Buying a used car has essentially stayed the same for 75 years: what’s the mileage, what’s the vehicle history, get a mechanic to check out the moving parts and haggle over the price. As electric cars saturate the market and consumers become more comfortable with online car buying and selling (accelerated by COVID), there’s an opportunity to disrupt the same old process. We believe Recurrent is perfectly positioned for this dual industry transition.
But why am I the one working on this?
Because I Love Negotiating On Cars
I love negotiating. So it’s maybe not surprising that I’ve always secretly loved buying and selling cars. For every car I’ve bought, I’ve delightedly negotiated until I get the inevitable “this isn’t fun anymore” from the sales rep. “But it’s still fun for me,” I want to say.
In My Spare Time, I ‘Cleanteched’
In 2009, I helped start EnergySavvy (home energy efficiency software) because, after a career in software at Microsoft and aQuantive, I wanted to make a difference on climate change. Ten years later, having built a $10M business alongside incredible investors, amazing colleagues, and loyal customers, it was bittersweet to go through an acquisition. It felt like we had found a good home for what we’d built, and it was clear that we weren’t done “fixing the climate change problem”.
But what to do next? I had the opportunity to spend some time as Entrepreneur-in-Residence (EIR) at UW’s Clean Energy Institute to ponder that question while working with many of the scientists, researchers and entrepreneurs associated with Washington Clean Energy Testbeds (at UW). So much had changed in the clean tech world since I’d gone heads down on home energy efficiency in 2009. But one of the most obvious was: Batteries! Batteries on wheels! Batteries driving everywhere in Seattle!
Wherein I Learn about the Retail Car Industry
My software career has spanned many domains: higher education tools, online advertising, energy efficiency. So it doesn’t feel unusual for me to jump into a new vertical. In digging into the automotive industry, as EIR at UW and eventually also with Pioneer Square Labs, I learned a few things right away:
- People buy a lot of cars every year. Nearly 60M in the US alone. Most of those purchases are used vehicles.
- Virtually all car sales are initiated online, and more and more they are completed digitally, skipping many elements of the traditional “dealer walk in” experience.
- While most people now say they’ll consider an electric car for their next purchase, there’s more comfort with new EVs than with used EVs.
- Why that difference? It’s mostly about the battery. Everyone has owned a smartphone long enough to know that as the rechargeable battery in it ages, it doesn’t last as long on a single charge. An EV is basically a battery with wheels and some trim on top -- when you’re not sure how that battery has been used by its previous owner, that leads to some apprehension.
We Start a Company. In the Middle of the Pandemic. Gulp.
The way I found my partner for this venture, Kyle Rippey, is one of those classic small-town Seattle tech stories. Kyle worked at Rover with lots of my former aQuantive and EnergySavvy colleagues. He CTO’ed previously at Estately, a company that came up at the same time as EnergySavvy and was located literally next door to our first office in a building that is long since torn down in South Lake Union. He mentored at Ada Developers Academy, a non-profit that I’ve dedicated thousands of hours to as co-founder and a board member. And he shares a pragmatic, drama-free approach to building a company culture that values honesty, collaboration and inclusion.
So here we are. Recurrent was validated with the help of an awesome team at Pioneer Square Labs, and ultimately emerged as a funded spin-out company in June 2020. We’re born with a mission to provide transparency and confidence in the growing used electric car market. Our first product is a battery condition report for used electric cars, to help buyers understand battery aging and range over time.