Music City’s tech scene is getting another Silicon Valley transplant — but this time, it already has strong roots in Nashville.
Yoshi, a startup that provides on-site, on-demand car maintenance and gas delivery, is moving its headquarters from San Francisco to Nashville, effective Jan. 1, co-founder, CEO and Nashville-native Bryan Frist said.
This is the second investment GM has made in Yoshi. In 2018, the auto-giant joined ExxonMobil to lead a $13.7 million series A funding round that also included NBA star Kevin Durant and NFL legend Joe Montana.
Yoshi is the latest in a string of California companies to move their headquarters to Greater Nashville. Last year, publicly traded pharmaceutical company Harrow Health Inc. announced it was moving its base of operations from San Diego to Nashville, following in the steps of former California companies GoCheck Kids, Greenlight Medical, Stache and Mitsubishi Motors North America Inc. In February, Temperature-controlled logistics firm Cryoport Inc. moved its headquarters to Brentwood from California.
Headquarters are especially prized economic development wins because such jobs typically feature higher pay, and they inject a company's decision-makers into the market, which can impact everything from real estate purchases to philanthropy to support for public schools.
Frist, who is the son of former U.S. Senate Majority leader Bill Frist, said Yoshi launched in 2015 in San Francisco because at the time “That’s where you moved to start things.”
But after expanding its services to Nashville a few months later — where Yoshi’s platform was adopted at a much faster rate — and opening a customer support center in the city, Frist said they realized Nashville was more reflective of their customer base.
The city’s central location, booming economy, quality of life and growing tech scene were also factors in the move, as well as the “out of control” cost of living in The Bay area.“We see ourselves as a Nashville company with Silicon Valley DNA,” Frist said. “We see this as an opportunity to also build out the tech scene in Nashville. Obviously, it’s a health care mecca. Growing up, I always heard it referred to as the ‘Silicon Valley of health care’ and for us we see a huge opportunity to make it more than that. There’s no reason it should only be health care.”
Yoshi works as a subscription service for individuals or companies. Yoshi technicians visit “hundreds” of Nashville businesses, which often sign up for the service as a perk for their employees, on a weekly basis, Frist said. That list includes Nashville's largest health care company, HCA Holdings Inc. (founded by Frist's uncle and grandfather), email marketing firm Campaign Monitor and health-tech firm MyNexus.
The direct-to-consumer model costs $20 per month plus fees for service or $16 per month if you sign up for a year. Yoshi performs “tens of thousands” of services per month in its five markets of Nashville, San Francisco, Houston, Los Angeles and Southeast Michigan, Frist said, and has more than 200,000 vehicles registered on its platform.
The company’s app works with GM cars so that when user’s gas tank gets below a set point, or has other maintenance issues such as low tire pressure, the car can automatically alert Yoshi to come service it as it sits in a parking lot or driveway.That touchless service has helped Yoshi’s direct to consumer customer base grow during the pandemic, Frist said, as user’s look to avoid busy gas stations and get more accustomed to on-demand services. Because people are driving less, the startup now offers a pay-as-you go option, instead of a membership, which costs $7 per visit.
“What Covid did was with warp speed brought us front of mind to a lot of customers,” Frist said. “Everyone is talking about contactless delivery. We were always doing that.”
Frist said the 100 jobs Yoshi expects to add in Nashville will include positions ranging from field technicians to software engineers. The company currently has 100 employees across its markets, including 10 in Nashville. He said the company is actively looking for space to lease.
The company’s 25 Silicon Valley employees will have the option of moving to Nashville or working remotely from California, after the San Francisco office closes.
In addition to hiring more people, Frist said Yoshi will use its new investment to expand to new markets in the coming year.
“I’m from [Nashville] and love this city,” Frist said. “Nashville is a city that reflects most of the country in many ways … and we’re a company that wants to serve everybody.”