Swinging for the Fences

September 20, 2007

As a very new start-up it can often be very hard to figure out exactly where you want your business to go.  When we first started talking about Evenlevel, we had a long discussion about what we envisioned the business becoming.  With today’s quick-flip mentality around us, its become increasingly less common to see Internet start-ups survive and mature to robust companies that are candidates for a proper IPO.  Venture capitalists don’t want to invest a few million in a company and watch that business mature over the next ten years while they twiddle their thumbs.  They too have investors to please and returns to publish so that they can keep themselves and their investors fat and happy.  There’s a really interesting article in today’s Seattle Post-Intelligencer  that discusses a startup that’s certainly become a bit of a household name the past couple of years, Zillow

For those of you that don’t know, Zillow was started by and is led by Rich Barton, the same Rich Barton that developed Expedia into the massive entity that it is today.  One would think that Rich has the experience and previous success that would afford him the opportunity to grow Zillow into any type of business that he would see fit.  In fact, Zillow just completed another $30M round and there is seemingly plenty of money in their coffers to take the company in any direction they please.  However, John Cook, the reporter on the story does question whether Zillow’s investors will eventually allow Barton to fulfill his grand visions for the company or if they’ll be forced to sell before he reaches the zenith that he envisions.

As a founder, the article brings so many questions and emotions to mind as we’ve just set out to build a great business.  What control do we give up for the necessity of capital?  How much final control will we have on the direction that the company eventually takes?  How can I raise $30M? (okay that last one is a little bit of tongue in cheek)  But hopefully you get the point that there are so many unknowns at this point and so much uncertainty that one can really feel the roller-coaster ride of highs and lows that is trying to build a start-up. 

Jumping back a bit to the article.  The Evenlevel founders have often discussed a lot of parallels between some of the more recent housing start-ups, Zillow, Trulia, Redfin and iNest (to name a few) and ourselves.  Many of the unbelievable technological Internet advances that have come to the housing market in recent years, we plan on bringing to the used car market.  Much like the housing market, the used car industry is massive.  There were over $380 billion in used car sales in the US last year.  People are increasingly using the Internet to buy, sell, and research their used vehicles.  No company has truly built a suite of research and analysis tools that separates it from anybody else…think about it.  When you shop for a car online, you enter 1.Year 2.Make 3. Model 4. Mileage 5. Zip code….and voila!….here are the 250 closest cars to your zip code.  Where’s the value add in that?

Just imagine if you could enter in all of that information, but additionally sort through cars based on their value compared to the Kelley Blue Book Value, sort by Autocheck score based on the vehicle history report of each used car in your criteria range, search by country of manufacturer, figure out which cars depreciate least or most in your particular region of the country or even be notified when a vehicle that fits all of your criteria becomes available in the marketplace.  These are all tools that we’ve built or are building currently at Evenlevel. And we’ve got a ton more in the pipeline and up our sleeves that we’re working on getting out to the marketplace.  In addition to selling cars that are significantly below market prices, we think we can bring real insight to the marketplace with an enhanced suite of research and analysis tools that have yet to be developed anywhere else.  Much like the Zillow approach, we can build value and products around this knowledge and really think about swinging for the fences ourselves.

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3 Responses to “Swinging for the Fences”

  1. yhurg Says:

    So basically, you aren’t advertising cars for dealerships, you are the dealership. Are you storing the vehicles somewhere or are you selling them from the auction sites?

    How long ago did Evenlevel go live? This is the first time I have seen the site but not the first time I have seen the name, of course.

  2. chrisclever Says:

    yhurg,

    Yes, Evenlevel is the dealership. We’re essentially selling cars that are either about to go to auction sites or are located at auction sites. Evenlevel does not own any of the cars listed on our site. Once a customer decides that they would like to purchase a vehicle, we take a deposit from them, then we purchase the vehicle. Once we’ve received the remaining balance of the purchase we transfer the title to the new owner.

    The site launched about 2 months ago and the business has been fully operational for a little less than a month.

  3. Michael Brairton Says:

    This is a really great idea, and I think you have marketed it masterfully, based on the fact that here I am learning about it as a person that has only recently learned how to use a Blackberry.
    -Why on earth do you want to take title of the vehicles and incur the sale/warranty/product liability side of the transaction? 20+ years in the retail automobile industry has me looking at sites such as this so that I can be a part of the future. Kind of sounds like you are using the internet to do what has already been done in the past…. Interested to hear your thoughts.


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