sense as part of a business model?
- How does government regulation impact the development of Web3 business models?
Erik: Andy, thanks for joining us on the podcast today.
Andy: Thanks for having me, Erik.
Erik: This is a super interesting and super, let me say, dense business. Dense, in terms of business model and tech stack. Really looking forward to walking through the business with you today, Andy. Before we get there, I would love to understand where you're coming from and how you arrived here. You've got a very interesting background. It looks like you've been involved in a lot of different businesses, and then I guess the last one that you were involved in is maybe the inspiration. Can you just walk us through a few of the highlights of your career that maybe helped you to inspire the concept for DIMO?
Andy: Yeah, sure. The founding team is really for core members. We've brought on a group of really experienced people from, primarily, engineering backgrounds. So, there's certainly a lot more to the story than just me. Personally, I've spent about 10 years in the mobility industry. I started my career working at a company. It was an investment firm that was an offshoot of Zappos.com. They were redeveloping a big chunk of Las Vegas, and a big part of that was increasing the connectivity around the downtown area that they were investing in. We had the opportunity to work with a number of companies that were really at pushing the boundaries back in 2012. Uber hadn't launched in Las Vegas. Bird and Lime hadn't even been founded yet. We were working with dockless bike sharing companies, one that actually became Jump Bikes, which Uber purchased in the future in a pretty prominent IoT success story. We got into the electric mobility space and built a supercharger for Teslas in one of the buildings that we were developing. That started me down the path. That connected, automated, and shared mobility was probably going to be a big mega trend in the future. I think back in 2012, I would have guessed that it probably would have happened a lot faster than it did. But, certainly, today, from where we're sitting, it seems like a lot of those things are starting to really take root.
I left Las Vegas, and I went to work for a company called Transdev, which is a large mobility services company. Primarily, their business is operating public transit systems for the government. Mostly, what I was focused on, at least the second half of my seven years or so there, was helping them build a business in the autonomous vehicle space. So, they recognized very early on that autonomous vehicles were going to disrupt their core business offering. I wanted to be a part of the next chapter. It felt like they had a real role to play, not in necessarily developing the core technology like sensors, perception, and all that, but really integrating it into society, like taking these things that were science projects, and helping them scale up into real working mobility solutions.
So, I worked with a pretty small team at the beginning, but we grew it quite a bit over time into thousands of people. Our biggest client was Waymo, the Google self-driving car project. Some people know it. In my last role, I was running a team of hundreds of people in California that were responsible for pretty much the full stack of operations around vehicles that were both 18-wheelers and robotaxis, and a lot of structure testing in California, primarily. We also had a pretty large team in Phoenix.
So, I left in 2020 to start DIMO as it exists today. The first version was very focused on helping cars autonomously park themselves. One of the big gaps that we saw in the market was that everybody was really focused on making the smartest possible vehicle. But I felt that there was really some infrastructure solutions around the vehicles that were needed in order to help them do things, like operate fully empty around airports and downtown business districts. That was the first thread that we started pulling at DIMO. The beginning of the pandemic really took the parking business and killed it quite a bit. So, that forced us into looking at other potential areas that we could develop for clients. We're running DIMO as a product studio, a venture studio. One of the projects that we picked up on was called Helium. We started building Helium networks and mining the Helium token. That might be something that people are familiar with. But for those who aren't, it's a crypto token incentivized wireless network. That got us down the path of thinking about, okay, well, there's this new building block that you can use to bootstrap new types of networks. Ultimately, that led us to applying the same business model and philosophy to building a connected vehicle network. That, also, has gotten us to where we are today at DIMO.
Erik: Okay. Interesting. Yeah, we had Frank Mong from Helium back in 2019.
Andy: Yeah, Frank is great.
Erik: Yeah, absolutely. They still seem to have good traction, actually. I just had somebody in LinkedIn messaging me pretty much like every three days, asking do you want to get on the Helium network? They have a very aggressive sales team. It's good to see that they're getting traction, still.
Andy: We're certainly heavily influenced by them. They have also been — Amir, who's the CEO of Nova Labs, which is the company that built a lot of the Helium stuff, is an early supporter of DIMO. We look at what they've been able to do as far as educating a huge group of consumers, about how this is a great way to build a network. That's been hugely helpful for us as we've started to put more stuff out there in the real world. It's also a story where they're very much educating not just the consumers but investors and other people in the space about how this is a good approach.
Erik: That's really critical here. Maybe we can talk quickly about the why now. But part of it is technical maturity. A big part of it is going to be readiness. Let's say, readiness from consumers, readiness from corporates. Because there's a lot of stakeholders here who have to change how they behave to some extent. Maybe changing the consumer behavior, you can do it with advertising and marketing. To some extent, changing corporate behavior, especially with large corporates that have successful business models, can be frustrating and a very long endeavor.
Andy: Yeah, totally.
Erik: So, what is the why now? You already mentioned this one, of the change in vehicle and the interactions between vehicle fleets in the city infrastructure. What are the other things that made you feel like this business model is feasible now?
Andy: A couple of things. I think it's very similar to what I saw in 2012 with Uber. Even slightly before that, I think they were probably launched in 2010, or 2009. There was a whole bunch of stuff that had to exist for that to even be possible. For what we're building now, which we really characterize, initially, we were very focused on this as a way to monetize data from vehicles. But very quickly, we realized we're actually building a developer platform for cars. Our goal is to create a way for anybody who has a good idea about what application they might want to build with a car, to show up and say, okay, rather than having to go integrate with 50 different types of vehicles and create my own hardware product and convince a bunch of consumers to connect their cars to it, I can just have this app store here that's built on top of this thing called DIMO. I don't have to understand so much underlying technology. I just have to have development skills and the ability to execute on a much narrower vision.
For the folks at Uber to be able to do that in 2009 or 2010, they had to have the iOS, App Store. They had to have Google Maps. They had to have enough drivers with phones. For us, what that looks like is, 90% of cars that are coming off the production lines today already have existing internet connections. We're able to basically use a service that's like Plaid for cars. Actually, in the case of Tesla's, we integrate directly with their API so people — without having to have any hardware — can connect their vehicle to DIMO and start collecting their own data. That's a really great starting point, super low friction. If you have a Tesla today, it takes less than two minutes to sign up for DIMO and connect your car.
Then here's a huge amount of open-source hardware, that for the rest of the cars that don't have internet connections, we are working with a company called AutoPi today. They are our first hardware partner in the DIMO ecosystem. Basically, right off the shelf with only some very minor changes to their hardware device, we're able to make it secure enough to use and also integrated into our platform with about six months’ worth of effort, plus a little bit of delays associated with the supply chain constraints that are being felt around the world. Then, of course, there's also the 'so what' about all this, which is, okay, great, you've built a developer platform for cars. You've connected all these cars to it. You've made it very easy for people to do that. But what can they actually do once they've taken that first step? That is the part of the story that I think we're really excited about. Because cars are starting to get more automated. So, you can imagine developer platform for cars as you're not very interested if you can't drive the car around remotely or make some use of it like we were trying to do initially with automated parking. But also, electric cars, being able to integrate them into the grid and monitor their battery health and performance — which is 60% of the value of most of these new cars — is a hugely valuable thing. It's also something that you're never going to directly trust the OEM to do, because their incentives are not aligned with you as a consumer.
From our perspective, we think there's a real need for something that's like a black box on an airplane, which is this neutral, aligned with you as a user, data collection service that, in our case, can actually enable lots of other functionality. Because it's going to take the vehicle from something where maybe only a handful of developers can build on top of it. Folks that work at Ford, or GM, or Tesla can build apps for those cars, and really open it up to the creativity of the rest of the world. Also, be something that the owners of the vehicles who have shelled out tens of thousands of dollars, to have that sitting in their driveway, really feel comfortable with it and feel like the apps that they're using are aligned with their best interest, I guess. I know there's a lot there. I happened to pick apart some of those pieces and go deeper on some of them.
Erik: Maybe we can dig into the developer model a bit here. So, the way I maybe simplistically think about this is the App Store. For Android phones, your bunch of different models from different OEMs. You want to build an app, and you want it to be applicable across different vehicles. The challenge is this is a much more — there are safety issues that you don't have in a mobile phone. Integrating with the device hardware is much more sensitive than it is on a phone. Then you have, I guess, most of the apps on the phone are going to be fairly directly B2C. Here, it sounds like it's going to be a lot of B2B or B2B to C. Apps are also a bit more complex in terms of that. So, maybe we can just take a few minutes to walk through this baby, step by step. First, from the integration side, how deeply would these apps — you've already been talking about some of the core systems like charging. So, I guess that's really a hardware integration with the car hardware.
Andy: It depends. When you say hardware integration, there are two ways that we connect to a car. One is software only, which generally is the easiest to get started with. If you have a Tesla, you can just log in using your Tesla account. We actually just send you to Tesla to get the access token for the vehicle. We store that and use it. It's about as safe as logging into your Tesla app on your iPhone today. There's relatively — especially given the way our systems are set up today, except in very often use cases, you're not controlling the car in any way. You think about a mobile app. This is something that certainly Apple has picked up on over the last couple of years. There's actually significantly more privacy concerns with mobile applications than there are with connected vehicle applications. Because your car only knows where you are when you're in it. Your phone is following you around everywhere. So, in some regards, there are additional safety concerns that people have to be aware of. But one of the things that we say when people bring up the privacy issue is yes, of course, it's extremely important for us to be very user-aligned. Generally, our approach is that we're only monetizing data when people opt into it completely. So, people are generally agreeing to this versus using Facebook or Instagram where it's like a trick, that they're playing on you in a lot of cases. There's this different bargain associated with connecting your car to DIMO than, say, downloading Google Maps or Uber where, essentially, every time you have the app open, they know exactly where you are and, essentially, what you're doing. Then they're free to do whatever they want with that data. So, that's a big part of it.
Then on the hardware side, one of the things that we picked up on, very early on, when we started looking deeper at the space is that cars are — connected cars specifically. If you buy a new GM car today, and you use their connected vehicle service which they provide to you for free at the beginning, you're actually opting in to allow them to sell the data from your car or use it for their own purposes. A lot of people don't want that. Our reasoning behind investing in the hardware ecosystem is basically giving people a way to opt out of that connected vehicle services world, where if you don't want the company that sold you your car to be able to monetize the data however they want, sell it to third parties, you can buy one of our hardware devices and trust that the data is being stored for you. Then you get to decide what to do with it after that and monetize it however you want. We think that that's fundamentally the right approach and, ultimately, what a certain subset of consumers are going to want. We're building for both worlds that could potentially exist in the future. I think it's going to be relatively split, as far as which populations. It might differ country by country.
Ultimately, our approach with any third-party developers, of which there are exactly zero today. We're talking very hypothetical, not too far in the future. But we're not sharing any data outside of the platform as it exists today. We're still very much in this bootstrapping phase where we have all of these third-party applications that we're starting to work with developers on and in a lot of cases are incubating within the company that's building DIMO. But yeah, we're taking it very slow as far as letting any data outside of the platform. Basically today, the product, if you download it and start to use it, it's like a Fitbit for your car. It gives you all the data back that the OEM doesn't necessarily show you. OEM, in this case, is like the car company that made your car — Ford, GM, Honda, whoever. Our first goal is educate the consumer about this. We have a business model that we've put in place that I'm happy to go further into, where early users that are providing us with all this data and allowing us to troubleshoot and calibrate the system in these early days are actually able to benefit from that in the long-term, especially as the platform matures and more third-party applications show up and start to build. We can go either down the direction of business models, specifically, or a grant to applications. Either one works.
Erik: Yeah, great. Just one last question on this line that's said. A lot of the, I guess, automotive OEMs, they have traditionally been walled gardens. It's very protective about what types of third-party technology they accept. But it sounds like what you're building right now, the consumer, the car owner, would be able to make the decision without you having to go and have an alignment and an agreement with Ford or GM, for example. So, they'd be able to download your app, get it on their phone. Then either the phone is collecting data that's connected to the car, or you have a device in the car. But you would be able to basically do that just based on that decision by the consumer. I suppose there's other applications that would require maybe a coordination with the engineering team from an OEM, hypothetically, to make something work if we're talking about charging infrastructure maybe, something like this. Is that where you are right now?
Andy: So, the simplest way to describe it is, if your car already has an internet connection, you can log in using the same username and password that the OEM provides you and get the same data that is sent to the OEM's app. In the case of Tesla, that includes about 50 different fields. It also actually gives you the ability to control charging without any third-party hardware. You just have to maintain the connection between your car and Tesla servers. Tesla knows where you are. Your Gmail app knows where you are. You can use whichever one you choose.
With the hardware, that gives you the ability to opt out of the OEM — knowing where you are and being able to remotely control your car in a lot of cases. Also, it gives you the ability to still have an app for your car, basically. We're building to support both use cases. We're trying to turn on as much functionality for as many cars as possible. That's our approach now. It's going to continue to be the approach in the future. So, we have a list. We maintain a database of every car in the world. That's not just make, model, year but also VIN, like specific vehicles. This is all public information that's out there. At the make, model, year level, our goal is to turn on as much support for as many cars as we possibly can. There are certain things that are more important than others. For all new electric vehicles, the ability to stop and start charging is very important because that allows you to integrate with electric grids. That's something that people very much want. Knowing how much fuel was in somebody's tank, or knowing how fast they're driving on a certain road is also important, but there's a priority list associated with that. Our goal is to, really, at this point today, we've turned on support for right out of the box without any hardware for about 75 million vehicles in the US. Probably, close to 80 million now. The hardware, of course, add support for any vehicle that has an onboard diagnostics port, which is pretty much every vehicle made since 2000 on. Explicitly, we support cars in the last 10 years for the hardware device.
Erik: Okay. Cool. I can definitely see the need here. I think VW has a new CEO as of last week or something. One of the big causes behind that was some challenges they had in developing their OS. For everybody outside of Tesla, I suppose, and maybe NIO or somebody in China, building really great solutions for a connected vehicle is really an uphill battle. Being able to leverage a community of developers makes a lot of sense here.
Let's talk about how you build the business model around this. Longer term, it sounds like you're going to have applications on the platform that maybe have their own revenue streams. Then there's maybe a sharing model. We can go into that. But you also have this NFT/Web3 approach, that it sounds like you're using to incentivize the first X thousand users who are providing the data and helping you get off the ground. Can you walk us through the logic of why you chose that approach, as opposed to more traditional and a VC-backed approach? Obviously, you're VC backed as well.
Andy: Sure. So, I'll give the origin story in the need that we were addressing early on. We, at the consulting firm and the venture studio that incubated DIMO that I started with our CTO, we had a client approached us and say, "We would like verified data streams from electric vehicles. We think the OEMs that are making these cars are either lying, or they don't know about the quality of these batteries that they're putting in the cars. We've seen them catch on fire. We've seen all these recalls. People are investing tens of billions of dollars in these components, that oftentimes they don't even make themselves." So, it could be LG Chem putting a battery in a GM vehicle. Consumers are not informed about the quality of these batteries. The only way for us to know is to collect data from the vehicle itself. Third party independently verify it. We said, that's interesting. We don't want to do this consulting project. We want to maybe just take this and run with it. It was somebody that I don't think was really going to hire us anyways. But ultimately, that led us to the point where we were like, "Okay. So, should we pay people to put these devices that led us to the hardware devices? Should we pay people to put these devices in their car, or should we take the Helium model, which is pay them in a token and that ultimately represents, essentially, ownership of the platform as a whole?" It balances out the early adopter versus late adopter in terms of their incentive to join. The second choice felt a lot more aligned with a long-term durable business. Of course, we were already building Helium networks, and we're quite bought into that model. So, that's what led us down the road of saying, "Okay. Let's take a sip of the Web3 crypto, whatever your buzzword of choice is, Kool-Aid, and imagine how this specific use case can be addressed much more effectively by paying people in a token versus just shelling out a bunch of cash for something that ultimately is not that interesting to them." The reception we got from sharing the idea was a bunch of people was like, "Yes, go do this." Some of those people were venture capitalists who said go do this and stop doing everything else you're doing. Just go do this full time. That was in August of last year. So, we've really been at it now for, I guess, 11 months or so full-time.
We've really fleshed out the idea very much from, "We're going to collect data and monetize people's data for this very specific use case," to "We're going to build a developer platform." The next phase of this is really one where instead of just paying people in a token to plug something into their cars like a reward point for an airline is the next generation of it, where if you're taking the data and you're sharing it with developers, there's a way for you to monetize that in a much more seamless way, where if you're spending money with an app developer that's building on top of the DIMO platform instead of doing what Apple does — which is take 30% of the transaction and keep it — we can take 30% of the transaction and give it back to you in the token. Ultimately, to the end user, it looks very much like an airline reward point. If you buy your insurance through DIMO insurance provider or progressives DIMO app, then DIMO, the platform will take the commission that otherwise would have just gone straight into some company's bank account, and essentially pay it back to you as the user.
That's our approach for the long-term sustainable version of this. It's somewhat similar to what Helium does with data credits, although our use case is a little bit different. Obviously, we're building a connected vehicle platform, not a telecom company. So, we have really fleshed that out over the last eight months or so. There's, obviously, a ton more information that we can get into with anybody who's interested in that specifically. But we have a lot of details about how the developer platform in the marketplace and also the hardware ecosystem uses the token in order to keep everybody aligned, and also basically make sure that the marketplace is functioning in a way that aligns with the end user's best interests, which is ultimately what we care about.
Erik: It's very interesting. I've always been a little bit of like — you called me maybe an optimistic blockchain or Web3 skeptic, like optimistic.
Andy: Yeah, me, too.
Erik: There's really something powerful here. I'm a part of a community called Startup Grind, which is like 600 cities, volunteer-driven, basically, having events to support early-stage entrepreneurs. But earlier this year, they set up DAO, creating basically a VC fund, saying, "Hey, we've got a bunch of volunteers helping early-stage startups in 600 cities around the world. Why don't we ask them to scout for startups, to mentor startups, and help us run a VC in a new way?" I'm starting to see more models like this that actually makes sense to me. It really makes sense that you're finding ways to leverage expertise, insight — in your case, it's data and access to data — that otherwise would be very difficult and cumbersome to do if we had to do this with legal contracts. It doesn't work. So, I think a lot of our audience is really interested in this. Maybe we can walk through a few more of the details. Because I know a lot of people are also trying to figure out how these types of models can be relevant for their business, including a lot of the — we are a consultancy. A lot of the clients we work with are Fortune 500. They're interested in this. But you can imagine there, they see something that looks inspiring. Then in terms of how this might actually work for their business, the details are missing.
Here, is it early-stage users versus late users? Is it that if you come on early, you have then a higher — let's say, being an early investor, the value of your early investment in adopting the solution then gives you a bigger multiple versus maybe later users? Is there a dynamic there? Because the model that you just explained about being able to contribute data, I imagine that the first 100,000 users, there's a very significant value for that. Once you have 100 million users, the incremental user is less important in that context. Then you are going to have to actually start generating real cash flows at that point from commissions on the app to finance operations and so forth. How do you manage the dynamic between the value of having early users, and then later on actually wanting to have cash flows and not give away all the value that you're generating back to the user base and of maintaining a P&L?
Andy: I definitely have to say this. None of this is investment advice at all. Truly, the way that we're operating this today is, you connect your car to DIMO. You're issued what we call test net points. Literally, there is no DIMO token today. The people that join the project today are doing so — I think, for the most part. I haven't talked to all of them. But a very large number of them are doing so because they're genuinely interested in the data coming from their car. This is the best way for them to get it, very user-friendly, consumer-friendly app that allows them to do that. Our long-term vision for this is one in which the token really becomes something that fades into the background for the end user, like your airline reward points do when you're booking an airline ticket. It's a benefit, but it's not something that immediately causes you to come back to the same airline over and over again. Certainly, for early users, the way that we've framed out the plans for the token ecosystem and talked about it in the talks that we have, that were all in public — you can look at them on our website — is one where there's a set amount that will ever be created. Of course, there's a way through a governance process where you can go and issue some more. That's not probably further down the details than we need to go at this point. But we're saying there's going to be a billion, and they're going to get issued at a set rate over a period of time. So, if there's a certain number of users in year one, then those users will likely earn higher percentage of it than users in year 10 when there's 100 million people, or a billion people, or whatever, on the platform.
So, we think that that's a good incentive mechanism. To say, if you're willing to take a risk on this thing that you just heard about, that has only existed for a year or so, great, you should probably have a greater say in how things go in the future than somebody who just shows up in year five because they want cheaper insurance. Ultimately, our focus is on exactly what you brought up, which is turning this ecosystem into something that is very self-sustaining. We think a lot of the ways that — the further I get into it, the higher conviction I am about the potential for commissions to drive this really quickly from the beginning.
Especially, the biggest thing that people spend money on around their car that they don't really think about is depreciation on the car. The average person spends about $10,000 a year, if you own the average car. Mostly, depreciation on that car. Knowing the best time to buy and sell your car, getting the best deal when you go to buy and sell your car, there's thousands of dollars in commissions at stake when you go to transact with a car dealer, or a used car marketplace, or even refinancing your car. We think that there's a really clean way. We've had a lot of super interesting conversations with folks in the existing establishment and also startups that are like, "You guys have solved a huge problem," which is getting people to trust that their data is going to be safe because you're essentially giving it to them, and also giving them the ability to build a better marketplace for something like auto refinancing or car sales. Ultimately, the data that the user is collecting about their own car will help make those transactions a lot more efficient. The reason people don't get paid more for their car when they go to sell it is because the person buying their car doesn't know everything about that car. So, if you can tell them everything about that car and tell them, "Here's a very valid and trusted way that the data has been stored and collected initially," then that's something that's super valuable. We think that there's a very user-aligned way to start to monetize that through the token, and start to give them some of the benefits of that marketplace. That's ultimately what we're building towards.
I think what a lot of other people in the Web3 space are picking up on, whether you're building a decentralized exchange for tokens like Uniswap or something that already exists, but applying that to real world assets. That's where we get into the whole vehicle identity and treating the physical asset of the vehicle more like a digital asset. That's where we start to get really excited about. Some of the potential for the marketplace and the baseline issuance of what you earn for showing up, the tokens or the reward points that you earn for showing up and connecting your car today are just the appetizer to the much more appealing thing long-term, where we feel like it's going to be something that you'd be crazy not to connect your car to in the very near future.
Erik: That's a great use case. First of all, apologies for the background noise. I got construction going next door.
Andy: All good.
Erik: That's a great use case. One issue in that situation is that the person, the used car salesman can't maybe appropriately evaluate the value of the vehicle. Second issue is that you can't appropriately evaluate your vehicle. So, you walk in. Used car salesmen have a reputation, right? So, you walk in. They're not going to say it's a bit of a junker.
Andy: Especially with electric vehicles, where the battery is 60% of the car. We look at that, and there's actually — we added a feature to our app a couple weeks ago. That's called Glovebox, which is like one of those things. I wanted it. I want the title. I want my registration. I want my insurance in the app, so I just had to have all those documents. It also allows you, as the owner of the vehicle, to really understand okay, here's what my car is worth. If you lease your car today — a lot of people don't know this. I`f you lease your car today, it's probably worth more, substantially more than the buyout amount on your lease. The company that leased you that car is not going to want to tell you that, because they just want you to turn it in. They're going to flip it and make $5,000 on the car for doing nothing. Those are the inefficiencies in the market. The used car market in the US is three times bigger than the new car market — trillions of dollars a year.
The most inefficient part of it is not one dealership selling a car to a marketplace. Manheim Auto Auction, which is the biggest auto auction in the US, is the most efficient market in the world. But what the inefficient part of that market is, is a user selling their car to a dealer and saying, "I don't know what this car is worth at all." The dealer looking at it would be like, "I don't really know what it's worth at all, either. But here's a shady price." You take that. Hopefully, you say yes, because you just want to move on with your life.
We think that that's a really, really big use case that we can help people out with, because we're approaching it from a fundamentally different way. We're very data driven. We want to put the power back in the user's hands. We ultimately aren't really — I mean, there is no 'we.' There's just an 'us' in this situation based on the way that we've set up the company and the project. We think that that's what got us really excited about this approach. All the Web3 nonsense and the hype, and people getting all excited about this token or that token is something that we can't just ignore. Because we see this very clear use case, and it's going to take a year or so to really actualize on some of those things. There will be people that are buying and selling their car because of DIMO this year.
Erik: Okay. Cool. I think that's a good way to think about it, as well as the Web3 and so forth. It can provide a convenient infrastructure to conduct certain transactions, but it's not a business model by itself.
Andy: You will still have to do — I mean, 99% of what we spend our time thinking about is how do we get data off of cars, not like this token. There are people on our team who are experts in the token side of things. They're able to cut through the hype and say here's what's real. Most of the people on our team are thinking about cars.
Erik: So, we've talked quite a bit about developers and the development side, and then about consumers and the value for them. Two other important stakeholders here who are actually our primary listeners — those would be corporates and also, to some extent, government. Those, I guess, also have a stake here certainly in the connected vehicle and, I think, also in DIMO. How are you working with whether it's with the OEMs, it could be with the tier one suppliers to OEMs, the seat solutions, entertainment systems, et cetera? Certainly, there's other corporates that are also looking at how they can build technology into vehicles and be part of the transportation mobility, even if they're coming from a healthcare background or another background. Then governments at different levels have a stake, whether it's the transportation department, or a local city, or a town mayor trying to figure out how they can better manage their infrastructure networks. How are you working with these two groups today?
Andy: When we started the company, one of the things — this was 11 months ago. We were like, "We're going to do this. This is what we're going all in on." Our CTO, who is probably also the smartest business person at the company, said, "I've spent enough time working at and with OEMs to know that if we have to ask them to do anything, as a startup, we're going to fail." The first phase of this company cannot involve us going to them and saying, "Hey, can we please do this?" Because their product development cycles are five years. There has to be a path for us to get the data off these cars. That's why we pursued the hardware option and also the integration with their existing connected vehicle platforms. We haven't had to ask. We have had zero meetings with OEMs. We don't want to keep it that way forever. But it's just something that we are trying to move way too fast in order to build what we need to build, that if we had to ask them, it just wouldn't work.
From my time at Transdev, the biggest customer of Transdev was the government. Typically, a city or a transit agency, we would help them operate their system more efficiently. I often would go talk to people at these agencies and help them think through how these new technologies like electric and autonomous vehicles were going to impact the future of what they were focused on, whether it was a streetcar service in Minneapolis or autonomous vehicles in Phoenix. So, I have a pretty deep appreciation for the ins and outs of both of those worlds, whether you're a huge OEM. I think tier ones are probably a little different. We have had certainly had some really productive conversations with tier ones about our approach. I think that that's something that is going to be a bigger part of the DIMO's story in the next couple of years.
Really, our approach is we want to abstract away all of the complexity from these big companies and give them something reasonable to do business with. In a lot of cases, no insurance companies actually have showed up and said we have all these plugged-in devices that we put in people's cars. Our biggest problem is that nobody plugs them in. It seems you guys have figured out a way to make people really want to plug these things in. So, maybe we could just build an app on top of DIMO. We don't have to be in the hardware business anymore. We can just write an app. If people want to opt in to sharing their verified driving data to get a discount on their insurance, it seems like a great deal for both of us. So, that's a use case. I personally drive like a maniac, so I would never opt into that. But I think a lot of people are probably like, okay, that sounds fine.
Electric utilities are also quite interested in what we're building. Because they know that if the number of electric vehicles goes 10x, people say that the grid would fall apart in some places. So, being able to incentivize people to charge at certain times or even potentially control cars and have them charged at certain times is very important. They can't just do that with only Teslas or only Fords. They need all of the cars. So, we're really trying to keep the conversations with big corporates and governments focused on specific use cases. What do you want to do with what we're building? When those things start to feel very tangible, that's when we make the decision. Okay. Let's get a team to go work on this. We can start to invest in helping you build this out. Hopefully, you have a team that's already building something very similar that we can just plug into.
Ultimately, these folks don't really have to understand what a token is or why the vehicle identification is an ERC-721 NFT. They don't have to understand any of that. We can just present very simple, unified business terms and API endpoints, and say we have people that are willing to build these integrations with you. It seems like you have a great use case for the data coming from cars or data going back to cars. So, we can help out with that. Our approach is not build it, and they will come. But we know we have a lot more to build before we have that value proposition available to them. That shouldn't stop any of your listeners who are interested in what we're doing from reaching out. Because we really do genuinely love hearing about customer problems. We don't think of the user as just being an individual car owner. We think a lot about fleets, for sure. We think a lot about the other side, which is folks who are ultimately trying to pay money to have something happen in cars. That's how we're thinking about the developer platform.
Erik: Great. Just to understand a little bit more about the dynamics there. If an insurance company or somebody comes to you that has a problem, but they might not have the development team to execute it, then do you do work with them directly? Do you have a platform? You'd say, well, here's three developers that know how to use our platform. Then you'd talk to them. One of them might be the right fit. How do you orchestrate that today?
Andy: Today, we have about — it's going up somewhat rapidly. There's probably five or so private companies building in the DIMO ecosystem. So, they're either creating hardware products, or there are other software companies that are interested in we want to do deep analysis on electric vehicle battery data. We want to create risk scores for insurance companies. I think there's going to be some companies that develop around the ecosystem that are interacting with it at a very close level. They can go out and talk to the progressive, or GEICO, or whoever, and say, we have this insurance product that you can white label and integrate into your insurance app, and underwrite people's risk based on their DIMO data, and give them an insurance quote.
For the very obvious use cases, we're going to invest in that proactively as a team and help that happen faster, which is if you look at the list of things that people would spend money on with their car, we're starting at the top and going down. Because that's what's going to help our users the most. Plugging into car marketplaces and helping people get a good valuation for their car is something that we think needs to be in the core product. But then building the connection into a dealership network, or an auto auction, or some other like Carvana or Vroom or whatever, that, ultimately, I think there'll be a business case there for a company that just comes out of nowhere and says like, "This is something that we want to create because we think there's a market opportunity here." We're trying to encourage that as much as possible. In some cases, we're investing in those specific use cases where we see them materializing really fast.
Erik: Got it. I think we're going to have to have a conversation in 12 months. You started this about eight months ago. I think you raised a seed round, a fairly healthy seed round in February or so. It sounds like you have a lot of traction. You're moving very fast. But obviously, this is a very ambitious project.
Andy: It is, yeah. We've got a hell of a team doing it and people that are not — there's a good mix of folks that are young and really idealistic and early on in their career. There are people like me, who have been 10 years into this and seeing the play a little bit. There's a really awesome team building this project. We're fortunate to have convinced a number of people early on that this is worth investing in, resourcing in such a way that it can be built in the right way. We've gone from four people — mostly, just like me sitting in my garage — to now 20 people spread out across the country, in US, Europe, Canada, South America. We're going to be at this for a while. So, yeah, we could do it annually, if you want.
Erik: Yeah, I would love to. The logic makes sense. This is a space where infrastructure is evolving, and things are possible that were not possible five years ago. Also, the needs are evolving in terms of moving from personal ownership towards fleets and so forth. It seems like timing is right. Technology is available. Nonetheless, very ambitious. I really look forward to seeing where you are in a year. Andy, I don't know if we covered everything we could have covered here, because it is a bit of a complex model. But is there anything that we missed that you think is really critical for folks to understand at this point?
Andy: Yeah, there's been this whole debate about Web3 use cases that I've watched play out. One of our early supporters, Packy McCormick, waded into this and got called out as, "You're giving some crappy example for Web3." We try to stay out of that, because we think we're ultimately building the thing that the next wave of all of this excitement and hype is going to be based on it. We're trying to make it as real as possible. I think one thing that we haven't done a great job of — because we're nerds. We are nerds on our side over here. There's a lot of people that are very in the weeds on technical details. We get excited about the complexity. But one of the things that we've really learned is in order for this to make sense to the average person, we got to simplify it down a lot. I hope that 12 months from now, when I'm talking to you, we have like, "Hey, you sign up for this thing. It will save you $200 a month on average on your car." The average person will be like, "Hell, yeah, I'm down for that. Sign me up. How do I do it? Get me one of these hardware devices." Hopefully, we can make the cost of the hardware device go way down.
Our goal, as much as possible, is to simplify, simplify, simplify. That is against the backdrop of all of this technology that we're building and increasing number of vehicles connecting and applications. There's a lot that we've invested in. We have an incredible director of design on our team who has already, in a couple of months, created this whole design system for how developers can create apps that feel like they're part of the native DIMO experience. We're investing a lot more than I think a lot of other crypto or Web3 projects have in design and accessibility for users. I think that's because we're really focused on not the techie, very niche experience, but we're trying to build for the masses and create something that can be very durable and long-term. I think that's something that maybe the next time we talk will be be much more of a theme. It's like here's this actual use case that people are executing on every day in very large numbers to make their life better. That's what this is all about.
Erik: Perfect. Well, let's put a date in the calendar for 12 months. Then, also, keep me posted if something interesting comes up in the coming months. We'd be happy to have you back on and featured. I think this is a super interesting topic. For folks that are interested in learning more or getting in touch with you and the team, what's the best way for them to reach out right now?
Andy: We still have our original domain, which is dimo.zone. You can find us on Twitter @dimo_network. Then we have a very active Discord community, which you can find through either of those places where people are doing all kinds of stuff every day. I mean, it's really not like I work for the company that originated the DIMO idea. But like I said, there's dozens of people that wake up every day that don't work for this company, that are thinking about DIMO. That's pretty awesome. We have thousands of cars connected. It's pretty easy to do that if you have one that's compatible. So yeah, the simplest way to figure out more about what we're doing is just to dive in.
Erik: Great. We'll put those in the show notes. Andy, thank you.
Andy: Erik, thanks for taking the time.