Interview: James Hind of carbuzz

Finance graduate, James Hind started out his career at a fund management group. His internship, during a spell when the whole finance world seemed to collapse, put him off a city- based career for life.

Following his career changing revelation, James settled in the picturesque French Alps for a season of skiing. After working as a ski guide he then decided to explore Asia, backpacking his way around the South East region.

James’ next step was to set up carbuzz, a site which aggregates car information and makes ‘choosing a car easy’ – very soon it will also allow the user to buy their researched car online. Below James talks to 10×10 Labs about starting out and taking his first steps into the world of business …

Can you briefly describe carbuzz & its features?

Well, carbuzz began as a new car research site that helps people choose which new car to buy. It has aggregated reviews for every new car on sale, along with user reviews, stats, photos and videos. There’s also a car chooser tool which narrows down what car would suit you best. The aim is to make it as quick and simple as possible for someone to figure out what car they should get.

We’re now launching the ability to actually buy your new car through the site as well. We’ve carried out a beta test selling one car brand that worked really well and are now getting set to roll it out to every car brand.

How did you come up with the idea for carbuzz- are you a car fanatic yourself?

I’d have to say that I am! I’ve always been into cars in a big way and because friends know this, they would come to me for advice when they were after a new car. It didn’t take long for me to figure out that the process of researching a car could be made a lot simpler, instead of trawling through lots of online resources, people should be able to come to one place for an aggregated, summarised opinion and information presented in a way that’s easy to understand. Trying to figure out what new car to buy is an arduous task and it’s hard to know whose opinion to trust on the internet, when there are so many conflicting ‘expert’ opinions and confusing stats.

Our early users told us that they hated the new car buying process, so that gave us the idea to help them not only research their new car, but also buy it. Lots of studies have shown people don’t enjoy buying their cars, they don’t enjoy the face to face haggling and the baffling jargon salesmen use.

How has the carbuzz team and business model grown since you started out?

The team started with Alexandra Margolis and myself as co-founders. We soon realised that we needed to bring development in-house if we wanted to get things done quicker and more effectively, which is when we sought out David Sontoro, our excellent CTO and co-founder.

The model has changed as we started out as a publishing site which would make money from advertising, our plan now involves charging a commission on each new car sold through the site. Currently we make money from advertising, which mainly comes from car manufacturers. With the buying part of the site we make a commission on each new car sold, we will also make extra revenue through affiliate partnerships with companies that provide services such as car insurance and finance.

How did you go about seeking funding for carbuzz in the beginning?

We have been completely bootstrapped so far and have just started looking for seed investment.

Have you experienced any set backs in the startup process and if so how have you overcome them?

As mentioned briefly already, not having control over development was a major issue at the start, we had to play the waiting game and it was a struggle getting what we wanted. We got our CTO on-board and redesigned the entire website to make some major improvements to loading times and usability in particular. It’s also far more cost-effective than outsourcing development!

In recent days we’ve had problems with Google algorithm changes not treating aggregation sites favourably, and consequently our traffic figures have been hit hard. We’ve invested heavily in further content and have had to change our core content strategy and build a bigger editorial team.

What does the future hold carbuzz?

We want to become known as the best place to buy a new car.

In the next few months we hope to raise investment to allow us to market our service to consumers and to build the team.

What is your advice to new tech start-ups from your experience?

Get feedback from real users as quickly as possible. It’s no use asking experts, other entrepreneurs or investors what they think of your product, you have to put it in front of real users.

We made assumptions that were quickly proved wrong when we put our product to the real world, which is fine, as long as you’re not afraid to change what you offer and respond quickly to the data you get.