Matt D'Andria on Futurism in the Automotive Aftermarket
Matt D'Andria, 36
CEO - Motorator.com; Co-Host - Adam Carolla's
CarCast; YEN Member
If you have spent
any significant time at a SEMA event or media gathering, chances are you have
either met Matt D'Andria or seen his work. The 36 year old Phoenix, Arizona native moved to Southern California years ago to be closer to the
automotive aftermarket and has had been involved in dozens of digital media
projects, from helping top automakers develop a digital footprint, to
co-hosting Adam Carolla's popular "CarCast" and launching his latest venture -
a unique online automotive community called Motorator.com.
Matt was inducted
into the gearhead lifestyle early, helping his father restore a Fiat Spider
when he was just five years old. He "helped" his dad by hitting the freshly
restored sports car with a toy hammer. At 15, Matt restored a '65 Mustang with
his brother, buying parts with money earned from a job at the local auto parts
Eventually Matt was able to combine his mutual loves of technology and
cars in college, where he and a friend created a tech firm and worked on a
variety of high profile automotive projects.
continues to push the boundaries of content marketing in the automotive space,
connecting enthusiasts with manufacturers through digital media. We sat down
with Matt to learn more about how automotive aftermarket companies can best
take advantage of emerging technologies.
When/how did you decide to merge your experience in the dot-com world
with your passion for the aftermarket?
In 1995, at 19
years old, I raised some money, quit school and started a web development
company with my childhood friend, Adam Pisoni. Yahoo, at the time, was still
just a directory at Stanford University and Netscape was making waves as the
first web browser to support images. We learned how to work with the "web" -
which was new at the time - and built technology solutions for Honda, Nissan,
Toyota, Kia, and Clarion Car Audio. We also built websites for video games and
dot-coms including Resident Evil, Street Fighter, The Simpsons, eToys.com, and
Stamps.com. I wanted to start a new company and I spent all my money on cars,
so I decided to build something that would allow me to work with my friends in
the technology and automotive industries. I started writing a car blog in 2007
as a hobby, and things grew from there.
How do you feel digital media is changing our industry?
Digital media is a
powerful medium that our industry is just starting to embrace. We can attract,
inform and entertain customers like never before. We can create and control our
own content, and we can get in front of customers in so many ways. Installation
videos and downloadable manuals on smart phones can help customers install
parts. Blogs, photos and online product reviews help consumers decide which
products to buy. In fact, 80% of all online purchases of $500 or more are
influenced by consumers' reviews. Don't discount the entertainment factor
either. You may be a manufacturer, but all people, even car guys, love to
browse the web for cool ideas, products, etc. Create some fun, entertaining
online media and it will lead to new sales.
What is CarCast and how did
you get involved with Adam Carolla?
CarCast is a
podcast and Internet video show hosted by comedian Adam Carolla (The Adam Carolla Show, The Car Show,
Loveline, The Man Show). CarCast is like talk radio, but on the Internet. It's
just two guys chatting about all aspects of the industry, but with Adam's edgy
sense of humor. There's no script and it's uncensored, which certainly allows
us to have some fun. The videos are great too and add a dynamic that
traditional radio can't. CarCast regularly features automotive industry guests
such as Jay Leno, Vic Edelbrock, Chip Foose, John Hotchkis, Billy Gibbons from
ZZ Top, Michael Anthony from Van Halen and more.
Adam and Sandy
Ganz created CarCast about three years ago. Sandy is an incredible engineer I
met working at a comparison-shopping website and he brought me in to help
produce the show. I became Adam's co-host in 2011, and it's been a lot of fun. Adam
is a talent and a true car guy. He has a great collection of about twenty-five
cars, including three of Paul Newman's race cars.
What roles do social media and content marketing play in the
Over 90% of people
online in the U.S. use social media and nearly 25% of their time is spent on
social networks. Furthermore social media users are the best consumers to
target. They are extremely influential to others and they are the biggest
online spenders. So, for every social media user that you convert to a
customer, they potentially become a powerful marketer for you as well. This is
the strategy behind Motorator - build a community of like-minded enthusiasts
and give them the tools to socially-market to each other. Every manufacturer
and vendor in our industry should have a social media person in-house or should
hire a firm to represent their company full-time. Small business owners that
can't afford to hire someone should learn how to utilize social media on their
own. At Motorator, I personally manage all our social media.
Tell us more about
Motorator - what is it, and how does it work?
As a car guy, I
grew frustrated knowing that you have to visit a forum for advice, then an
e-store to buy the parts, so we're developing the first community-driven
shopping destination for performance enthusiasts. Our short-term goal was to
create a hub where anyone can share their favorite automotive videos, seek and
offer tech help, and research the latest parts. Our Blog, for example, is a
virtual showcase of more than 600 of the coolest new products to hit the market
in the past few years.
online social networking with a comparison-shopping marketplace - like Facebook
meets Amazon for gear heads. As a social destination, enthusiasts will be able
to research the best products, get tech help, watch installation or product
videos, and chat with others who may already own the product. This community is
integrated into a marketplace where enthusiasts can find, compare, recommend
and buy any part. Vendors can list products and don't even need a website of their
own. We provide the shopping cart technology. When an enthusiast chooses a part,
they will see a list of vendors that sell it, can choose based on price or rating,
and the product comes directly from the vendor.
What is your opinion on the youth market - are young people still
interested in cars? How do companies connect with them?
aftermarket needs to worry about is not teens' lack of interest in cars, but
competition for their money from the tech sector and the fact that social media
is reducing their reliance on transportation in general. Teens communicate and
are entertained online and through mobile devices, and this significantly
diminishes the need to physically meet. Furthermore, the gadgets of today are
expensive. When I was 16, I would have never considered spending $400 on an
iPad or $200 on a phone, but today those items are a necessity. This is the key
issue for the aftermarket to overcome. Our goal should be making vehicles a
part of teens' social lives again - we can't just market speed parts to teens and
tell them they're cool; we need to market cars as a social networking tool and
a cool way to spend their time/money.
For someone that hasn't been in
the aftermarket long, you seem to know everybody.
How did you make so many connections?
"This is the kid, he calls me 59 days in a row, wants to be a player. There
ought to be a picture of you in the dictionary under persistence." - Gordon Gekko in Wall Street
That quote from
the movie Wall Street always makes me
laugh, but it's largely how I do things. When I came up with the idea for
Motorator, I found SEMA and became a member. A month later, I was at the SEMA
show. I walked up to everyone I could find and said "Hi, I'm Matt and I'm going
to change this industry with my new company." One guy I met was Dr. Jamie Meyer
from GM Performance Parts. He had no idea who I was and had no reason to talk
to me, but he just welcomed me to the industry and maybe spent 20 minutes
answering all my questions. Unfortunately for him, I now have his cell phone
number and bug him all the time - Sorry Doc. That said, to me this is a
critical component to networking and new business success - don't be shy. Talk
to everyone, be outgoing, and actually listen when people offer advice. Those
connections will serve you well long-term.
You've been involved in several startups. What advice would you give
someone chasing a new idea?
Don't do it, get a
real job! I'm kidding, of course. I love starting companies and I wouldn't
discourage anyone from chasing their dream. I typically take a very analytical
approach to starting a business. First identify the problem you plan to solve
with your new venture. Do your research and develop your solution for that
problem. If you think it's never been done before - you're wrong. Figure out
how you are going to make your idea different and better. Then surround
yourself with people who are smarter than you are. I've always hired to my own
weaknesses. Then market the new idea as much as possible. Pitch it to everyone
and anyone who will listen. If you make it past the first year, the chances of
surviving grow exponentially.