Norman Cleghorn readies app for CES in Las Vegas
JAMAICAN-BORN entrepreneur Norman Cleghorn is eagerly awaiting the annual Consumer Electronic Show held in Las Vegas, Nevada, where his roadside assistance mobile application Lightning Track will be one of the thousands of booths on display from January 9-12.
The Lightning Track app connects people in need of roadside assistance for their vehicles with individuals or companies providing a variety of services — including changing a tyre, delivering gas, jump-starting a battery, locksmith services, or towing away a vehicle. While the app provides one-off service for its users, it also provides business opportunities for self-employed individuals and businesses.
“So if you have those skill sets you can sign up on the app to provide those services, or if you have an existing business like a tow truck, you can sign up your business,” Cleghorn explained to the Jamaica Observer about the service providers who are being added to the mobile app.
From a user’s standpoint the aim is to provide a fast, safe and efficient service that is relatively affordable when compared to the cost of roadside assistance provided by insurance companies and traditional roadside assistance providers.
Once signed on to the app a user can make a request for a service and immediately will see the standard rate for that service. It also connects the user to the nearest service provider. Instead of paying out of pocket, the app places a hold on the user’s account for the cost of the service being rendered until completed by the service provider.
“There’s no person-to-person transaction,” Cleghorn stated, adding that Lightning Track only collects a percentage of the fee once the service is done.
The Spanish Town, Catherine native who now resides in Maryland, United States, and is the operater of a barbershop in that state, revealed that he conceptualised the solution after a customer tried to get assistance in jump-starting the battery of his vehicle but failed in receiving any form of help. That customer eventually resorted to reaching out to his insurance company and a car dealership to get the vehicle towed, but only got assistance an hour and a half later, disrupting his schedule and family life.
“Traditionally, when scenarios like those happen you have to call your insurance provider. And nine times out of 10 you have to get the roadside assistance as an extra cost on your insurance — it doesn’t come with it — so you have to pay extra to get that service or you sign up with companies like AAA (American Automobile Association) or other companies that do similar stuff. But AAA and those companies charge a monthly subscription. And [as for] insurance? You have to pay extra to get it…but it still takes a long time,” Cleghorn told Sunday Finance.
Since launching in February 2022, Lightning Track has onbaorded approximately 6,000 users and 380 service providers in the United States and Canada. The highest user rates for the app is in the tri-state areas including Connecticut, New Jersey and New York; Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland and the Disstrict of Columbia. In addition, the app has seen increased use in Ohio, Illinois, Texas and California.
Around 10 per cent of business done on the app is from Canada.
“I don’t feel like I’ve even scratched the surface yet because in my city where I live there are about 40,000 people,” Cleghorn noted. “I’ve got other states but the percentage is very low…At the same time I need to refocus on those states and increase visibility and move on [to Canada].”
Internationally, the vehicle roadside assistance market is estimated to value US$24 billion, growing to over $35 billion by 2030 according to Fortune Business Insights. In the US alone, that market was valued approximately US$2.5 million in 2023.
An article by MarketWatch indicates that a single tow truck or jump-start can cost from US$50 to US$200 without a roadside assistance plan.
Getting ahead in such a market will require more visibility and, by extension, partnerships, Cleghorn related. In fact, the entrepreneur credits the increase in the use of the app to Google Ads and paid advertisement on Instagram and Facebook. However, he found that spending on advertisement was not sustainable.
“I had to stop because I was breaking even; I wasn’t grossing as much to keep the business growing,” he informed Sunday Finance.
Even though he has tried networking with auto service providers, it has not redounded to growth for the app. It is for this reason Cleghorn believes that CES will provide a platform for increased visibility and investment. With exhibitors from traditional and non-traditional technology services numbering in the thousands, along with attendees and media, he is optimistic.
“Well, I’m expecting to get the right exposure [that] I need, then I’m expecting to get offers for partnerships,” he said, clarifying that both investors and service providers are welcome.
In fact, he has already arranged two meetings with interested parties — one from Korea and another from Japan.
With the increase in partnerships the next step is to improve the user interface of Lightning Track.
“I feel like as time goes by I’ll probably find more efficient ways of doing things but I feel like the foundation that I’ve laid and the concept I have is unique, it’s different, it’s never been done so it can only get better as time goes by. And also, by connecting and partnering with other businesses and more customers signing up it can only get better,” Cleghorn shared.
‘It’s just a matter of seeing if anything can materialise from that,” he said, referring to the expo.
The Tacius Golding High alumnus credits his mother, who sold chicken feet at Coronation Market, downtown Kingston, for his business acumen, Cleghorn having assisted with the vending.
After leaving high school Cleghorn attended National tools and Engineering Institute in Kingston and then left to study at a community college in Maryland. However, due to financial challenges he did not complete his tertiary studies and ventured into barbering.
He explained that he has invested “a significant amount” of his barbershop earnings into the Lightning Track app, the name for which was inspired by Jamaican track star Usain Bolt.