Featured Founder: Vong Lo of ClearAT
Welcome to our Featured Founder series, where you’ll meet startup founders from Tampa-St. Petersburg who are building and scaling their ventures to solve some of the world’s greatest challenges. We interviewed Vong Lo, Co-Founder and CEO of ClearAT, a tech startup working to infuse technology in the automotive industry and disrupt the car buying experience.
What were you doing previously and what inspired you to launch your company?
I was in the automotive retail eco-system for over 14 years. I was a General Manager for one of the largest dealer groups in the midwest. My experience led me to work with many automotive brands and the common pain point in our industry was it did not utilize technology to aid in making the customer experience better and faster during the purchase process (focusing on getting that purchase time down to one hour). What I mean by that is that the majority of technology was focused more on getting guests in the door. What the industry lacked was how to make the buying a car seamless, painless, and most importantly fast for guests and employees who worked there. I just thought there were better ways to do what we do every day and create long-lasting relationships between the employees and guests.
What pain point is your company solving? What gets you excited to go to work every day?
ClearAT (pronounced like clarity) is trying to solve the issue of why it takes so long to purchase a vehicle. Cox Automotive did research on the average time it takes to purchase a vehicle at the dealership, in 2019, and it is around 2:52 hours. We have a company goal of getting this down to one hour. I get up every day because I know we can make an impact in the automotive business. We can really do something that turns around an industry that is stuck and complacent and change it for the good. No one wants to spend 3 hours at the dealership, no one.
Name the biggest challenge you faced in the process of launching the company. How did you overcome it?
I would be lying if I had said funding first and foremost. We are currently bootstrapping. Another challenge is that it is hard to find investors from the automotive industry. The automotive industry has a very old school way of thinking and doing business (needs and upgrade). I think a lot of owners in the car industry are afraid of technology in many aspects. I feel owners are threatened by huge companies that try to enter the market like Amazon, Google, and Carvana, etc. Most of these companies were met with resistance because they shared the common aspect of utilizing technology in their process of selling cars and threatened the decades of complacency. It's hard to find investors from the automotive industry let alone the technology ecosystem. Just look around when you see trade shows and technology events, you rarely see folks in the automotive sector, which is a huge market and potential.
Where do you see your company headed next?
Taking the market by storm! We will be beta testing our applications and when we have enough clients we will be looking for a seed round. After that, take no prisoners.
Give us a tactical piece of advice that you’d share with another founder just starting out.
Spend money on a good lawyer. Do your research and find a good quality lawyer who understands what you are doing. That way you protect your business, partners, vendors, and clients. Whatever you do just do it. Jump and take the leap. Be aggressive and once you make the decision to do something, go 100% and never look back.
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