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Auto parts: How the unknown company Autodoc hit one billion

Founded in 2008, Max Wegner, Vitalij Kungel and Alexej Erdle are among the first founders of the web in Germany. Without VC, they’ve achieved billions in sales with Autodoc.

Up to a billion and then beyond: Autodoc founder Alexej Erdle and CEO Christian Gisy
Autodoc

A small office in Berlin-Weißensee, the year is 2008, the financial crisis is dominating the headlines. In the startup scene it is often said that there are opportunities in crises. Max Wegner, Vitalij Kungel and Alexej Erdle tried their luck and launched into the online business – the trio sold auto parts online.

How did it happen? It all started when its co-founder got angry about the high prices for small repairs on his car, Alexej Erdle tells in an interview with Gründerszene. As a result, Vitalij Kungel had to pay 60 euros to replace a burned-out light bulb. Since it seemed too expensive to him, he went in search of cheaper offers. “In doing so, he discovered that the light bulb cost only five euros to buy,” Erdle recalls. Big market and big margins? The business idea remained.

The three deceased resettlements were born in Russia and came to Berlin as teenagers. They left school with a secondary school diploma: Erdle, for example, trained as a car mechanic, Kungel as a clerk. He had wanted to start his own business, Erdle says, and when he learned about the business idea of ​​the other two of him from his brother, he was immediately involved. The history of the foundation is as follows: the three founders put their first products online on the pkwteile.de website – and the business begins. After a few weeks there are the first 50,000 euros of sale. The first sale? A light bulb, Erdle recalls. The company was profitable after a few weeks.

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The second website follows, autoteiledirekt.de, then autoersatzteile.de – with the identifier .at finally also in Austria and with .ch in Switzerland, without reprogramming anything. The different page designs are meant to do justice to the buying behavior of different customer groups, but the business behind it is still the same. The concept works, in 2010 the turnover reached one million. This encouraged Wegner, Kungel and Erdle to leave the German-speaking area and internationalize within Europe – in France, Spain, Italy.

To date, the Autodoc company is owned by the three founders

Today the platform is called Autodoc, employs around 5,000 people – soon there will be 200 more – and is building a new 14,000 square meter office at the well-known Club Tacheles near Friedrichstrasse. To date, the company is 100% owned by the three founders. “We thought about whether we should take VC’s money. However, we never needed them to finance growth, “says Erdle. Of course there were challenges as well.” But it was more about meeting customer expectations, “says the co-founder.

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Wegner, Kungel and Erdle left operations last year and entrusted the task of continuing to grow Autodoc to former Cinemaxx boss and Scout24 board member Christian Gisy. He brings a lot of experience into the platform business. What he wants to promote in particular is the private label business. This promises higher margins, the share of total sales was around 16 percent last year.

Business is booming, with sales exceeding one billion last year. Goods of this value have gone to customers via Autodoc platforms, while the company is “asset light” and owns the vehicle’s spare parts for only a theoretical second. The offer is aimed at individuals, “car mechanics”, smaller workshops – but also at one of the large sharing suppliers. “We are established as a B2C brand, but we will also be launching a B2B platform in the next year,” says Gisy. Autodoc makes about half of its sales through its app. “We can keep the best customers with them and the shopping carts are bigger,” says the new CEO. According to the company, the operating result – net of adjusted EBITDA – was 123.9 million euros.

“In crises, people tend to repair rather than buy new ones”

How is the current situation with a lot of uncertainty and high inflation affecting Autodoc’s business? Since Gisy remains relaxed. “During crises, people tend to repair rather than buy new ones,” she says. He sees a challenge in the “Law to strengthen consumer protection in competition and commercial law”, which entered into force at the end of May, and which implements stricter rules, especially for the activity of intermediaries, such as prices, which were important for Autodoc right from the start the tool was. For example, sellers must always provide consumers with the lowest total price reported in the past 30 days for each price reduction.

Autodoc founders Max Wegner, Vitalij Kungel and Alexej Erdle see their company in good hands after their exit with the new board – plus CEO Gisy, Bert Althaus as CFO and CTO Dmitry Zadorojnii – said Erdle in an interview with Gründerszene. Do they also want to sell shares or do they want to quote Autodoc soon to take some money with them? “I don’t want to say anything about it.” For guidance: the used car portal posted sales of 4.8 billion euros last year and achieved a valuation of 12 billion euros at the IPO in February 2021 – albeit extremely optimistically – which corresponds to a factor of two. and a half. Transferred to Autodoc, the founders could expect a handsome sum.

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