Foto van LinkedCar

In early 2020, LinkedCar launched its digital car passport. Bad timing? On the contrary. Despite the COVID pandemic and an industry on the wane, the Flanders-based software company was met with instant international success. Consequently, customers around the world are reaping the benefits of its centralized data platform and accompanying app. 

Cars generate a lot of data, but this information is scattered among various parties and usually remains invisible to the drivers themselves. LinkedCar collects all the data on a single platform and shares it securely and transparently with car dealers, insurers, breakdown services, leasing companies and more. 

In essence

  • Hasselt-based LinkedCar developed a digital car passport that centralizes all data on a car's maintenance, insurance, inspections and more – for free. 

  • The solution consists of a mobile app, data platform and hardware component. To develop the latter, the company collaborated with the Sustainable Mobility expertise center of Antwerp’s Karel de Grote university college. 

  • Flanders Investment & Trade (FIT) assists the startup in building market knowledge, determining focus markets and prospecting at international events. 

LinkedIn for cars

Like many professionals, LinkedCar founder Mario Schraepen used to drive a leased car. “When leasing a car, you have a contract, but you know very little about your car besides that,” says Mario. “For example, what are the exact modalities of the insurance? When do the tires need replacing? Was the car damaged by a previous owner?” 

Drivers are often left in the dark. Mario wanted to do something about that, and he did so by developing a digital car passport application. Mario: “We group all of a vehicle's data on our central platform. Using the free app, drivers can access the data and share it securely with a network of car manufacturers, dealers, insurance and leasing companies, road assistance and towing service providers, etc.” 

It works a bit in the same way as a LinkedIn profile containing and safely sharing a person’s data within a professional network. “That’s right,” Mario confirms.  “For example, you can share your mileage with an insurer to get a better deal. But we also have another goal in mind with LinkedCar. Relations between carmakers, dealers and end users are traditionally rather strained. With our innovative and constructive data ecosystem, we want to restore trust between all parties involved.” 

When the winds of change blow

Through the accelerator program Start it @KBC, LinkedCar got off to a flying start. However, the momentum ended abruptly. Barely two months after the company was founded, the world went in lockdown due to the COVID pandemic. Mario: “The car industry was hit hard by the pandemic. Nobody was buying cars anymore and lease contracts were not being renewed. Everything fell silent – and for us as well.” 

But as befits an agile, ambitious start-up from Flanders, LinkedCar bounced back. Mario: "When the winds of change blow, some people build walls and others build windmills, as the saying goes. To embrace the latter approach, we shifted our focus to the e-bike market, which was flourishing at the time. In this market, we were able to make a lot of data transparent as well.” The decision turned out to be strategic hit, as bike leasers eagerly joined in on the LinkedCar frenzy. 

Digital breakthrough

The automotive industry may have been at a standstill, but LinkedCar did not lose sight of its focus market. “In the automotive industry, the digital transformation is only just beginning. Many large car dealers are still in their infancy in terms of rolling out digital solutions. They often don’t really know who their customers are, how many quotes they make and whether they generate conversions. Even leading organizations lack that basic knowledge,” Mario points out. 

“So, it was written in the stars that our Connected Mobility Platform, which we built on top of the world-renowned CRM system Salesforce, would catch on. By connecting our centralized platform to other IT systems, we also optimize the sales, after-sales and marketing processes.” 

Unexpected arrival in the US

Through targeted phone calls, referrals and local contacts, LinkedCar built its customer base as a small, innovative player in a large, unwieldy industry. Participating in trade shows is one of the company’s preferred prospecting methods. Mario: “In 2021, we went to the Slush start-up festival in Helsinki, where we joined the group booth of Flanders Investment & Trade (FIT). This is particularly useful: it not only helps companies find customers, but also potential partners and resellers.” 

Thus, the start-up quickly achieved success at home and in the Netherlands, and soon crossed the Atlantic to the US. “We kind of ended up there by accident,” says Mario. “After a virtual pitch competition to raise funding, an American leasing company contacted us. We didn’t secure any funding through this event, but it did get us our very first customer in the US.” 

To explore its solution’s potential in other countries, LinkedCar is doing its own research and relies on FIT's market knowledge. Mario: “We regularly get in touch with our International Business Advisor at FIT. He answers all our questions, ranging from information on incomes in specific countries to insights into the number of private and leased cars in certain markets, for instance.” 

Together with FIT, we are setting our sights on Scandinavia now. From our joint market research efforts, that appears to be the perfect match.
Mario Schraepe
founder of LinkedCar

When it all just fits 

LinkedCar spotted a gap in the global market, there’s no doubt about that. This is not only highlighted by the company’s rapid growth, but also by the many prestigious – international – awards it has already won.  

“This high-tech player from Flanders has already emerged victorious over the tech industry’s greats several times,” says Erik Dieussaert, International Business Advisor at Flanders Investment & Trade (FIT). “LinkedCar clearly knows how to take the automotive sector by storm all while encouraging it to shift up a gear. Needless to say, we at FIT are very passionate about helping them to put not just their unique data platform but also Flanders’ tech expertise on the global map.” 

Always one step ahead

One thing is beyond doubt: LinkedCar wants to conquer the world from Flanders and turn the automotive industry on its head. “By putting end users in the driver’s seat when it comes to their cars’ data, we seek to rearrange the whole ecosystem around those cars. As such, we are confident that we can revolutionize the automotive industry – far beyond Flanders’ borders,” says Mario.  

The connected mobility solution is currently unique in the market – but the idea of potential copycats lurking around the corner seems to motivate rather than unnerve Mario: “It's virtually impossible to keep another party from establishing a similar platform at some point. In this regard, I don’t believe that intellectual property rights can be fully effective. What I do believe in is speed. If you always stay one step ahead of the competition, then customers will automatically turn to you.”

Inspiration galore

It’s clear: international business has the power to connect beyond borders – bringing a range of advantages as well as innovative and business opportunities to both sides of the table.