CarSoup.com Turns 20!
Twenty years ago, Minneapolis innovator and entrepreneur Larry Cuneo helped revolutionize the way people buy and sell vehicles by creating CarSoup.com. But he didn't set out to accomplish that, or anything like it. Instead, Larry dreamed of days spent hitting the greens as a professional golf instructor.
Back in 1977, Larry was working in the advertising department at the Star Tribune. But golf was his true love, and to pursue this passion he decided to leave his job and hit the golf circuit. His plan, though, did not factor in his wife and new baby.
Luckily, when he told his clients from the newspaper that he was leaving, three of them approached him within a week and asked if they could hire him as a marketing consultant. For Larry, it was an ideal situation—he could earn some income and pursue his love of golf. His clients, however, had different plans. They continued to grow, and so did his marketing and advertising business, so much so that he didn’t play golf for the next five years.
By 1998, Larry’s advertising agency had several auto dealers as clients, and he learned from them that, because of media consolidation, traditional forms of advertising were becoming too expensive. In searching for a solution for his clients, Larry hit upon an idea: why not follow a real estate model where houses were sold through an online portal but instead use it to sell cars? After all, if automobiles were indeed the second-largest purchase after homes, it made sense that a “multiple listing service” should work for them as it did for houses. Out of this idea came CarSoup.com, and Larry poured his heart and soul into building it.
“Thanks to the enormous growth of the Internet in 1988, it became possible to take a small idea and not only compete, but also succeed against the big dogs,” says Larry. “I launched CarSoup.com the very same month as Cars.com, which had $108 million in initial funding from a consortium of the nation's largest newspaper chains.” Larry’s funding? About $8,000.
Larry grew his business by going from one car dealership to another and educating them on how to use the power of the Internet. He convinced Minnesota auto dealers to buy stock in CarSoup.com, asking for a relatively small investment of $2,000 to $3,000, with all the returns on these initial investments going toward building CarSoup.com into the national company that is now.
“What started out as a defensive strategy turned into an offensive game plan,” says Larry. “I could see how powerful the Web was. A lot people told me, ‘Larry, this is a fad.' But I could see it growing, very much like the way mobile devices are now taking the market by storm. I’m glad I stayed the course, because within four years, the CarSoup model became the No. 1 way that Minnesotans bought cars.”
This March marks the 20th birthday of CarSoup.com, and to Larry nothing is as important as the team he has assembled at CarSoup.com. “Our business philosophy is about family, which is old-fashioned for a new age company. Business today is run by Wall Street, and it's all analytics and accounting. You have to find the spot where you are keenly aware of finances, but you are also a human being and care about your people. Frankly, that actually makes the analytics better,” he says. “The art of business is human entrepreneurship, ideas, solving problems, and making people’s lives better. It’s not an accounting practice, but a philosophy and a way of thinking about things.”
See for yourself the awesome power of CarSoup.com. Take a spin of our newly redesigned site and see for yourself why CarSoup.com is the place to find the right car, at the right price, right now!