Archive | August 2005

Put it all in perspective….

I really can’t put into words how I feel as I sit here and watch the devastation left behind Hurricane Katrina. You never realize how easy and lucky life is, until you see how hard and scary it can really be. I was absolutely overwhelmed with emotion earlier today when I saw a clip of man with child in arms telling the heart breaking tale of when the water came and took his wife away. The reporter followed up by asking “where is your wife,” and he responded with tears “I can’t find her body, I tried to hold her hand but couldn’t hang on. She told me to take care of the kids.” It hit me like a ton of bricks. I immediately felt like I had to do something. I did really the only thing I could do right now from Columbus, oh…give money to the red cross. It’s such a helpless feeling knowing that there really isn’t anything I can do for these people other than give them some money. They were living normally, with normal daily concerns such as paying the bills, going to work, and catching their show on TV no more than 3 days ago. Now they are fighting for food, climbing to higher ground to avoid the water, screaming for help, and mourning their losses. I guess it can turn all around so quickly. I really have it pretty well. Despite desperately wanting for something more, the truth is the now has a lot to offer me as well. I seek to wake up each morning, take a deep breath, and say “it doesn’t get any better than this.” Live the moment, love the moment, and cherish the moment…you never know when it could slip away.

Staying Focused

I have to say it is really difficult at this point in my life to stay fully focused and committed to one thing, when there seems to be opportunity around every corner. I recently found that one of the businesses I was attempting to start hit a major legal wall, but to be honest with you it wasn’t that bad. True I have worked very hard getting to the point I’m at, only to realize that everything needs to be changed if that company is ever to make money. But, alas one door closes and another opens. Almost at the same time engenius (the first business) went down, a new idea popped up, which has moved surprisingly quick. It went from an idea in June, to a discussion in July, to having 3 dedicated workers in August and meetings with 2 fortune 500 companies. I’m also in serious discussions with my entrepreneur group to develop a fantastic opportunity for people like us in Columbus to connect. We’re talking a networking opportunity that has never been done before. That idea has only been in discussion for a few weeks, and is probably only a month away from hitting a massive scale. In addition to this, I’m constantly talking real estate with my good friend Pete, who despite having 8 kids, lives rather comfortably thanks to his passion for life and real estate. He loves every day that comes into his life, and I doubt that even in the darkest moments his incredible spirit is challenged. He’s a fantastic guy for someone like me to talk to and hang out with. I’m so used to people hearing about me and acting like I’m crazy. The funny thing about telling people you’re an entrepreneur is that you always get the feeling that the second they hear that a little voice goes off in their head that says
“look at him, he’s just a kid, if you couldn’t do it then he can’t.” Pete of course is the exact opposite. He thinks all of my ideas are “the greatest he’s ever heard.” And he is really open to teaching me all tricks of his real estate trade. As he says, “I’d love to see everyone I know down at Siesta Key, living the good life. There’s plenty to go around.” Perhaps my real focus, should be attitude. If you can live a life where everyday feels full of opportunity, hope, and abundance, then well what else do you need? Right now, I’m just enjoying one hell of a ride.

How to annoy fans…

Want a lesson on how to annoy fans? MLB has one for you, check it out here I understand that the opportunity to capture people’s names and email addresses is one very few companies would pass up. But do you need my birthday, phone number, blood sample, signed and notarized birth certificate? Ok the last two are made up, but that is the feeling I got when I first glanced at this page. Just ask me for my f’ing name and email address, let me opt out of your crappy marketing campaigns, and then let me vote. If I want to enter to win Viagra’s contest, then I will afterwards. Why even give the option to enter on this page when the only people eligible to win are those who are 35 and over (while it says you must be 18 or over to enter, huh?). All I want to do is vote for JR, and that’s it!

Steps in the right direction….

Today was one of those days that just felt right. I was able to get a clearer picture of when a final product will be finished for my internet services business, and I’ve also been able to hammer out some legal details regarding ownership for some of my partners on that business. We compiled a list of potential customers today, and as an obvious lover of our product I can’t see a reason why any of them would say no! I suppose that comes with the territory of being an entrepreneur, everything about your idea looks and feels right. That’s what keeps you going even when the world says no. I’m excited to see where things are at the end of the week. I have some good meetings coming up, and I’m especially excited for the potential of the business being started by my entrepreneur group. Who knows what will happen with that collection of great minds.

As an interesting side note, I’m working on a career lifeline to place on this blog. I plan to cover everything I’ve really done as a “worker,” in my life in the hopes of capturing some themes and discovering my strengths and weaknesses. It should be very interesting.

By the way, it really bothers me that the word “blog,” shows up as misspelled in the blogger spellcheck. What the hell?

How f(l)at is the used car market?

I learned the hard way the difference between a $100 an hour lawyer and a $500 per hour lawyer. I went to see Derek Harp, CEO of The Drop-Spot, on Friday to discuss Engenius Motors and a possible partnership. I found out that Mr. Harp and his team had spent a decent amount in legal fees in search of the answer to a question my lawyer and I had answered rather easily. I didn’t realize the size of the money backed monster I was taking on.

For those of you who don’t know (which is probably everyone), I’ve been working on a start-up over the last 3 months called Engenius Motors, which is a company determined to cut the fat out of the used car market. You see there is an enormous disparity between a typical trade in value and the dealer resale value. For example on Kelly Blue Book a 2003 Acura CL 3.2 Coupe with 56,000 miles can be valued as these three figures in Columbus, OH:

Private Party Value

1
$14,595

Trade-in Value

2 $11,695

Retail Value

3 $18,895

Mileage:

56,000

Now these numbers are in no way exact, but the difference between them tends to be fairly accurate. So a dealer would be able to pay $11,695 for a trade in and then turn around and sell it for $18,895 without doing anything (I’m assuming if they touch the car whether to clean it or inspect, the price only goes higher). We all could be a lot better off if the car owner could sell it for $14,000 and a buyer could buy it for $14,000, right? Now I know some of you are saying well what about all those bad people out there who could sell us a rebuilt wreck, don’t the dealers protect us from them? No, they don’t. There are companies built around eBay Motors that can not only fulfill the functions of the dealer in this situation, but actually do them better. There are private, independent inspection companies such as Carchex that could inspect your car and certify it’s condition, good or bad, for $100. You could get a vehicle history report for $25 at Carfax and most cars are covered by a 1,000 mile/30 day warranty through eBay Motors. Essentially you could be covered better than a dealership can cover you (because all of these companies make money regardless of the car’s condition, but a dealership only gets paid when you buy), and you’d save $4,000 for the exact same car! So why doesn’t everyone sell themselves? Because it’s a painful process, and nothing is easier than trading a car in. That’s where Engenius Motors comes in. We want to make selling it yourself as easy as trading it in with the prices a private seller gets. As you can see from all tools above, it would truly benefit us all if a whole bunch of “virtual” dealerships popped up to facilitate the sale between private owners. The problem is, it doesn’t benefit the people with a lot of money, and a lot to lose.

The National Automobile Dealership Association is an enormous lobbyist group representing the needs of car dealerships across America. They have successfully clamped down both state and federal laws to prevent firms from doing exactly what I set out to do with Engenius. Because the NADA has such a lock down on laws, it has been difficult for anyone to develop a business model that improves this process. As a result we just see constantly evolving bulletin boards starting with your local newspaper classifieds to cars.com. Ebay Motors is the only real site to challenge the traditional sell it yourself methods by providing auctions which remove those horrible negotiations that are usually associated with selling a car yourself. But even the enormous $13 billion eBay motors is under pressure from the NADA to not cross into dealership territory. They too only charge two flat fees of $40 to people selling their cars, one to list and the other when the “auction” closes. They can not even charge a FVF, which is their big moneymaker elsewhere on the site, (Final value fee, a % of the sale price) in order to prevent the NADA lawyers from accusing eBay Motors of “selling cars.” In order to prevent companies from squeezing out the inefficiencies associated with the used car market, which would be to maximize the number of people selling their car directly to private buyers, the NADA has been able to get incredibly powerful laws in place.
So here I am slowed, but not stopped. Fresh off my reading of Thomas Friendman’s The World is Flat, I know that what’s best for the market always prevails. There is a whole lot of fat in the current used car market when there doesn’t have to be. We have the internet to connect to a world of buyers and sellers, security checks to prevent buyers from being ripped off, and a market pricing system that seeks out the true value of each car. The new keys to selling a car is a good marketing package and presentation, independent certification of your car’s condition, and a trusted name. All of which would be provided by Engenius Motors and other consumer aid companies. Instead we face an enormous legal wall, but as readers of Friedman’s book know-walls in the way of efficiency, sooner or later, will come tumbling down.