Elevator Pitch is a regular feature on Lifehacker where we profile startups and new companies and pick their brains for entrepreneurial advice. This week, we're talking with Paul and Michael Higgins, founders of HelloCars.
In 128 words or less, explain your business idea
Paul: We launched HelloCars to shake up the used-car business – the industry was so traditional and had such a bad reputation for customer service, we knew we could do better by taking cost out of the business model, passing those savings on to our customers and really focusing on giving them a great experience.
Michael: HelloCars is the first model of its kind in Australia – we’re a digital first business and this means we can buy and sell cars for great prices – guaranteed to be better than any dealer. You also have the security of knowing that any car we sell has had an industry-leading 230-point inspection, a 7-day, 500km money-back guarantee and three months warranty.
What strategies are you using to grow and finance your idea?
Paul: We founded the business in 2015 – and followed a soft launch of the acquisition side of the business mid-2016 with a public launch in September.
It’s been a pretty amazing growth curve since then – last month we launched nationwide sales which has had great traction in regional areas and the other capital cities.
Like most new businesses, HelloCars is funded by a mix of debt and equity and we have angel investors that have believed in the business vision from early on when developing the idea.
How do you differentiate your business from your competitors?
Michael: During my time working in the motoring industry, I could see that the experience of buying and selling used cars is fraught with pushy sales people and scammers, and I knew there was an opportunity to do it better. We’ve taken a time-intensive process and simplified it so you can just search, click and have your car delivered to your door.
Paul: We’re passionate about being open and transparent in business and in giving customers a positive and secure experience when buying and selling used cars. Because the model is new, we worked very hard so our customers could trust that we’d do what we said we would do – we were first in Australia to have an instant quote range that we honour and a 7-day money-back guarantee to give customers confidence. The feedback we’ve received from our customers has been pretty humbling – and it confirmed our view that there was a better way to do used-cars.
What’s the biggest challenge facing your business?
Michael: The automotive industry has trained customers for the past 100 years to expect a confrontational experience when buying or selling a car. For us, the challenge has always been for customers to trust that we’re different from the dodgy used-car sales people out there. And precisely because we’re different, we can be an unknown quantity. So we focus a lot on communicating very simply what we do, so people can easily understand the benefit of doing business with us.
What one phone, tablet or PC application could you not live without?
Paul: Slack: we are on it consistently to chat with the team about... everything! Tripit for bringing all your parts of your travel itineraries in one place. Michael: Google Maps changed my life. I'm terrible with directions!
What’s the best piece of business advice you’ve ever received?
Paul: One of the best pieces of advice that has served me well in practice is to get your ideas out quickly so you can test and refine them. Some won’t work, but it is better than not getting anything out the door! It’s really important not to fear failure and to learn and understand why you failed, so you can grow from it. Michael: Ensure you’re passionate about what you are working on – business is a marathon not a sprint and passion can help you take that extra mile which can be the difference between success and failure.
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