NOTE: This story here is my personal perspective, it does not represent the views of my employer.
5 years ago, I joined Thejo on his (then) next adventure, Automatic which launched 4 years ago, that story is here. The premise sounded interesting – what can you do when you tap into the data generated from your car. The vision was “owning a car can be safer, cheaper, and smarter”.
Two years ago, we had a real API and events platform and mobile apps that our customers are happy with. Customers especially use it with IFTTT integration and do things like log their business trips to a spreadsheet for expense reporting, for generating SMS messages to friends or family, to switch on/off their thermostat at home, and so on.
Last year, we launched our 3G version of the device. I personally built our core ingest servers that takes in all the real-time data being uploaded from our connected devices plugged into cars, massages that data and sends it down to all the internal microservices, and we’re talking lots of different types of data and interaction models. That core ingest server is now the foundation of all our products. It was a fun and challenging project.
Automatic then bounced back with partnerships such as with American Family insurance to take usage-based insurance forward.
Today, the exciting news is that Sirius XM has acquired Automatic for over $100M to take the product forward in a far bigger way than was possible for a startup! And already our customers love it.
What makes Sirius XM interesting?
- Sirius XM is a public company (the stock ticker symbol is $SIRI).
- Did you know that 3 out of 4 new cars sold in the USA have Sirius XM satellite radio installed? So, while yes, Sirius XM is a “content and music” company, it is equal parts a “car chip and entertainment system” and “satellite technology” company.
- They have scale: 30+ million paying customers
- They have a consistently well-performing business – growing between 9-13% in each of the past five years and $1.5 billion in free cash flow last year.
- Warren Buffett has placed his faith in Sirius XM’s growth by buying 3.5% of Sirius XM shares a few months ago.
- A talented founder – Martine Rothblatt
- How can a single person have their career span from law to entrepreneurship to satellite radios to mathematically proving electric-powered helicopters to producing movies to learning biochemistry to create a biotech firm to cure his child’s illness to a Ph.D in medical ethics to creating lungs from pig genes to cybernetic companions!
- Check out her Wikipedia profile and her TED talk (via this tweetstorm)
It has been a privilege to work in the trenches with Thejo (the visionary, the deal maker), Dr. Jerry (putting the science in data), Ljuba (how to do UX right), Ram J (the original 10x engineer), and several other brilliant folks.
I’m glad the Automatic story continues and strongly. To the future, the connected car!
An overview of these companies: http://www.ftpartners.com/views/media/transactions/FTPartnersProfile-AutomaticLabs.pdf
Correction: Automatic was founded in 2011.
Update May 1, 2020 : Automatic Labs shuts down its vehicle-tracking service, citing the COVID-19 pandemic