Guest blog by James Hind, CEO and Founder of carwow.co.uk
I thought of the idea for carwow at my parents’ kitchen table. A new car is the second biggest purchase many people will make in their life, after a house, yet the process has largely gone unchanged for the past 100 years. Despite the internet bringing travel, housing, and all other large purchases into the modern age, new car buying still involved customers having to travel around to multiple dealerships and haggle face-to-face with salespeople while still not knowing if they were getting a good deal. I set out to fix this.
Assessing the marketplace
Assessing the marketplace is the first step in creating a successful business. Is someone already doing it? It’s much harder to break into a market where there’s already lots of competitors. Unless you’re doing something better, smarter or faster than your competitors, you’ll fail. Is it something consumers want? It doesn’t matter how good your idea is if no one buys your product.
‘It doesn’t matter how good your idea is if no one buys your product.’
The market was ripe for modernising new car buying and no one else was really doing it. I decided to create a new way to buy new cars: customers would configure the car they were after, then we’d send them the best offers around the country – from the closest dealer to them, the best price, and the dealer with the highest rating, allowing them to compare offers and choose the one that was best for their needs. We decided early on to protect the customer from unwanted sales calls by not sharing their contact information with the dealer, which is now a key feature of the site. At this stage, it’s key to really understand the drivers of the business – what did our potential customers want? – and assess what parts of the site would make the most difference and have the biggest impact.
Getting the business off the ground!
So, I had the plan and an idea of how to accomplish it – now what? I started by raising funds through angel investors to get the business off the ground. There are tons of articles out there on how to raise investment, but I found one thing that really helped was to approach investors early on and ask for advice. They are pitched thousands of ideas and have a keen eye for what works and what doesn’t. Listen to what they say and when you then go back to them about funding, they already have an idea of your plan and know you’re serious.
We have made mistakes along the way, though – I went to an agency to create our first website, which turned out to be wrong for the business. Agencies do work well for many people, they just weren’t right for us. The long lead times and lack of involvement I had in the site’s creation was frustrating. So, the first key hire was our CTO, David, to build the site we wanted, the way we wanted it. From there, we’ve grown quickly by constantly looking for ways to make the site better. We’re always A/B testing new features based on customer feedback.
Since then, we’ve grown massively – selling 14,000 cars through the site this year. I’ve learned that there isn’t always one right answer. Early on, we spent too much time looking for the ideal way to do something instead of just getting on with it. This doesn’t mean we’re satisfied with anything less than perfection, just that we launch a product and then continuously refine it as we go.
“I’ve learned that there isn’t always one right answer.”
We continue to learn as we go – we’re currently working out how best to scale as we prepare for a huge ramp-up in 2016 and beyond.
Written by James Hind, CEO and Founder of carwow.co.uk: the new way Britain is buying new cars