Buying a car — it conjures up images of haggling, hassles and frustration. Carnegie Mellon University student Todd Medema (TPR'14) has the solution.
Medema is the COO of AutoRef, a startup that allows customers to search and negotiate automobile purchases — free and online.
Buyers receive no-obligation final offers, guaranteed for 72 hours. They can use this time to visit dealerships and test-drive, offers in hand.
And unlike competitive sites, AutoRef simplifies the process for both new and used cars.
"Purchasing a used car is a much more difficult process because each has its own mileage, its own crash history, etc," explained Medema.
"But at AutoRef we have four CMU team members with strengths in technology, so our site is faster and easier to use than our competitors," he said. "We help customers get final offers."
Entrepreneurial since his high school tech support company days, Medema came to CMU searching for the right opportunity. Through the Undergraduate Entrepreneurship Association, he became the youngest student fellow of 406 Ventures, a Boston-based venture capital firm that connected him with the founder of AutoRef.
Now based in Pittsburgh, AutoRef launched its website in July. The six-person company already has over 300 dealerships on board and has served more than 50 customers. According to Medema, their customers have saved up to $3,000, and more than two hours at the dealership.
He credits much to CMU.
"Entrepreneurship has always been in my genes but there's something about the CMU environment," said Medema, who also founded the campus AppXGames. "Being around such intelligent people, I learn as much from working on small projects with my friends as I do from class."
This culture of entrepreneurship at CMU is supported by the innovation ecosystem Greenlighting Startups, a consortium of campus incubators that provide key resources for success.
"I've turned to Project Olympus with almost everything I've done," Medema said. "AutoRef received their $3,000 Spark grant and Kit Needham, Olympus' senior business advisor, has been very helpful and provided many useful connections."
Project Olympus is part of Carnegie Mellon's Greenlighting Startups, designed to accelerate the university's already impressive record of turning campus innovations into sustainable new businesses.
And even though AutoRef, currently talking to investors to raise $3 million, has grown beyond the Project Olympus mission, "Kit still connects me with people she thinks I should meet," said Medema. "She's still a fantastic resource."
Greenlighting Startups is uniquely designed to support CMU's culture of entrepreneurship and new business creation. Learn more »