Heard of mechanics who make housecalls? It's just 1 business thriving in Toronto's startup boom
Startups taking advantage of the 'on demand economy' in Toronto
Changing car tires to gear up for the winter is a well-worn chore every year for many Canadians.
Trying to track down an auto mechanic for the service on a cold, snowy day can be a tough task — but that scenario is what kick started Arif Bhanji's burgeoning business.
"I caught myself in a situation where there was a three-week backlog to get my tires changed and I couldn't drive on the road without them," Bhanji explained.
The Markham native decided to skip a visit to the garage and instead hired a mechanic off Kijiji to have his car tires changed on his home driveway. Neighbours noticed and within a week, the independent mechanic was hired for more than 100 service calls.
Bhanji and his business partners, Zain Manji and Khalil Mangalji, knew then that there was a market for mechanics who make house calls.
They created Fiix, a startup business that sends a mechanic to a customer's door within hours of a booking.
The services are requested through the company's site or phone; the customer details what needs to be done and the mechanic fixes the car on the customer's driveway, all without having to leave a car in a garage for hours on end.
It provides this trust and transparency that a shop can't because everything's done in front of you.- Arif Bhanji , co-founder of Fiix
Bhanji also frames the startup as being "win-win" for consumers and mechanics.
Without the overhead costs of maintaining a garage, experienced mechanics can earn three times what they would make at a dealership and the services cost customers 30 per cent less than getting it repaired in a shop.
Fiix is operating throughout the GTA, with Bhanji and his partners setting their sights on growing the business in the U.S. Their business has been brisk in the 10 months since its inception, racking up $1.4 million in sales.
It has also caught the eye of Y Combinator, one of Silicon Valley's top start-up incubators with a steady track record of investing in companies such as AirBnb, Reddit and Twitch.
Working with Y Combinator gives the founders the opportunity to pitch to investors with millions of dollars on the line.
Silicon Valley North?
The mobile mechanic site is but one startup that is adding to Toronto's growing reputation as an entrepreneurial hotbed.
According to Tech Toronto, an online community for business owners and startups, the city is home to more than 2,500 startup companies, all competing for attention and consumer dollars.
More venture capitalists may be drawn to the city after the Global Startup Ecosystem Report 2017 ranked Toronto as the 16th best startup ecosystem in the world.
The infrastructure to build businesses begins at post-secondary institutions. For example, Ryerson University is home to the Digital Media Zone (DMZ), an incubator for early-stage tech startups.
"Access to capital now has been increasing. There's been a huge trend from government is supporting startups and there's been a huge shift in mindset from the corporate world as well, in looking at this space much more seriously," said Abdullah Snobar, executive director of the DMZ.
A number of successful startups have also taken advantage of the so-called "on demand economy".
Online startups like UberEats and TaskRabbit sell convenience and ease of use to customers: everything from food delivery to getting your dry cleaning picked up.
Snobar added that with time at a premium and ease of technology on the rise, hungry entrepreneurs are re-shaping the rules of business.
Snobar says consumersare much smarter today than they were before. "You understand what you should be getting and what's comparable [in other countries]...there's no reason for us to be content," he said.
Bhanji believes he and his partners have created a formula that will set the tone for the auto mechanic business.
"We can tap into all the mechanics across North America, all the parts suppliers that already exist and connect those two parties with the customer," Bhanji explained.
"Within the next five years, nobody will go a shop; you'll just have a mechanic come to your house."