By Irina Yuen
San Francisco Venture Initiation Program members have made significant progress during the summer term. This week we highlight two ventures: CarHound and BuckSprout.
CarHound is a marketplace solution for new car buying founded by Andrew Liu (WG’12). CarHound helps make car buying painless for consumers by conducting an online reverse auction with local dealers. Customers visit CarHound.com and tell CarHound what they want, and within 48 hours CarHound finds a competitive and guaranteed out-the-door price from a local dealer. Customers simply make an appointment to go pick up their car, or with some dealers can even have the car delivered to their house!
CarHound recently relaunched their newly branded site in July 2012 and continues to grow. They have a data partnership with Edmunds, a marketing partnership with Archstone Apartments, and advisors from JD Power and Edmunds. They recently won first place at a pitch competition at VC Taskforce and received the highest number of votes in Professor Karl Ulrich’s Innovation Tournament. In addition, CarHound was recently awarded Wharton’s Snider Seed Award.
CarHound is Andrew’s second startup and he left his most recent post in 2011 to pursue this venture full-time. “I enjoy seeing an idea that went from concept in my mind to reality and talking to customers who are happy with and willing to pay for the service,” says Andrew. “I enjoy constantly learning, changing, and improving… I enjoy working with a team of really smart people knowing that there are no limitations; trying to solve problems,” Andrew shares. Andrew believes that Wharton has provided him with a great opportunity to pursue an entrepreneurial venture. “Though it is stressful to balance everything, you will never get an opportunity to get so many talented and smart individuals helping you and pushing you along (classmates, professors, and staff). It is a great testing ground for startups. Not only that, you are in an ecosystem of learning and that is the right mindset you need to succeed at a startup.” We wish Andrew and CarHound continued growth and success!
BuckSprout is an early stage startup cofounded by Amilcar Chavarria (WG’13) and Daniel Chen (WG’13), two Wharton MBA classmates. Amilcar and Daniel both quit their jobs in February 2012 to get their company off the ground. BuckSprout is an early stage startup focused on helping people save and invest wisely. BuckSprount believes its approach is unique in that it leverages cutting edge concepts from captology (the study of computers as persuasive technologies) and portfolio management combined. BuckSprout endeavors to help Americans take control of their money matters online in a fun and hands-free manner – one buck at a time – and help people to save and invest wisely.
To date, BuckSprout has focused on building a team with strong finance and engineering skills. They first focused on getting their technical co-founders (alumni of CalTech, IIT, Microsoft, LinkedIn, Netflix, and various startups), and then focused on recruiting advisors to help with addressing weaknesses and expediting their learning. “By attending VIP events and being part of the Wharton community, we’ve been able to meet great people in the valley. They, in turn, have also opened many doors.” says Amilcar. He adds, “We’ve been able to leverage school projects for the benefit of the startup. For example, we conducted a semester-long conjoint study on our first minimum viable product (MVP). Similarly, other marketing and strategy courses have proven helpful in determining a target segment and product differentiation strategy.”
When asked what he enjoyed most about working on BuckSprout, Amilcar stated that the learning experience and emotional roller coaster have been equally rewarding. “The highs are higher than in a corporate job. The problem lies in the lows also being lower (by orders of magnitude) than in a corporate job as well. The key source of enjoyment is overcoming the obstacles and moving ahead every time. It feels like a game in a way where all odds are against you and only a few survive,” says Amilcar.