Selling a vehicle is no picnic, and shopping for the right car can be quite a process, too.
What if you could advertise your car for sale all from the ease of your cell phone, or better yet, shop for vehicles using a simple text message?
Thanks to Springfield native Josh Holstein, founder and CEO of CellARide, now you can.
CellARide is a technology startup based in downtown Springfield in the eFactory, a tech-focused entrepreneurship center and business incubator
The company’s story began nearly seven years ago in 2010 when Holstein came across a car with the traditional “for sale” sign in the window. He knew there had to be a better way.
“I wanted to speak to the car,” he said. “I know it sounds weird, but I want to communicate with the vehicle more than I do the dealer.”
To Holstein, the solution was obvious – replace the old-school “for sale” sign with the widely adopted technology of texting.
Holstein began working on a prototype for what is now called the CellARide for-sale-by-owner product but was unsure how to take it to market. Once he was introduced to CARFAX founder Ewin Barnett, things started coming together.
Barnett became an investor and advisor in the company and helped Holstein create and market a slightly different product, CarInfoToGo, for dealerships and large vehicle manufacturers.
The company now has both CarInfoToGo and CellARide for-sale-by-owner in the market.
Holstein said CellARide’s overall mission is “using text messages to revolutionize car shopping”, the company’s tagline. Revolutionize might even be an understatement.
To sell a car using the for-sale-by-owner platform, all a user must do is go to CellARide’s website, select a plan (standard, deluxe, or premium), and create a profile for the vehicle. Users can add photos, videos and a CARFAX report to the profile.
After completing the profile, a printable “RIDEtag” with a unique text code will be created to put inside the vehicle.
“People typically go to O’Riley or Walmart, get a sign, and put a little novel in the white space with the mileage and this and that,” Holstein said. “This replaces that to where all you have is sign with a text code specifically for your vehicle.”
A note from MTC Director Bill Anderson
“CellARide has shown that the sky really is the limit. To take something as simple as texting and build an entire company out of it is truly incredible, and MTC is proud to support companies like CellARide that contribute to our state’s innovative technology scene.”
Interested buyers can text the code and get back a message with information on the car and a link to a mobile brochure containing the vehicle’s profile. Sellers can then follow-up with shoppers via text or email to communicate about the car.
CarInfoToGo for dealerships and vehicle manufacturers works essentially the same way – every vehicle on the lot has a RIDEtag, people text the code, get the information, and ultimately communicate with the vehicles as opposed to the dealership staff.
Both products include a free “virtual garage” where every vehicle a user inquires about is placed so they can go back and review information, compare cars, etc.
It’s amazing what one idea can become, and this couldn’t be more true for CellARide.
The company started with only one employee, Holstein, in the smallest space of the eFactory. Now with a team of six employees, CellARide has grown into one of the largest offices in the facility.
CellARide currently works with several dealerships including Toyota, Nissan, Honda, and Enterprise.
“To create something out of nothing, literally out of thin air, and see these larger companies see value in what you’re doing will really just make you get emotional about it,” Holstein said.
CellARide has come a long way, and investors like the Missouri Technology Corporation (MTC) have been vital sources of support.
To date, MTC has invested a total of $70,000 in the company through its IDEA Fund Seed Capital Co-Investment Program.
In addition to financial support, Holstein said MTC has also been a big part of CellARide partnering with the right organizations to gain validation and credence.
“You take all those things together, and that’s what’s really helped boost our company from nothing to what it is today,” he said.
Going forward, Holstein said his number one goal for CellARide is to take the company as far as he can, then turn it over to an infrastructure that can take it much further.
“That’s been the goal from day one – find a company that can really help us take it to the next level,” he said.