Entrepreneur of the Week: Adam Whitnall, founder of Simplynewcars.com

The new full-service car platform has attracted 15,000 monthly users
Entrepreneur of the Week: Adam Whitnall, founder of Simplynewcars.com
By Lubna Hamdan
Fri 26 Jul 2019 12:13 AM

He’s been working in the automotive industry since he was a teenager - from petrol stations to workshops and insurance companies to automotive publishing. Despite his experience in various markets including his native New Zealand, Europe, and the Middle East, Adam Whitnall continued to struggle when searching for a car that matched his needs. Instead of wasting countless hours on time consuming visits to dealerships, he decided to solve his own problem. How? By launching his own solution: Simply New Cars, a full-service buying product for car buyers that was made possible thanks to the relationships he had fostered with brands and dealerships over the years. He tells us about his plans for the Dubai-based start-up.

What makes Simplynewcars.com unique in today’s market?

Instead of having to choose a car then find out if it has the features you’re looking for, Simply New Cars allows you to define the features, benefits or lifestyle you’re searching for first and will show you every new car in the market that matches your criteria. It’s unique in drilling down to each individual car on sale, so buyers can compare the low, mid, and high spec versions of an individual model, all without leaving the comfort of their home. This is all possible due to the personal relationships we have fostered with the brands and dealerships over the past two years in order to deliver this comprehensive level of information to help improve the car buying journey.

What is your business model? How will you monetise Simplynewcars.com?

We will soon be launching a new service named Simply Concierge which is a full-service buying product for the country’s time-poor car buyer. It leverages the power of the platform to take the time and hassle out of buying a new car by providing a dedicated Car Guru to assist in all aspects of the buying journey for a small fee. We anticipate this service to provide a solid revenue stream which will be supported by revenue generated from traditional services such as targeted display advertising and rich content solutions for brands to target our audience on the platform. We also intend to monetise the anonymous data gathered from analysing the journeys taken on Simply New Cars which provides invaluable information to brands on the buying and research behaviour of their customers.

What are your main challenges when it comes to operating Simplynewcars.com in the UAE?

The UAE is a car-loving nation, we drive everywhere so cars are a large part of our daily lives. There are a number of automotive-focused products in the region due to this, so cutting through the clutter and educating consumers on the unique benefits of the Simply New Cars platform is a potential challenge, but the feedback we’ve received from people who have started using the product so far is extremely positive. Another challenge lies in the fact that new car sales have declined in recent years, so there are a smaller pool of potential customers to draw from, but one element of the Simply New Cars product is an educational experience for buyers who are hesitant about a new car purchase where we help to teach people about the benefits of buying a new vs. used car. Not only are new cars more affordable than a lot of people realise, but they are also generally safer and more reliable too.

How is the business funded and what has been your experience in attracting investors?

Up until now Simply New Cars has been entirely bootstrapped. I am determined to prove the business case for the model before approaching investors. As mentioned, there is a lot of competition within the automotive space in the region with a lot of new companies vying for attention. To stand above the competition I want to ensure I have a robust, proven model in order to attract the kind of investors who have the capability to assist me in taking the platform to the next level.

How has Simplynewcars.com been performing since its launch?

We started slowly, deliberately launching quietly to ensure that the product performed as expected and stood up to real-life demand. After a month of testing and validation we started promoting the product more heavily and are now looking to exceed 15,000 users per month. Given that we’ve been live less than three months in a notoriously quiet time of the year I’m fairly happy with those kind of numbers and think it really lends credit to the need for a service like Simply New Cars in the market.

Any expansion plans in the UAE, GCC and beyond?

Absolutely. Our mission is to be the friend that every new car buyer turns to in order to navigate their new car journey. This means that we need to provide valuable tools and products for every step of that journey. We want to own the new car space in the region by being the household name for every new car buyer. Once we have all of our tools and products in place with a proven product in the UAE then the Simply New Cars model can be adapted to every market in the region.

What are some new trends in the automotive sector in the region?

Fuel consumption is a rising concern for many motorists which is fuelling an increased demand for hybrid and electric vehicles, which have traditionally seen low adoption rates in the region. Expect to see a lot more of these types of vehicles on the roads soon. The small to mid-size SUV sector is also rapidly increasing with many buyers opting for urban SUVs instead of the sedans that used to dominate the roads. More buyers are also seeking the kind of connectivity options that they demand in other aspects of their personal lives, leading manufacturers to scramble to offer features that will satisfy that thirst for effortless connectivity and communication.

How was it breaking into the online/e-commerce sector in the UAE?

Setting up a website is easy - or so I thought. While setting up a website may be easy, setting up a user-centred product that solves a problem in an easy, adaptable, and responsive way, is far from it. We faced huge problems getting the Simply New Cars product live to a standard that I was happy with, and there is a long way to go in order to really refine and improve it in order to be a class-leading resource.

What is the best advice anyone has ever given you?

I guess the best advice I’ve received is to always be open to advice. It doesn’t matter how much you know, or how much you think you know, there’s always someone who knows more, and being open to that advice broadens your horizons and allows you to look at your product from multiple perspectives to give you the best chance of growing it into the success it deserves to be.

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