Nice Guys and Robots with Slawek Potasz

September 16, 2022
How do you respond to a bad customer experience? Some of us would write a review, or vent about it to our friends and family. But not Slawek Potasz. He’d design a robot to fix the problem. And that’s exactly what he did when he created CarScanner, a photographic robot that replaces a photo booth. From Poland to Canada to Syracuse, NY, Slawek shares his outside perspective on America and the automotive industry.
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What we talk about in this episode:
Intro with Michael Cirillo, Paul J Daly and Kyle Mountsier.

4:50 Somewhat ironically, CarScanner and Slawek have a presence in Syracuse, NY, where ASOTU is headquartered. Syracuse hosts a Genius Accelerator for robotic tech companies, and CarScanner is a part of that accelerator.

6:40 The idea for CarScanner started because of a poor car rental experience in Tel Aviv where Slawek was accused of damages to his rental. And so he said, “Shouldn’t there be a better way to do car inspections than with a pen and paper?”

9:12 Slawek is from Poland and he compares the automotive industry between America and his home country.

19:53 CarScanner is a robot that’s deployable in 5 minutes that will do a 360 capture of any vehicle in two and a half minutes, with background removal. It removes the need for a dealership to have a photo booth or a trained employee.

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Michael Cirillo: 0:00It's honestly like that one Green Day albumUnknown: 0:08

this is Auto Collabs

Michael Cirillo: 0:10

you know where every song was like Dane, Dane, Dane, Dane, the the nene, Nene Nene. And then the next soundtrack to was like, Dane, Dane, Dane. They didn't you're like, come on Billy. I

Paul Daly: 0:22

never layered in the Nickelback album, right right over it. And it was actually the same song. Green Day Nickelback layering sang song a kid. As a kid, it was nice to listen to a Green Day album and know that I could likely play every song. Right? That is 1 4 5 1. I don't even know I didn't know any of that. All I know is like you put your hands in this position and you move it up and down the fretboard at the right places. And then you have yourself a punk song. So I mean, I don't know a Slawek today's guests like punk music we should have asked him about he's a little bit younger than I am. But there is something that he's first of all, he is like one of the nicest people you will ever meet. If you're going to be at ASOTU CON or if you have the opportunity to meet him in person. Please do the nicest people you ever meet. But there is something super punk rock about the way he executes. Like he pivots and execute. So there's something like incredibly punk rock about him even though his persona doesn't like, I don't know, he probably listens to screamo, nonstop. But yeah, like I think I think I had lunch with Slawek he came to Nashville. And I think he smiled for the entire 45 minutes, even while he was talking like it was just like, yes, so nice and welcoming. How could you say the punk rock, the punk rock part of that is he was on a on a trip because he had to carry the thing that they that they use, which is this little mini robot that they can set up in five minutes, right? They can't transport it because of the type of battery that it uses. So he can't like just ship it from place to place because of the cost. So this guy is on like a a 14 state travel trip row with the robot in his trunk. Right? Like, just like, that's punk rock. Like you gotta you gotta lay down some tunes to be able to be able to do that level of travel to be able to meet dealers. So he's the most friendly and most punk rock all at the same time. And I bet you he does listen to screamo music. Oh, man,

Michael Cirillo: 2:24

I'm excited to meet this guy. And I'd be very thrilled if the picture that you've just painted for me at ASOTU CON. He's like wearing a top hat a monocle and is like he could pull that off a tee. He's just like, he could pull just like the total opposite of every,

Paul Daly: 2:39

like sophisticated. He has now I mean, literally, I'm telling you, I'm telling you like underneath the smile like straight savage. straights. I love it. I'm gonna say we hope that you enjoy this episode and this interview with Slawek Potasz. Of CarScanner. Oh, Slawek, thank you so much for joining us today and the Auto Collabs podcast. You know, we've had a lot of a little bit of time to get to know each other over the last several months. And I'm excited to for this audience to hear your story and a little bit about your product and who knows what else we'll talk about. So thanks for being here.

Slawek Potasz: 3:20

Thank you so much for invitation. It means a lot to me and yeah, awesome. Nice to be here with you guys.

Paul Daly: 3:26

Okay, so I live in Syracuse, New York. And we met I think we met in Las Vegas. Was that where we met for the first time at Digital Dealer? Yeah. And wait a second. Okay, well, everybody else will know why I'm laughing here in a second. Right.

Slawek Potasz: 3:44

And so yes, I mean, what Whoa,

Paul Daly: 3:46

so we've had a digital dealer and you told me, you know, everyone can tell from your accent, you're not from around here. And, and you're like, Well, I'm actually moving to Syracuse and Syracuse isn't the essentially the place that everyone congregates when they come to the United States. And so can you tell a little bit of story of like, why you came to Syracuse and that's probably a great way to kind of back into your your kind of history and your product.

Slawek Potasz: 4:10

Yeah, sure. Sure. So yeah, I mean, no, of you know, getting to know someone from Syracuse out of Syracuse is weird, because Syracuse is like, you know, upstate New York is not definitely a huge town. However, Syracuse happens to have a Genius accelerator. Genius is the world's biggest accelerator for robotic startups. And their idea is they bring startups all across the globe to help boost jobs creation like high tech industry around upstate New York. And use

Paul Daly: 4:44

okay, there's some snow and geniuses sleeping go slippers.

Slawek Potasz: 4:49

And out of like 650 companies that applied we were one of the five that were accepted. And for us, Syracuse was very interesting place because it still does Simply close to New York City. That's one thing. But then the second thing is that our friends, at Spin Car are from Syracuse as well. And third of all, our investor and mentor, Jack Greco, who's co founder at ACV Auctions. He's also in Buffalo. So we had some relationships there. And, yeah, it was like a nice soft landing into, you know, the automotive space in the US. So, so that's, that's pretty much the story. They, they they helped us, you know, to understand, like, what's the Syracuse is what this accelerator is about. And I'm coming from a city that had Europe's oldest salt mine, and Syracuse is called Salt City. So it's also quite

Paul Daly: 5:42

ironic. So tell us where hey, yeah. So tell us, you came to Syracuse. You know, you're from Poland. Tell us about, you know, like, like, what you were up to in Poland when you started getting into robotics, like where that came from?

Slawek Potasz: 5:59

Yeah, sure. So actually, I've been to Hertz car rental in. And it was in Tel Aviv. And I've discovered that if you've ever rented the car at Tel Aviv, Ben Gurion Airport, usually those cars are in like bad condition, they are, you know, badly scratched, badly damaged, and there's no, no issue. No, like no reason for you to get the full coverage for such a damaged car. And so when I was returning this car, I went into a strange conversation where I was accused of doing some damages I didn't cause no,

Paul Daly: 6:34

you're like, have you seen the cars in this fleet?

Slawek Potasz: 6:38

Yeah, that's that's one thing. And the second thing is in Israeli April airports, you really need to be like three hours before your departure because of extra safety that happens in everything. And so I almost missed my flight. And I was like, totally, because now in 21st century we have electric cars that can accelerate faster than the freefall you know, from from aeroplane at this level don't let you have you know, self parking cars, but you still have pen and paper and someone noting the damages, you know, on a piece of nouns like what the hell so you know, I figured out there has to be a way to do something about it. And so because like inspection is very see like computational consuming. We started off with imaging so like, you know, background removals photography robots, some inspection space so so we had does like long story short right now, maybe it's not like ideal time for you know, car rental market, just because of the pandemic, and decline in business travelers and everything. However, you know, ideally, in two years from now, if you will be you know, returning the car to airport, you will have, you know, your car inspected of our technology.

Paul Daly: 7:52

Wow, that's, that's, I never heard that story before. I know your product and incredible story. I love when, like product comes out of personal pain, because there's always there's always just an excess, like, I think about and this is, this is a terrible example. But I think about the guy that I don't know if you've heard the commercials, like the cooler pillow, right? I think it's like the my pillow or something like that. And he's like, I always hated when a pillow wasn't cool enough, right? You know, that guy is gonna sell something, and create something really cool in the market. So, you know, I, you, you have had a lot of success overseas. What's it been like kind of coming into the US market, understanding the dynamics of the rental market, the dealership market and how the interaction with merchandising or even conditioned displays is maybe different from what you've experienced? In your home? Country?

Slawek Potasz: 8:49

Yeah, so I'm just trying to. So that was that was my that was my experience. Oh, sorry. Yeah. Well, they wanted to show is Oh, like, you know, mind blown. So

Paul Daly: 9:03

he just showed he showed an image if you're just listening of like, someone with the, like, nuclear explosion over their head, because their mind was blown.

Slawek Potasz: 9:11

Yeah, exactly. So first of all, size of the market is just unreal. I mean, literally unreal. If you ever come to, to Poland, we sell like, you know, 800,000 cars a year, I would say new cars in in our country, and Poland has population of Canada. So we're in a situation. Right? Yeah. So you know, I mean, Carvana sells more cars per year, I guess than our entire country buys new cars, you know, that's about today. So that's one thing. Then the second thing is that I would say the biggest dealerships in Poland sell maybe 40 50 cars per rooftop, and those are like decently built dealerships. I was actually speaking about this with my wife. Two hours ago. And we were just going for a new Volkswagen dealership, which is like one of the biggest in our city. And I stopped there on the traffic lights, and I counted how many cars are parked around the dealership, and this is the biggest dealership in our town. They had 25 cars parked.

Paul Daly: 10:16

That's kind of the way it is right now too. Although, well, because they don't typically have ground stock of new right and where you're at, right? Yeah,

Slawek Potasz: 10:30

yeah. And so you know, that, like, that's it. And then, you know, we just drive for those huge outer plazas. I was actually a few a few weeks ago, I was in Denver, and I was just driving for auto plaza center, Harvard College in Denver. And for strike five minutes of going 20 miles an hour, I was actually having my phone glued to the, you know, a windscreen, and I was recording like footage, like, you know, Doomsday where you just go through cars, cars, cars for sale, and you're like, holy, you know, this is amazing. So we had the scale of the market is unreal. And the maturity of your market is also awesome. I mean, you guys have you know, solved for so many things like you know, like chatbots cold sell call center bots that automatically respond, you know, maturity of your f&i products, all of that like most Americans finance their chi, their cars, and Poland's maybe like 30% or 40%. Paid With Cash. So that's also a completely different perspective.

Paul Daly: 11:38

That's like, that's like a little bit opposite. So you and I were talking when you first moved here, and you know, you had to buy a car, and you're trying to get you know, all your bank accounts in line. And you said to me, you were surprised by how difficult it is to move money around in the US banking system. Right, because the Europe you can just transfer money from bank to bank and Michael Cirilio says shame is not here right now. He says the same thing when he moved, he just recently moved to Texas from Canada. And he said he was just shocked at how difficult it was to move money from bank to bank or place to place. And so that being the truth of the banking system in Canada and Europe, you just seemed like the opposite is true in the auto industry where you come in, you realize like auto dealers have, they're actually far ahead and they actually have solved a lot of problems.

Slawek Potasz: 12:26

Yeah, exactly. So I will say car

Paul Daly: 12:29

buying by the way.

Slawek Potasz: 12:32

So actually, I was so I would say angry at some of the prices I was actually driving rentals for half a year. So like what they did and having said that, it's good I did that because I cracked like four wind screens from like, you know, small stones and so however one interesting thing is that I would say Poland you know, we've been after Second World War we've been part of like the you know, Iron Curtain and stuff like this. So in 1999 when Soviet Soviets left our country and we started quickly copying you know, best practices from the Western world and so there are some aspects like banking systems like shopping malls, like you know, telecom industry where we just I would say did not make some of the mistakes that the Western world did. But at the same time from a capitalistic perspective you know, a real estate if you ever go to like you know real estate pictures in Eastern Europe they suck like you take pictures no of your farm in the in the land chocolate sprayed over your lenses pictures terrible nobody cleans the house before taking pictures of the cows for sale stuff like this happens the same with cars. So I would say like unlimited data plan for 4g 5g is like you know $10 a month and you get like highest speed internet ever. And banking system is awesome. It's super easy to transfer cash and everything but at the same time the auto industry is like you know, so far behind so many aspects so yeah, that's that's

Paul Daly: 14:15

what caught me so so in Poland, you're saying for like 10 or 20 bucks a month you get like super fast, 5g Unlimited no problem. Let's most of the world Yeah, that's most of the later developed world that Oh, right. Because they started their telecom started in wireless instead of having to deal with unwinding the wired the frequency and basing it around that. It's it's actually it's actually the same issue that auto has from a technology perspective. It's literally the same way you've heard Ben talk about this and both of you know, Ben, but like the fact that auto was the earliest adopter of a system like a DMS now actually makes it harder for Otto to adjust from a tech perspective, similar other countries, because Because America had telephone service first, it actually makes it harder for us to adapt, adopt, you know, these wireless technology. So it's a really interesting correlation where like, there's some things that are ahead some things that are behind. And, you know, I even but I think about like what you're doing with CarScanner and things like taking pictures, and then background removal and all that type of stuff. Every company that I know that's doing anything similar to what you're doing is actually not based in the States have you? Have you seen that as like a like? Have you been surprised that it's not something that's in the market currently, as far as the development resource?

Slawek Potasz: 15:42

Yeah. So two things that shocked me, first of all, is that DMS refreshes, I would say, maybe twice or three times a day, which is a common practice. And this just unreal for me that, you know, if you have your vAuto shots, you have your images actually done capture whatever, and you need to wait for the next refers that happens at certain hour, instead of just doing you know, API call to force refresh. This is super interesting. And, you know,

Paul Daly: 16:13

explain that a little bit. Because I think there's some people that like I, like for me, caught that right off the bat, right. But there's some people that are like, I why is that? Yeah, Paul got it, right. But there's some people that are like, Why is that an issue? What's What's the barrier that you're saying, we should be able to cross from an efficiency and merchandising perspective, but we're not able to at this point, can you? Like, just go a level deeper for us?

Slawek Potasz: 16:37

Yeah, sure. So I'm a freak. And I'm really trying to better understand, like, you know, what are the what are the problems that we could solve with, with with our engineers. And so one thing I've understood and realized is that when you have actually a technology like a turntable, like car scanner, you can you know, heavier images, like the photo turn time of, let's say, half a day, or something like this, even though those technologies actually, you know, can capture the images right away. And at the same time, when you have like, you know, log vendors, sometimes it's going to be three to four to five days for images just to get captured and get them online. And I was just trying to understand the like, you know, where the delays are coming from. And one thing I've learned is that some DMs systems are configured in a way that they refresh, and they look at the search for new images for a given Look number, maybe twice a day, maybe three times a day. So even though you photograph this car at 9am in the morning, maybe only to wait till noon, or 3pm for the next search database for updated images, which is like, you know, it's a technical limitation, which is so old school because of the way they just look for new images. If this was, you know, done with like, modern approach, it could be instantaneous, like, you know, five second delay maybe, and right now, it's just fixed throughout, say, you know, task every six hours checks, check if new images are there. So yeah, that's, that's interesting delay, which is

Paul Daly: 18:07

well and what did you think about that from like a used car operation perspective, you know, we are on this morning on the morning of recording this podcast, we are on talking about used car efficiencies on on clubhouse and looking at like, the time to merchandising is so key to a US car operations ability to be profitable, because the longer that goes, the harder it is to maintain profitability, because you get further away from the appraised value. And so things like you're saying, like our industry needs to solve for because if you have a nine hour time period, from when something is ready to be fruitfully merchandised when it does think of the volume of shoppers that could have seen your inventory in that timeline that you miss out of. So I'm glad you're poking the hole on that because I think there's more people that need to hear like it's there's, there's a whole loop of technology that creates a barrier to actually a great customer experience. Because, man, if I'm shopping at like 3pm one day and I don't know that cars available, because I can't see the images and then all of a sudden I don't have the accessibility to get that car and I go and purchase something else. Like that's a bad customer experience as an overall like industry hole. Right?

Slawek Potasz: 19:18

For sure percent percent.

Paul Daly: 19:21

So so let's let's talk about I would love to talk about your product for a second because I think it's super cool. Why don't you just give us a quick synopsis of what it is let us know what it does, what it is and where you're heading with it.

Slawek Potasz: 19:36

Sure. And imagine an even ugly looking parking lot somewhere on the side of your you know, dealership you have just

Paul Daly: 19:46

a parking lot in Syracuse Imagine. Imagine.

Slawek Potasz: 19:49

Imagine that we have a robot that's within five minutes is ready to roll and you can just drive into cars to the robot space. And every two and a half minutes, you can have very smooth looking 360, which has superimposed virtual background. So it looks a bit like carve on the leg experience, you get interiors, you get instant background removal on that. And you can also create still images. So no matter what their like, you know how badly short staffed you are, or how little space you have, or how little budget you have, you don't need to invest 10s of 10s of 1000s of dollars into a photo booth that's indoors, you don't have to have a trained employee, because within 10 minutes YouTube video, your new employee, he already knows how to you know, become a pro and taking images. And first of all, you can create a very nice looking 360 spins, which are super stable, super smooth. And then if you are looking at the time to the market, right now, the market standard is that, you know, you send your images somewhere to Asia, and they manually superimpose and replace the background at your dealership building. And we do this in like 30 seconds. So we have two days shorter time to market with manually edited photos as well. That's what we do. So like a car photography robotized assistant that can be deployed anywhere in five minutes.

Paul Daly: 21:15

And, and this is what generation robot is is your first generation.

Unknown: 21:20

Yeah, this is our first generation robot. But this is like officially its first generation and unofficially is like you know, fifth Revision Right? Like

Paul Daly: 21:29

your WD 45.

Slawek Potasz: 21:34

Exactly, exactly.

Paul Daly: 21:36

And so that's really go ahead. So when you're, when you're thinking about like, well, one just extremely cool that in two and a half minutes, you can have a full vehicle photoed with background move moveable and superimposed background image. That's, I think a game changer for any dealership that understands, like speed to market. But when you think about the possibilities, because my my brain starts to go like a bunch of different ways. What are the unique ways in which you see this technology being used outside of just merchandising? Because I'm sure you've kind of thought of among those use cases. And there's so many innovative dealers that are trying out new things. And I'm thinking like, if you the creator of this or abroad have have thought of those use cases, there's probably a dealer out there that goes, Oh, I could do that. Right?

Slawek Potasz: 22:22

Yeah. So I have an ad, I would say, attitude, not that like of a pushy salesman that tries to sell something off the shelf. But or there's someone that tries to understand the problem and only buy CFE to a problem, I will try to come up with a solution and sell the problem I've learned about you know, after NADA Digital Dealer, automotive intelligence Summit. So you know, ASOTU CON hopefully in in few days from now, is that number one issue is, I would say, employee retention from like, Operation perspective, but from like business and strategy perspective is collecting, getting inventory. And so we have our for photographic robot, we try to sell a bit for like, you know, the retention problem and stuff. However, from like, low inventory level perspective, we're trying to better understand how we could deploy those robots with some extra hardware to look, you know, for the underbody to inspect for damages, and actually create like a trading, automated trading station where, you know, average Joe could just, you know, have the car inspected, and then get offers from dealerships nearby. So then, the dealership could actually, I would say, get much more opportunities of acquiring cars. 24/7

Paul Daly: 23:44

Wow. Yeah. So really just bouncing from kind of wholesale uses to almost retail uses in a way. Yeah. And used vehicle acquisition. I mean, I think about putting that thing on a on a strip mall, like right out front man in the station, and just telling people to drive through and buying their cars, right, your mobile, if you can set up in five minutes, you can you can go anywhere and just acquire some cars. So well. So back, I really appreciate you being on and we appreciate you being on not just for your accent, but your insights and your understanding of the dynamics of industries across countries. Excited to hang out with you at ASOTU CON and share with more people, your fancy little robot. And yeah, so on behalf of myself and Paul Daly, thank you so much for joining us on Auto Collabs

Slawek Potasz: 24:34

thank you so much. It really great to be here as you add ASOTU CON in Philly and hopefully you know run the stairs at 5am. Somebody did the event there so no CO writers.

Paul Daly: 24:44

Absolutely. So you probably got the impression that we were talking about in the beginning of the super nice guy that is incredibly thoughtful and can figure out the angle and how to bring it to market. I love the origin story, by the way.

Kyle Mountsier: 25:04

Yeah, the origin story of I love when it's a personal it's almost like a personal vendetta to an issue. Yes, no, I will not be had by that rental, I'm gonna make the thing that nobody else is going to be had either. And then to hear his story of like taking that product to market in the European market and then coming to the US market and, and the way he had to do that and the the different way like through Canada and then Syracuse and I had no clue that Syracuse was like a hotbed for, you know, for AI for these technical startups like wild stuff, Paul, you're like you're in this, you're in this place that is becoming more interesting by

Paul Daly: 25:47

we don't like people finding this stuff out because it actually is an awesome place to be. That's great. That's outside of the snow, although I guess some people love the snow there. But then just the energy that he's talked about, like being with and among dealers and understanding the differences and the idiosyncrasies of the American market, as compared to the European market, even things like financing moving money around. It's just, you know, we had the interview with Michael Johnson and from Australia, it really is, I think it's key for us, especially in a moving market right now, to try and understand the way that OEMs and the way that dealers across the world are interacting with customers. It's important for us to take from these different pockets and, and him bringing not just that technology, but insights from from Europe is, I think, important for our industry.

Michael Cirillo: 26:36

I think that's the big eye opener, the more people that we speak to in the industry, in the retail community from different countries. It's we're starting to, you know, debunk this idea that America or North America has always been so much further ahead. We are in some ways, but in other ways. We're like, whoa, they've already been doing things a certain way in their country. They've already had to deal with certain legislation or things of that nature and had to get really creative and how they build their business. So I always enjoy conversations where we get to sit and learn from somebody who's got different perspective. And of course, that's the whole point of why we're doing this podcast Auto Collabs We hope you enjoyed this episode was Slawek. And did I say it right? Oh my gosh,

Paul Daly: 27:17

you're good. No, roll right out.

Michael Cirillo: 27:21

Is getting people's names wrong, but we're so glad and we hope you enjoyed this episode of Auto Collabs. On behalf of Paul J Daly, Kyle Mountsier, myself, Michael Cirillo will catch you on the next episode.

Unknown: 27:31

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