TLabs Showcase - AutoSlashNewsBy Kevin May | June 30, 2010Share This article was originally published on TLabs Showcase focus on startups featuring US-based AutoSlash.Who and what are you (including personnel and backgrounds)?AutoSlash is a new website designed to help people save money on car rentals. Through our innovative approach to helping consumers find the best coupons and discounts, as well as our unique ability to track the price of a rental over time, we can ensure that users get a great price on their car rentals.AutoSlash was founded by Jonathan Weinberg and Michael Miller, both of whom had previously worked with Airfarewatchdog.com, one of the best sites on the internet for getting great airfare deals.Mike and Jonathan felt that there was an opportunity to help consumers get great deals on car rentals in a similar manner to what Airfarewatchdog.com has done in the airfare space.What financial support did you have to launch the business?We are 100% self-financed.What problem are you trying to solve?Most savvy consumers know that they can save money on their car rental by applying coupons and discount codes, but the process is very time consuming. Many people spend up to an hour searching different websites looking for discount codes to lower their rates, and then plugging in those codes into various websites trying to get a good deal. Even after all this work, few people actually get the best deal possible.AutoSlash was designed to take the guesswork out of the process. When a consumer books with us, our systems will analyze the rental and automatically figure out the best discount codes to apply. No more spending time surfing, and no more tedious plugging of codes into site after site.Furthermore, rental prices can and do change on a regular basis—especially as the pickup date approaches. If prices drop, there is an opportunity to rebook your rental at the lower rate (no credit card is required, so no change/cancel fees).Someone who re-checked the price of their rental daily could take advantages of these price drops, but again, this is a laborious process. AutoSlash does this automatically for the consumer, notifying them when there are savings opportunities.Describe the business, core products and services?The core service is helping people get a great deal on their car rental. This is first done by finding the best discount and/or coupon code to apply to a given rental.The second component is to track the price over time, and identify opportunities to save even further if prices drop.We are developing content to help consumers answer common questions about car rentals like what types of insurance they need, and who covers what. We are also developing some unique tools to help our users more easily find the best rentals.Who are your key customers and users at launch?Our key customers are price conscious consumers and small business travellers who need to rent a car. This is a very large addressable market.Did you have customers validate your idea before investors?We had a group of beta testers try us out for their own upcoming reservations. Even though we hadn’t finished all the other features we had planned for the initial release, based on the fact that our testers were so happy with the service, we decided to open the site to everyone so they could take advantage of lower prices,What is the business AND revenue model, strategy for profitability?The revenue model is based on a commission per booking as well as advertising.SWOT analysis – strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats?Strengths: Team Experience – The founders of the firm have deep knowledge of the online travel industry and what it takes to succeed in this environment.Technical Expertise – The founders also have very strong technical backgrounds. We went from concept to launched site in only 5 months. We are moving rapidly to build the site into a tool that will eclipse anything that currently exists in the space. Weaknesses: To a certain degree, being an outsider to the rental industry is both a weakness and an advantage. On the one hand, we don’t have preconceived notions about the way things can or should be done, so we can think outside the box. On the other hand, as an industry outsider, there is some wariness by the current players about our model. We feel though that there is a great opportunity to partner with the rental car companies and others in this space to expand the overall rental market, and we look forward to forging partnerships toward this end. Opportunities: We feel that there is the opportunity to be a leader in the online car rental space. This will come from not only offering the best prices, but also providing the best content and tools around car rentals as well. Threats: There is always the possibility that one of the existing entrenched players will launch a similar service, but we have the first mover advantage in this space. We will continue to develop the best content and tools for our users to make the site as useful and compelling as possible.Who advised you your idea isn't going to be successful and why didn't you listen to them?We actually had a lot of encouragement for our idea from most everyone we spoke with. I think the idea immediately resonates with people once they understand it.Some people thought that being able to price rentals across multiple providers taking discount into account would be overly complex, but we’ve been able to make it work.What is your success metric 12 months from now?Our success metric is simply to be the site that people think of first when renting a car or looking for information on car rentals. We believe that if we do right by the consumer, then success will follow.TLabs Showcase is part of the wider TLabs project from Tnooz.