WheelPrice co-founders Wally Namane and Kyle Mayers shared their startup experience Innovation Destination Hartford.
INNOVATION DESTINATION HARTFORD: When and why did you launch?
KYLE MAYERS: The idea first came to us while attending the University of Connecticut. Juggling our passion for modifying cars while being full-time students on a limited budget required financial finesse. We became savvy at locating rare automotive parts at a decent price, but it took a lot of effort.
After graduating and landing jobs in the tech industry, we wanted to challenge ourselves by giving back to the automotive community that brought us together. After many attempts, we launched WheelPrice in fall of 2017.
IDH: Tell us about your business concept.
KYLE: WheelPrice was created out of frustration of having to spend countless hours locating and navigating multiple websites searching for automotive parts. As car enthusiasts, we found the process to purchase parts locally and online to be antiquated, inefficient, and sometimes dangerous. There was no centralized place to find parts and seller listings were almost always incomplete.
WALLY NAMANE: One step of the process we wanted to address was the financial transaction between buyer and seller. Many of the parts our users are selling can range from a few hundred to several thousand dollars. There are countless instances of meetups gone sour due to scams or violence. We address this by allowing the transaction to be 100% digital through our platform, so no cash is exchanged.
We also have a feedback and rating system for both the buyer and seller. This allows a continuous feedback loop so buyers can feel safe and reassured about who they’re dealing with and sellers get peace of mind that they’re interacting with a genuine buyer. All purchases are backed through our payment gateway provider, which allows us to provide a money-back guarantee if the product is not as described.
IDH: Have you utilized any Connecticut small business or startup resources?
WALLY: We subscribe to the Connecticut Small Business Development Center (CTSBDC) newsletter to stay up to date on current events in Connecticut.
Participating in StartupWeekend events was a great resource. You’re in an ultra-fast-paced environment where you “build a business over a weekend.” In 54 hours, you create the concept, business model, pitch deck, and MVP and collect market feedback.
It was amazing to see a group of individuals so passionate about their craft. Hearing others talk about their journey put things into perspective (i.e., product timing, how to build a proper team, building your side hustle while working a 9-to-5 job).
StartupWeekend was my first time pitching a concept to a group of venture capitalists. The idea we came up with that weekend was an app that enabled university students to find events on campus. We didn’t place, but we got a ton of great feedback on the presentation and the concept. The biggest takeaway was the importance of the business model.
Presenting a clear problem statement, how the product/service will address the need, and how it will be monetized are fundamental components of the pitch.
Throughout this entire journey, one characteristic I attribute to all the progress we’ve made is resiliency. You almost need to have a delusional dose of it—a nothing-is-going-to-stop-you-no-matter-what attitude. We hear the concept of failing fast and I really think it speaks to being resilient. The entire process will be an uphill battle and a rollercoaster of emotions sprinkled with excitement, doubt, and everything in between. I’ve come to the realization that resiliency is what will separate the entrepreneurs from the wannapreneuers.
IDH: Who is your target market and how are you reaching that market?
KYLE: Our target market is people who are just as obsessed about cars as we are. This market is meticulous, and details absolutely matter. We are simplifying and centralizing the buying and selling process to meet the community’s specific needs. Quality is extremely important for our community, so we must meet or exceed their expectations.
We’re reaching our target market primarily through social media, organic content, and collaborating with key influencers across the automotive industry. We’re constantly looking to incorporate feedback—we make it a point to respond to every message, comment, and question we receive. Listening is a big part of the process.
IDH: Any advice for others launching startups?
KYLE: Don’t wait for perfection. We weren’t intimidated by failure, so we were able to embrace the “fail fast” mantra. What we were intimidated by was putting out a platform that didn’t have 100% of the features we wanted and social media content that wasn't meticulously crafted.
Moving forward, we’ve evolved into not worrying about hitting the 100% mark every time, but rather delivering smaller increments of value to our WheelPrice members at a faster rate.
IDH: What’s next?
KYLE: We hope to make fewer mistakes and more enhancements and continue having fun. The rest of 2019 is focused on collecting feedback from the WheelPrice community and tweaking the platform as needed.
Without revealing all our cards, 2020 will be spent introducing innovative technologies to WheelPrice and further expanding outside the United States. We look forward to catching up with Innovation Destination Hartford a year from now to provide an update.
Learn more about WheelPrice