From humble beginnings in his parents loft to selling £1bn worth of cars in just three years, carwow’s CEO, James Hind, is disrupting the UK’s new car market.
29-year-old James Hind founded the site after graduating from university with a Finance degree. He had a short two-month stint interning at a finance company, but realised that city life was not for him. He's always had a passion for cars, so arrived at the idea of carwow.
In just three years, carwow has raised £18.4 million in funding, has two million users signed-up and a network of 1,400 dealerships. The start-up is scaling quickly, growing from a small business of 14 employees in 2015 to more than 100 now.
1. Tell us about your business?
carwow is the most convenient, stress free way to find and buy a new car, at a price you can be confident in. How does it work? Simply select the car you want, then let carwow find you the most competitive quotes from the UK’s best dealers, in just a few clicks.
2. What excites you most about the work you do?
Making the car buying process better for both buyers and dealers. Consumers now expect to have all information at their fingertips and like the convenience that shopping online allows. When people think of buying a new car, they would typically go directly to a showroom, or several, but were then faced with the awkward haggle and a nagging doubt about whether the price they were paying was fair. On the other hand, dealers were facing this shift in consumer buying behaviour and attitudes, but with no infrastructure or expertise to react to it.
We’ve now given more control to both customers and the industry. It’s great knowing that carwow is helping people have a better buying experience. Testament to that is the fact that 80% of carwow buyers have recommended us to a friend or family member and carwow has a 9.7 score on Trustpilot.
3. How do you keep your employees happy?
Employee satisfaction is one of my top priorities and I strive to keep all 100 members of staff happy. Every single carwow employee owns a part of the business, which makes them more invested in the success of the company. With everyone working towards the same common goal, the workplace is a happier one. Everyone is encouraged to give feedback and suggestions on how we can make the business even better. Teams are very autonomous and able to implement changes themselves.
We also have plenty of benefits, such as regular team outings and events, table tennis, Friday beers, an espresso machine, sparkling water and fresh fruit on tap. We also involve our employees in the interview process when recruiting new staff, to ensure that recruits will be a great fit for our company culture.
4. Tell us about a challenge you faced in your business and how you overcame it?
Early on, we struggled to attract dealers to the site. The car industry has remained largely unchanged for the past 100 years, and dealers were understandably reluctant to try something that had yet to prove its worth. Many dealerships thought carwow was a race to the bottom and eroding their margins. However, through speaking to dealers about which dealers buyers actually go with after revewing their quotes - only 25% buy from the cheapest. By giving them the context and transparency they need on the price they are paying, they can then make an informed, and more confidence-filled choice about which dealer is right for them, and its not always the one that costs the least. Ultimately customers want some reassurance that they are not being ripped off and as an independent source, carwow provides just that.
5. Apart from your own, which other businesses are exciting you right now?
SpaceX, definitely. Elon Musk is a huge inspiration to me; being the founder of two billion-dollar companies is something I'm sure all entrepreneurs strive for. More than that, the headway that SpaceX is making in the space exploration arena is truly incredible.
6. What’s your best piece of employee management advice?
Treat your employees as your equals and involve them as much as possible in your business' growth. In doing so, they really invest in what you're trying to achieve and help you to get there.
7. What one business application/piece of software could you not live without?
Ubuntu Linux, the operating system that runs on our servers. Most of carwow is built on top of open source software, and that's obviously an important one for us.
8. What are you driving right now?
I’d had my eye on a Mercedes C63 Coupe and finally took the plunge a few weeks ago.
9. If you could employ any famous person in your business, past or present, who would it be and why?
Elon Musk, because I'd use his expertise to help further carwow's success.
10. What’s your best piece of advice for anyone else starting their own business?
Make sure your business is solving a customer problem and that you really understand the fundamentals of that problem to make sure your proposition is going to work. Be persistent and constantly strive to make your business better. Seek investment, because the funds and the guidance from the investors will be invaluable.