Interview with Tyson Young, Co-founder of Carisma

A surprisingly wholesome road to entrepreneurship, Tyson Young, along with co-founders Lloyd Young and Johan Venter, set out to solve the problems Tyson’s father faced with his own company, many of which centred on trying to provide a more transparent auto service. After speaking with a series of workshop and vehicle owners, Tyson realised the problem was not just an internal one, but fraught throughout the trade. As a result, ‘Carisma’ was born, an app set to revolutionise the auto industry by improving customer service and transforming the trade’s once unfavourable reputation.

Tell me how Carisma started?

Dad was in the Navy for 20 years and aircrew for a lot of that. A big part of his life in that role was trust and integrity and that’s stayed with him throughout his life. After the Navy, he spent time in similar government focused roles, and I believe what was fundamental for him was always finding ways to look after people.

When mum and dad wanted to get involved with a private enterprise they were looking at two different businesses and it was Ultra Tune that happened to be the one they picked. I don’t think they realised at the time how bad the perception of the industry was, as the most common opinion was that mechanics were out to rip you off. It’s still the perception amongst many of the motorists we’ve had conversations with.

Dad worked hard to change that perception and still does to this day. Carisma allows him and his team to show the customer what was wrong and how they’ll fix it. Similarly, it also allows them to demonstrate when something doesn’t actually require repair. Photos are clear and identifiable so that customers can see it’s actually their car. This accountability makes a massive difference towards trust through that transparency and ultimately helps bolster strong customer relationships.

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Whilst the old way was great in the store, there was no easy way to pass those images along to customers. There was also a lot of issues with archiving and managing the hard drives and camera storage cards – all challenges we’re able to solve with Carisma (i.e software and apps). So that’s essentially how Carisma came about. It initially started as a way to help mum and dad, before we realised it’s actually an industry-wide problem, globally, that’s worth solving. So, we interviewed a lot of workshops and we started to build something from those encounters.  Once we’d clearly validated our idea we had a prototype built in three weeks. It was rough but we trialed it for a while, ironed out the bugs and, eventually, got our first customer.

What has the response to Carisma been like?

The response from the consumers and media has been overwhelmingly positive. When we’ve spoken to vehicle owners about our idea, everyone is like ‘of course, it makes complete sense, we need this, I want this at my mechanic!!’, so we were really encouraged by that.

When we approached mechanics about the idea it was more popular than we expected it to be as we weren’t sure mechanics would want to use it. At the end of the day, it’s amazing how professional and skilled so many of them are. So this is an opportunity for them to show off their work which for the most part goes under appreciated.

The four big benefits for workshops is higher customer satisfaction, greater retention, more referrals and an ability for workshop managers to sell with confidence.

Like many new ventures, customer acquisition can be quite challenging. Particularly for us in the sense that it’s a difficult industry that doesn’t necessarily have the same distribution channels many startups are typically used to reaching their customers through.  

That being said, we’re finding more and more engagement on platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook groups which shows a shift in the industry towards digital.

What problems have you faced along the way?

Funding is always a big one for startups and general runway. I truly believe our biggest hurdle right now is the fact that it’s the three of us… so much opportunity and so little time in a day. Along the way we’ve been met with a lot of optimism in the industry and so many people who are doing what they can to jump in and provide relevant assistance.

How has the Collider Program helped you?

It’s been phenomenal. I literally just got off the phone with a potential investor and as cliché as it sounds, you really do get out what you put in. If you have bad advisors then you have to work even harder to get something out of it. We had world class talent here who were truly passionate about helping us and we got so much from them.  Many of them are still following up with us after the program. We are certainly a lot further along because of the Collider program.

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How do you keep up the momentum when it comes to creating your own app?

Speaking to customers. The fact that we have paying customers is a big bonus. It would be too easy to finish a program, watch it turn into a ghost town and then just kind of relax. The day after demo night when it’s only natural to party on and convince yourself you deserve some r&r, we were already back down at the coast at nine in the morning for our next meeting.

For keeping momentum on the app I’ve found it’s great to keep a support channel open with customers and talk to them directly. It’s too easy for people building products to fall into the habit of wanting to silo themselves away from the world and build something because they’re too afraid to show it off. Doing a program like this helps to change that mindset a lot. Stores have been fantastic with providing feedback.

Advice to aspiring entrepreneurs?

It depends because the term ‘entrepreneur’ is so broad. If I had to generalise the advice I think it’s a case of getting out there and doing it. Seriously, get out there, figure out what it is you’re trying to achieve and have a purpose. If you’ve got a vision and have a purpose than a lot of the tactical side of things won’t matter as much when you’re in the trenches. If you know you’re trying to solve a problem worth solving, that matters to you, you will find people along the way that want to wave that flag with you.

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