AutoCate, a newly-launched membership-based platform geared toward women, aims to reduce fraud and discrimination in the auto repair industry.

The platform, created by Stefanie Bruinsma, a mechanic and engineering grad from the University of Waterloo, connects people in need of car repairs or advice with trusted experts and educators.

While membership is open to all, the company is focused on helping women car owners, who are sometimes charged more than their male counterparts for auto repairs due to the assumption that they’re not well educated with automobile-related issues.  

"Women are more susceptible to being oversold, patronized and underserviced, but they are absolutely capable of understanding everything about their car," Bruinsma said. "There should never be an opportunity to be swindled, especially based on gender."  

Stefanie Bruinsma at a recent AutoCate workshop in Toronto.

Stefanie Bruinsma at a recent AutoCate workshop in Toronto where attendees engaged in topics ranging from vehicle maintenance to car ownership.

When an AutoCate member needs help or has a question about car purchases, maintenance or repairs, they are triaged depending on the severity of their issue. An expert walks them through the issue and answers questions to instill car owners’ confidence in making the best decision. 

For example, the company found that 27 per cent of auto services are unnecessary, they are purely upsells, and excess services can cost consumers in the U.S. and Canada an extra $12 billion a year. AutoCate educates and empowers consumers to make informed choices about what to buy — or not. 

"Resources to get car repair estimates and finding auto shops exist, but that's not getting at the core issue, which is gaining confidence in understanding how cars work and what needs to be fixed," Bruinsma said. "AutoCate gives you access to experts who work for you, like calling a family member for help when you don't know where to turn."  

Bruinsma works alongside chief technology officer Sirisha Rambhaltla, who is also an assistant professor in University of Waterloo's faculty of engineering; mechanics Emily Pyke and Mary Marshall; coding specialist Amy Temple, and a band of "Cates" who help facilitate AutoCate's hands-on workshops. "Cates" are women who have recently learned basics in auto repairs and maintenance - like changing a tire - who teach their newly acquired knowledge to others.

AutoCate is recruiting users to beta-test the platform and plans to schedule several workshops this year to build community support.  Ahead of that, the company is hosting Kitchener-Waterloo’s first auto show on March 18 , which will include workshops designed specifically for women, covering everything from vehicle maintenance to ownership questions.

During her Master's in Business, Entrepreneurship and Technology studies and working with Velocity, Bruinsma turned the idea of growing car owners' confidence into a business.  

"I was able to see that this idea had merit as a business, and I understand the problem intimately because of the work I did for Velocity's pitch competitions and in my master's studies," Bruinsma said. "I recognize my experiences are a gift, and I don't take that for granted. I know how many other people are gifted, and I have a strong sense of responsibility to pave the way for others." 

About Velocity   

Velocity accelerates entrepreneurs' growth from idea to early-stage start-up and beyond. These founders have access to unmatched resources, collaboration space, funding, and an expansive and experienced network made possible only by the University of Waterloo — Canada's top university for founders. In the 15 years since its inception as a University of Waterloo residence, more than 400 Velocity companies have netted more than US$26 billion in enterprise value.

Read more

Waterloo News


Contact media relations to learn more about this or other stories.