November 14, 2013
Marc Hoecker and Chris Coad are car guys, plain and simple. At one point, Hoecker actually went on a four-day stakeout and car chase to reclaim his stolen 1985 Pontiac Parisienne. Coad grew up in the automotive industry, and while he has too many cars to list, he remembers his 1994 Mercury Sable: it blew up in a parking garage while he was at a black tie event.
It really wasn’t surprising to learn that their startup revolved around cars and the automotive industry. They believe that cars are personal, and when they started Vinsnap, they wanted car shopping to be just as personal.
They design, develop, and deploy web and mobile consumer-focused vehicle shopping and service solutions to help car shoppers organize their experience. We let them take the wheel for a little while and give us a guided tour of Vinsnap.
Tech Cocktail: Vinsnap is pretty niche; where did the idea come from?
Chris Coad: I was hanging out with my friend, Marc, and was acting as his advisor while he was shopping for a new car. Bouncing between Craigslist, dealerships, and countless websites, he bemoaned to me about how unpleasant and seemingly disorganized the auto-shopping experience was – especially in this new smartphone era.
Therein the idea of snapping VIN numbers was born and ultimately expanded into a full business plan that we entered into the Harvard Business School Alumni New Venture contest. Ultimately, we competed and made it to the 2011 International finals in Boston. With momentum at our back, we decided to build Vinsnap, which debuted in app stores in Q4 2012.
Tech Cocktail: How are you defining your space in the automotive industry?
Coad: We believe cars are personal, and we believe the car shopping experience should be too. Vinsnap personalizes the shopping experience by providing consumers with the important data they need to organize their search to purchase a vehicle, new or used, and across any brand.
We help consumers personalize their search even more by providing them with the functionality to add their own custom vehicle photos and notes. These two features are important, especially if you think about shopping for a used car.
Let’s say you’re looking at a vehicle and worried about a scratch in the back door. Snap a photo, take a note, and upload them to Vinsnap so you can remember it. Share all of this information with your body shop or mechanic to see if the vehicle should stay on your shopping list.
We’re not beholden to any inventory listings. You can put any VIN into Vinsnap, and we’ll provide you with the information you need to make a smart purchase decision. You can truly use Vinsnap anywhere and anytime.
Tech Cocktail: What about challenges?
Coad: There were several challenges in getting Vinsnap off the ground. We first had to find out if the technology was going to work, and during our first few pitches, we didn’t know if you could take a picture of a VIN number and decode it. We finally stumbled on a partner that was able to help us turn a picture of a VIN into the format we needed to decode it.
But after that, we needed to determine how and where we were going to source the data we needed to build Vinsnap. We had a bit of luck when we met the Edmunds API team, and they’re currently one of our largest partners, and we are thrilled to be working with them.
Everything came together at the right time: momentum, technology, partners, and team. If all of that hadn’t happened, we likely would have never gotten Vinsnap off the ground. We think being based in Atlanta really helped bring this all together because the startup community is so strong.
Vinsnap was featured at Tech Cocktail’s Atlanta Mixer & Startup Showcase on October 7th.
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