How FINN scaled operations to reach $100M ARR in 3 years with only 300 employees
What if you could order a car online as quickly as ordering a mattress? That’s the mission FINN, a German-based automotive company, set out to accomplish. Customers get a car delivered for a monthly subscription that includes registration, insurance, and financing.
In less than 3 years, FINN scaled their e-commerce-inspired car subscription service to over $100M in annual recurring revenue (ARR). To get there, FINN needed to manage its inventory of over 20,000 cars, launch in new markets and regions, and provide great customer experiences. You’d think FINN would need a large team of engineers and agents to support the rollout of its operational heavy business. But FINN decided to grow its team as lean as possible, with less than 300 employees in total, by focusing on operational excellence. For context, FINN generates approximately $333,333 in ARR per employee, which impressively beats the average revenue per employee compared to related companies.
FINN’s culture of operational efficiency led to the discovery and adoption of Retool to help build custom operations software.
With Retool at the heart of operations, teams with varying levels of technical expertise – from senior full-stack engineers to business operations engineers and even HR managers – were able to ship production-ready apps in a matter of days. FINN quickly built 100 custom internal apps to automate their business operations—with app use-cases ranging from identity verification, to partner communications, and customer support.
The result: FINN builds operations software 10x faster with Retool compared to building from scratch using React and other software development tools. In one case, FINN built a Retool app that saved hundreds of engineering hours and enabled their team to process its large inventory of cars for customers.
On the ground, teams were able to do more with less as their internal toolset was custom-built to fit their unique needs. For example, customer verification operations no longer required a large team of customer care agents. Now, one agent could handle all tickets related to customer verification, saving the support team 46 hours per week on resolving tickets.
Automating these internal workflows enabled FINN to build operational excellence in every team, which accelerated the expansion of their fleet to new markets around the globe.
Cornelius Schramm joined FINN in 2021 as the founding member of the U.S. automation team, tasked with building applications to support automations across the data model, connected services, and partner integrations. His first goal was to understand the operational problems across FINN and ways to build solutions. He worked with Leander Peter, a software engineer in Germany, whose team builds APIs for subscriptions and custom integrations.
Leander advocated for a solution that would consider ways to save engineering time and cut down on tech debt and maintenance. They considered building solutions from scratch with React and backend services. But they realized that they’d likely run into high amounts of technical overhead later: “If we jumped to building dashboards from scratch with React, they’d be tailored to the first intended use case. The reality is: our apps would likely change every week,” says Leander. For example, some dashboards would need to be updated by an engineer every week, which wouldn’t scale, as each engineer’s working time was needed for bigger projects.
Leander played out the rest of this familiar “build from scratch” story in his head. Minor updates would become tedious, backlogs would build up, and engineering resources would have to be pulled away from other projects.
Leander found Retool and learned that it married custom code with out-of-the-box components–everything from tables and buttons, to charts and objects. That made operations software faster to build and much easier to maintain: “If you switch to another team’s dashboard, even if you’ve never worked on it before, it feels like you’ve built it yourself. Everything looks and behaves the same way. Only the business logic is different,” says Leander.
Combined with the ability to easily connect to their production PostgreSQL database and APIs (such as a car service, B2B service, checkout service, and 20 others), layer on out-of-the-box authentication, and create custom components when the situation called for it, Cornelius and Leander realized that Retool was the right platform to scale operations.
On the ground, 15-18 Fleet Process Managers (FPMs) are responsible for managing over 20,000 cars, a number that’s typically managed by hundreds of people. These managers are in charge of tactical day-to-day ground operations. They work with a network of partners to keep track of cars and make sure they are processed on time for customers. Every detail needs to be tracked and responded to when problems arise—from mounting license plates to updating delivery ETAs.
Before Retool, the team managed the process by using disparate tools such as Google Sheets, Airtable, and email. This inefficient process caused the team to operate slower than what was required for the business’s growth objectives. Hiring more FPMs wouldn’t solve the problem, because adding more people would lead to more errors. Without proper data validation in the tools, there was a lot of room for human error, which ended up costing the team more in time to re-validate data and cross-reference with FPMs.
Cornelius and his team looked to Retool to manage this process by building a tool shaped to fit their exact needs. Using Retool, the team consolidated FPMs’ various disconnected workflows into one beautifully designed app called Car Details.
The Car Details App displays the detailed operational state of any car and where it is in the delivery timeline. FPMs can view and edit subscription details, manage vehicle transfers, and interact with partners from one place. Data validation is built-in so that there’s a near-zero chance for human error, giving leaders at FINN more reassurance of the stability and growth of their operations.
In Cornelius’s eyes, connecting seamlessly with partners was absolutely critical. “Since FINN has so many partners, the ability to follow up with them is a crucial business advantage that allows us to move a high volume of cars with very few employees,” says Cornelius.
To help FPMs communicate with partners, the team integrated Retool with partner APIs. This enabled FPMs to follow up directly with partners and keep them abreast of any changes to vehicle ETAs, update work orders on the fly, and more. With faster communications, FPMs and partners were much more efficient.
In the background, when a partner’s API is called to update ETAs, additional info is passed along to the partner automatically–including car details, arrival dates, and any relevant identifiers and metadata. These updates were simultaneously updated in FINN’s own database to ensure there was a single source of truth.
The Car Details App improved operations across the business. The team ditched countless spreadsheets, emails, and legacy apps.
“The Car Details App reduces the number of spreadsheets floating around which is always what happens in operations, and it reduces the number of emails that need to be sent because this is a much more efficient way to retrieve information, visualize information for the business users, and to structure communication with partners.” – Cornelius Schramm, Senior Business Automation Manager, FINN
With some vehicles in FINN’s fleet valued up to $160K, it was important to verify drivers before granting access to its services. The internal process of identity verification, however, was fairly manual. To verify a driver’s license, customer care agents needed to:
Jump through 5 data sources–from the database to external partner pages
Copy and paste identification details between sources
Make sense of blurry user-submitted ID pictures
In total, it took 15 minutes per ID to get all the information and confidently approve customers. Minutes snowballed into 50 hours per day spent by the customer care team on a task that needed to be done much faster.
Building a Know Your Customer (KYC) app from scratch to automate identity verification would’ve been a massive undertaking. There were data sources to connect, and highly specialized interfaces to build. Leander wondered if even Retool could handle the high level of customization needed to pull it off.
After using Retool’s flexible custom components, Leader could write custom code tailored to the support team’s unique requirements. This would scale throughout the company, because any team operating within Retool could reuse Leander’s custom module to kickstart their own apps if needed.
With minimal resources, Leander hooked up those 5 data sources, and built an interface using 170 components–about 25% of which were custom components. The interface gives customer care agents a streamlined workflow for identity verification.
One of the primary custom components made it possible for agents to zoom in and get better visibility on those blurry photo IDs, too. Leader added this custom feature in record time. “The entire custom component for viewing the driver’s license and all the advanced viewing features like panning around the image was built in an hour and half with 20 lines of code,” says Leander.
The entire verification workflow that used to take 15 minutes per ticket was now accomplished in just 1 minute–15x faster. FINN’s customer care team saved approximately 200 hours every month using the KYC app to process over 1,000 verification tickets per month. These efficiency gains were so significant that a single agent could now handle all of KYC at FINN, allowing FINN to focus limited resources on delivering great customer experiences.
Retool became the de facto standard for developing operations software at FINN because of the efficiency gains for development teams. Developers and technical-builders alike can build a wide variety of apps extremely fast. These apps are easy to update and change as needed, and are custom-fit to match the end user’s requirements.
FINN now has over 100 apps built on top of the Retool platform–all consolidated into one central directory that serves as the connective tissue to run FINN’s operations.
This app directory is central to managing vehicles, customers, and partners at FINN. And it’s what helped FINN build operational excellence to grow to $100M ARR in 3 years with a lean team.