Q&A with Carspring co-founders Maximilian Vollenbroich & Peter Baumgart
“When you have the belief you’re going to succeed, you’ve got to keep pushing…” Carspring founders Maximilian Vollenbroich & Peter Baumgart talk about their startup that is revolutionising the way people buy used cars in the UK
Carspring, founded in March 2015 by Peter Baumgart with Maximilian Vollenbroich, has been named among the top 20 most promising new startups in the UK, and it’s little wonder, because it is a problem-solving business that streamlines one of the processes that most people dislike—buying a used car.
“Don’t expect to see results immediately. Push hard, but be patient!”
Its co-founders are former consultants who decided to strike out on their own when they identified an idea that was a winner. Although they and their friends disliked the process of buying used cars, they were amazed to find that the answer-all resource of the Internet couldn’t even help.
“Yes,” says Peter Baumgart today, “it shocked me that there was no online solution! So in this untrusted market, what we have done is to use technology to provide a completely relaxing and stress-free way to buy a used car.”
The Carspring system differs from other online car dealers in the UK by holding its own inventory. Adopting a similar model to US firms such as Beepi and Vroom, Carspring enables customers to choose cars from an online catalogue, pay online, and have the vehicle delivered to their home.
Carspring is backed by the Berlin-based startup ‘incubator’ Rocket Internet, and in July 2015, the company raised a reported $3.29m in its first round of funding from a number of investors
11 Questions for Carspring founders Maximilian Vollenbroich & Peter Baumgart
Maximillian Vollenbroic and Peter Baumgart agreed to clear some time in their schedules to answer AGENT’s questions about the story of their startup to date. They spoke about the very beginnings of Carspring, their role models & inspirations, their achievements & challenges and, for the benefit of young entrepreneurs preparing to start up in business today, shared some of the key lessons they have learned during their early years in business.
1. Briefly tell us how you first got into business, and describe your business goals.
Max: I always wanted to start my own businesses. It was just a question of when… and what! When we came up with the Carspring concept, we knew we were onto a winner. We’re here to make car-buying better.
Peter: The moment comes when you have to buy a car. For me, like most people, the first car was a used one. There’s no getting around it—it was an unpleasant experience for me, and I know I’m not the only one. After talking with friends about their experiences, which were largely negative, I started thinking about ways to make it better.
I looked into the used car sector in detail, visited dealerships, talked to more friends about their buying experiences, and researched market trends and conditions. What shocked me was there was no online solution. Carspring now fills that gap. We’ve come up with a model that gives our customers all the confidence and convenience they’d ever want. In this untrusted market, we’ve developed a completely relaxing, stress-free way to buy. Our business goal is to bring this to as many people as possible, starting with the UK.
2. What age were you when you realised you wanted to run your own business?
Max: Always. There are some people who just have the itch. That was definitely the case with me.
Peter: There are some people who, as soon as they’re old enough to think independently, know they want to start a business. It wasn’t like that for me. It was a process of realisation. I learnt a great deal whilst working as a consultant. But, more than anything, it imparted on me a desire to break away and do something for myself. I was 27 when I was completely certain.
3.Who are your business icons and inspirations?
Max: It’s not really a business icon, but Michael Schumacher is a huge inspiration. I admire his drive and determination to win at all costs. While he was racing, he never gave up. It just so happens he’s a fellow German and car enthusiast.
Peter: For anyone involved in e-commerce, Jeff Bezos has to be a real inspiration. Taking Amazon from a unique idea, based in his garage, to the dominant, global force in online retail that it is today, is truly inspiring. He’s not just a great businessman, he’s a great innovator. It’s always intriguing to see the next revolutionary concept Amazon comes up with, whether it’s cashless shops or delivery drones.
4. What has been your biggest challenge in business, and how did you surmount it?
Max: You come across a lot of challenges when you decide to take the plunge and start a business. It’s part and parcel of what you’re getting yourself involved in. I’m an ‘ideas man’. For me the biggest challenge is prioritising which ideas to go with.
Peter: It’s a challenge to ensure the team stays motivated and gives 100% day-in, day-out. We have a great team, who are all passionate about the business. So, while it’s an important challenge, it’s not necessarily a difficult one. I guess the greatest challenge is balancing that need to adapt to the dynamism of the market, while keeping the overall strategy stable and remaining completely focused.
5. Work-Life balance: is it possible? How do you achieve it?
Max: It’s possible. Maybe balance is the wrong word, as it connotes an equilibrium. Anybody who has started their own business will tell you it’s not really like that. When you run your own business, it consumes you. That doesn’t mean that you can’t relax, or that it’s not important to have some down time; but I’m thinking about my company every hour I’m awake.
Peter: Yes, it is possible, but only if you enjoy your work. I don’t have completely free weekends or vacations any more, but still make sure to set aside enough private time when work does not bother me. I love what I do though, so it doesn’t really feel like work.
6. What is the first thing you do every day?
Max: Well, I know it’s a little obvious. But I think like most people I get up and take a shower. I’m not one of those people who starts the day with a half marathon. I want to conserve my energy for getting the job done.
Peter: I start every day by drinking a cup of coffee and catching up on the headlines. It’s hugely important to me to know what’s going on in the world.
7. What screen saver picture is currently on your phone?
Max: I keep things simple. I just leave the screensaver as it comes. If it’s good enough for Apple, it’s good enough for me.
Peter: My screen saver picture is just the standard picture from Apple, as it doesn’t distract me.
8. What is the most important app on your mobile phone, and why?
Max: I’m a German living in London, so Google Maps is the most important app on my phone. The street layout here is such a maze compared to the grid system we have at home. If I didn’t have Maps, I’d probably never be able to make it into work.
Peter: A radar-control app that warns me of police and speed cameras. Obviously, I always stick to speed limits, but it’s still good to be warned in advance 😉
9. What is the last thing you Googled?
Max: The Euro to GBP exchange rate. I’m kind of obsessed with it. Obviously Brexit has made everything a lot more volatile – and for a company like ours, based in London and Berlin, it’s vital for our business to stay on top of all the movements.
Peter: Carspring. If you could check my history, you’d realise it usually is the last thing I’ve Googled. I like to keep abreast of what people are saying about us.
10. What item do you never leave the house without, and why?
Max: My watch. My days are busy. I need to keep time.
Peter: I never leave the house without my smartphone or wallet. I need to stay connected and be able to make any impulsive purchases I like.
11. What advice would you give to your younger self starting out in business?
Max: When you start a business you have to be completely sure that you’re 100% confident in your idea. If not, you may as well give up straight away. And, when you have that faith, that belief, you’re going to succeed, you’ve got to keep pushing. No matter how unlikely it seems at times, no matter what challenges you face, no matter how much of your life your idea consumes – you’ve just got to keep pushing. As Thomas Edison once said, ‘What it boils down to is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.’
Peter: Don’t expect to see results immediately. Push hard, but be patient.