Sometimes a simple question leads to a great idea.
Robin Smith of Oklahoma City was a marketing and digital freelance consultant for local car dealerships when a friend asked a fateful question that would change her life. About to purchase an item off eBay, the friend asked her if she knew anyone who could go “check it out.”
“I didn’t. It shocked me that this service didn’t exist,” said Smith. “It was just a simple idea, but no one was doing it. That’s when I started thinking.”
WeGoLook, based in Oklahoma City, today offers services in which “Lookers” are dispatched nationwide and even globally to take real-time photos and reports on everything from vehicles to insurance claims to eBay purchase items.
Smith said buyers wary of an expensive item on eBay may want someone to check out the goods before a sale is made. A cautious insurance provider may want to make sure a claim of damage lives up to what a client is saying.
“We are a service that provides visual confirmation and support of a person or a thing,” said Smith. “If you are in Oklahoma City and want to bid on an item in Pennsylvania or New Mexico, we can dispatch one of our Lookers, who will then take pictures and provide a detailed report on that item. We verify the item, so you can make an informed decision.”
WeGoLook has over 30,000 Lookers who then provide third-party verification for such things as items on Craigslist, residential and commercial property, autos and boats, and even people.
A BIG IDEA FROM A SMALL QUESTION
“One of our friends was looking at a high-end projector on eBay, and thought the seller was misrepresenting the item,” Smith said. “He said, ‘I wish I had someone who could go look at it for me.’ This was late 2009. I did some research and couldn’t find a service provider who could do that. I thought that was crazy. Back then, everyone was buying off eBay.”
Given the proliferation of online shopping, auto trading sites and other digital marketplaces, Smith felt she was on to something. For a year, she developed a basic model and recruited her first group of Lookers.
“I used mobile notaries, process servers, inspectors and photographers. We worked really hard and recruited about 4,500 Lookers,” Smith said. “That’s all we did. We then worked with a software developer on the platform and creating our first website.”
Before running with her idea, Smith was in sales. After working for The Washington Post’s sales office, she moved up to regional management.
“I moved back to Oklahoma to be close to my family, and I worked for a media company in sales, and realized pretty quickly that I needed more flexibility,” she said. So from 2005 to 2008 she started her own company consulting for car dealerships on marketing strategy.
“Some of the dealers I worked with back then didn’t even have websites,” she said. “That was really my first exposure to the internet, and I fell in love with it.”
Soon, the car dealers began turning to Smith for lead generation and the service side, and the whole time, she told herself to learn everything she could about the internet, about digital marketing and digital lead generation.
So, when that one friend asked that pivotal question in 2009, Smith was ready to formulate an idea that could make the business model work.
“I could see how a website could drive orders. Without all of the experience working with car dealers, I probably would have just said, ‘Oh wow, that’s a great idea if someone had a company like that,’ and gone on with my day,” said Smith. “That’s how it all began. It was intimidating, because it can be a struggle as a woman to excel in the tech industry, but I was willing to try.”
Smith said her biggest “ah-ha” moment was when she realized that she didn’t need to have a background in software development, only the desire to provide a better experience for customers.
“My point is, you don’t have to be an industry expert to be an industry leader,” Smith said. “You really just have to have the right team and the right tools to do it right.”
Today, WeGoLook is the official eBay motors inspection list, works directly for Tesla Motors and Hyundai and works with Fortune 500 companies nationwide.
“I don’t work with dealers anymore – we work directly with manufacturers now,” Smith said.
WeGoLook acts as a third-party inspection company offering data collection and field services for individuals and enterprise customers alike. The business was developed for eBay consumers and online shoppers to verify the authenticity of seller’s claims when looking to bid or purchase through photo, video and visual verification for autos, property, heavy equipment, eBay items and more.
Since WeGoLook started in 2010, the company expanded to offer customized Lookers for field services, courier services, notary services and customized inspection templates. Its national and global client base currently includes insurance companies, financial institutions, and healthcare, transportation and fleet management companies.
For business owners, however, the allure lies in having third-party verification.
“If you have to send people to, for instance, Piedmont, [Oklahoma] that’s a half a day lost to drive somewhere just to take pictures,” said Smith. “It’s like having another employee who can go out and check on everything for you.”
WeGoLook had a banner year in 2015. After securing $2.75 million of external capital as part of its October 2014 Series A raise, the company used those funds for technology improvements, including development of a mobile app.
In March 2016, it inked a deal to provide eBay Motors’ vehicle shoppers with on-site inspections for any vehicle, motorcycle, RV, power sport or boat in the U.S. This deal was the biggest and most important in the company’s history – something Smith had been working towards since the beginning.
“Partnering with eBay has enabled the company to expand in all areas and has attracted investors, customers and Lookers while simultaneously accelerating growth in its core verticals of insurance, financial services, real estate and heavy equipment inspections,” said Smith.
WeGoLook closed out 2015 with revenue growth up 300 percent year-over-year from 2014 and continues forward with triple digit growth. They added more than 50 new staff in 2015 and anticipate adding a cumulative 50 additional team members by the end of 2016. Additionally, the company expanded its community of Lookers, a group now comprised of not only mobile notaries and process servers, but school teachers, retired and active military members, mechanics and other people interested in participating in the gig economy.
HOW IT WORKS
Through the website, consumers request an inspection for an item they are looking to buy. The location, details and inspection requirements are then sent via email to the Lookers in the travel range of that item. The startup uses a web-based crowdsourcing model similar to Uber, Airbnb, TaskRabbit and Lyft to offer consumers inspection services and customized tasking for properties, autos, heavy equipment, eBay items, and more.
The Looker accepts the order and is dispatched to the destination to meet with the seller, take photos, verify serial or VIN numbers, take video and collect all the data. The data is uploaded via a mobile app for review by the company, and the consumer receives a detailed report online.
OneMain, a national lending service that provided loans and other credit-related products to more than 10 million customers in 44 states, needed feet on the ground and trustworthy eyes to do vehicle inspections as part of its lending.
Formerly Springleaf Financial, OneMain specializes in auto loans, but getting out to rural or regional areas to inspect vehicles was proving to be a problem.
“We were doing auto loans, signing loans electronically, and we needed someone to provide vehicle inspections so we could have a peek of what our vehicle looks like, make sure it’s running and make sure it has the mileage our customers say it does,” said Jodi Kelsey, manager of Central Verifications & Fulfillment with OneMain. “But also, we needed them to notarize documents for us. On title documents, we can’t sign those electronically. A lot of times, they needed a notary as well.”
Though OneMain did use another company for a while that offered some of the services, it was unhappy with the experience and needed a more reliable team of inspectors.
“We started looking for companies to provide this service. From talking to other companies, WeGoLook was recommended,” Kelsey said. “We’ve been with them ever since. They are very flexible, and they give us whatever we throw at them.” OneMain averages 400 inspections a month, and WeGoLook provides all of them.
“I think it’s important, what we are doing here,” said Smith. “People say, ‘It’s amazing you’re doing this in Oklahoma City, not Silicon Valley. How did you get your contacts, how do you do the technology?’ It is really amazing that we have pulled this off here. We bootstrapped it for the longest time, and then we went through our Series A Funding with i2e. For a female who is not a software developer, what we are doing here is changing the way the world works. It’s much bigger than simply just looking at things.”