Leap of Faith: Toronto start-up AutoLeap receives $8 million in funding

Toronto, Ontario — The round was led by Threshold Ventures, with participation from Maple VC, Global Founders Capital, Codename Ventures, and former NFL and San Francisco 49ers legend Joe Montana, through his venture capital firm Liquid2 Ventures.

“Replacing software is a root canal and a half for a small business owner,” said Autoleap co-founder, Rameez Ansari.

It also included angel investors from the automotive industry, such as former General Motors CEO Rick Wagoner, Shift Technologies co-CEO George Arison, and former Bridgestone executive Ned Aguilar. The venture debt was provided by Silicon Valley Bank.

AutoLeap was founded in 2019, and its software helps local automotive repair shops organize operations, schedule jobs, conduct digital inspections, manage technicians, and invoice customers. Co-founders Steve Lau and Rameez Ansari met while studying at the University of Toronto Scarborough, where they formed a search fund called Highland Creek, named after the 38 Highland Creek bus, that connects Scarborough Centre to the University.

In 2020, AutoLeap has been building a team of 25 employees across Canada and Pakistan, and throughout the global pandemic, many of its employees have yet to meet in person. While Lau and Ansari anticipated the start-up’s productivity might decrease due to COVID-19—they found the exact opposite to have occurred and assisted in the AutoLeaps product review process.

The pair recently worked together as co-CEOs of FieldEdge, a company that provides SaaS field service management software to home service contractors. FieldEdge was acquired by Advent International in 2018, along with payment solutions provider Clearent with FieldEdge subsequently merged into Clearent.

“We certainly had a little bit of that at FieldEdge. We were in a hot market, we had a great distribution team and a sales motion, but we were always playing catchup from a product perspective,” said Ansari. “This time, we’re approaching it a little bit differently, still lean start-up methodology, still early with the product, still rapidly iterative, but we make sure that when a release comes out, it’s much more baked.”

Before FieldEdge, Lau was a partner at Whitecap Venture partners while Ansari was an operator for his fathers business, Synergy Corporation in Pakistan, and built diesel power generators, which highlighted not only how the small business market is underserved from a technology perspective, but also how challenging it can be for a small business to implement new tech into its operations.

“A small business owner that’s implementing software at their shop, they have to pay bills, they have seven people whose payroll they have to meet, if they don’t service the cars, make money on those transactions, delight their customers, and make the right margin, then the software is beside the point. We have to be enablers to make this as painless, and as value-oriented, as possible.”

AutoLeap is still in the process of developing the product and has yet to go to market. The start-up conducts quality assurance reviews every day during a two-week product release process, as it wants its product to be as simple to use as Amazon and Instagram but in the automotive space.

According to Ansari, the new funding will be used to continue developing AutoLeap’s product and the foundation of the business, including sales and marketing.

“We want to have a great product,” said Ansari. “And once we get customers on it, we actually want to lean in a little bit on that implementation and success motion, so that people are raving about the thing once they get on it.”

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