The automotive industry is a behemoth to disrupt, but that’s exactly what Atlanta Tech Village-based startup Automotive Ventures is doing. CarLingo, the company’s first app was launched in January 2015 and has since received accolades from TechCrunch; winning a “pitch-off” on February 24 against nine competitors. The prize was a booth at May edition of TechCrunch Disrupt in New York City.
Founded by Steve Greenfield, Mark Conlin, Josh Searcy and Chris Tranchina, the Automotive Ventures team has deep industry knowledge in both the automotive and technology sectors. Three of the founders previously worked at Atlanta’s Cox Automotive companies, and saw that the auto industry was ripe for a shakeup. CEO Greenfield left corporate America after 15 years in the automotive industry “to address the biggest consumer pain point.”
According to Greenfield, “No other site helps consumers eliminate the most painful part of the car shopping process, which is the face to face negotiation with the car dealer. We allow consumers to find great local car deals, and then claim them from our trustworthy dealers with no negotiation required.” For consumers, CarLingo simplifies the search and negotiation process of buying a car, which studies show can take up to 15 hours spread over a number of months. For those who don’t have a strong preference on make or model, CarLingo’s customer interface guides the user through a series of questions to help determine their needs, then makes recommendations of potential cars. The app produces a branded pricing report that the customer can take along to the dealership, expediting the actual purchase time on the lot.
For car dealers, they typically spend $600 per car sold in advertising, which amounts to $50,000 per month across many different advertising channels – but the bulk of this is still spent in traditional media (TV, Newspaper and Radio). So we’ll be looking to help dealers transition some of their advertising spend from inefficient channels over to us, so we can help them with much more effective advertising and clearer ROI on each dollar spent.
Furthermore, he explained in an earlier interview that dealers “only pay if they actually sell more cars as a result of our service.”
In addition to the application, CarLingo is also a wealth of information for potential car buyers through their blog, a series of Buyer’s Guides available to download, and an informative YouTube channel. After making a purchase using the app, one customer, who admitted that she is not skilled at shopping for cars, vowed that she “will never go back again to buying a car directly from the dealer.” Another appreciated that using the platform did not require providing any personal information, and it “completely [took] the hassle out of car buying.”
Since its debut in January, CarLingo has attracted attention from both the tech industry and the media. It has been dubbed a Georgia Upstart by the Technology Association of Georgia’s HUB Magazine, and was mentioned by CBS46 as one of “three startups from Atlanta you should know about.”
The company was bootstrapped in its first year but raised a $1.5 million seed round in April 2015. At any time in the United States, there is a market of around 4 million new-car shoppers as potential CarLingo customers, and around 18,000 dealerships that make up the addressable market of paying advertisers.
The company currently has a team of 11 full-time employees and 7 summer interns. Up next for the team is increasing consumer conversion and ramping up the inside sales team this summer. The remainder of 2015 will see a focus on selling to car dealerships with a potential future round of investments being sought next year.