The stereotypical image of a Silicon Valley entrepreneur is the young impetuous upstart who turns the Internet world on its head with a brilliant piece of code. Think Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Snapchat’s Evan Spiegel, or the young Google Guys. The only problem is that it’s mostly a myth. That’s why it’s so refreshing to encounter Andy Moss, the understated British expat at the helm of Roadster. He’s less high-tech rock star—and more simply a mature problem-solver with a geeky passion for making online shopping a better experience.
Andy’s experience in e-commerce dates back to the dotcom boom of the early 2000s, before the world was shopping for everything online. He was managing software projects for large companies figuring out how to buy equipment and supplies for their employees—a field called e-procurement. Others might find it somewhat dry. “I had a blast,” Andy told me. “And I got bit by the high-tech bug.”
In 2006, Andy founded ShopStyle. “When we started, there was a doubt whether people would buy clothes online,” he said. “To make that happen, I knew we needed two things. First, we needed the right brands and retailers represented, and second, we needed to make the user interface really show off the merchandise, not just small thumbnail photos like others were doing at the time.”
It was a winning formula. “We became the largest fashion search engine in the world, rolling out to seven countries,” he explained. Now merged with PopSugar, an online media network, ShopStyle drives about $1 billion in sales every year.
The Next Frontier: Cars
After leaving ShopStyle in 2011, and after a deeper dive into fashion e-commerce with his next company, FabKids, a kid’s apparel business, Andy started looking for other marketplaces that needed overhauling. “Automotive reminded me of where we were at with ShopStyle in 2006,” he said. Unlike fashion, which became sophisticated in the past decade, online car buying is stuck in circa 1998. “There’s a high degree of fragmentation. There’s nothing cutting edge in terms of inventory, data or user interfaces,” he said. “The premise of Roadster was really simple. It’s time for real e-commerce for cars.”
Andy’s mathematical formula for Roadster:
Deep Inventory + Easy Fulfillment + Genuine Trust
Deep Inventory. Roadster currently aggregates about 80 percent of all new cars in California, its initial market. They are working toward 100 percent. This means you can identify the specific car with the precise features you want from across hundreds of dealerships. Andy explained, “You get the exact color, package and options you want, even if there’s only one like that in the entire state.”
Easy Fulfillment. In survey after survey, Americans rank buying a car as the most painful consumer experience. “We want to be true e-commerce, which means taking the service all the way through delivery of the car to your doorstep,” said Andy. Roadster handles everything from providing a great up-front price, financing, signing the paperwork, and delivery. The Roadster process saves buyers 10 to 15 hours of stressful work. Because Roadster negotiates and acquires cars all the time, and has a thorough understanding of leasing and financing, you get an insider’s price, typically much better than you could negotiate yourself.
Genuine Trust. It’s easy to talk about trust, but harder to deliver it. Andy said the key is the Roadster “Deal Sheet.” Before you make any decision, or pay anything to Roadster, the Deal Sheet lays out every single cost — MSRP, registration, fees…everything in writing, for you to review and study in the comfort of your home, not under the pressure of a dealership office. The Deal Sheet explains all the factors related to financing, leasing or paying in cash. A Roadster concierge is available to answer questions, no matter how many you have.
Andy’s entrepreneurial project might not have the razzle-dazzle of 140-character missives or snappy temporary video chats. But for car buyers tired of enduring a medieval commercial exchange, it’s much more exciting and helpful. “We have a combination of something customers really love, and a very large market of people who dislike the existing process,” said Andy. “As a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, that’s a dream come true. Roadster impacts people for the better, while making an existing process more efficient for all parties involved.”