At the 2012 SEMA Show Awards Banquet, Michael Chapin and Eric Coomer sat down for dinner at the YEN member table. Focused on their respective ventures, the two like-minded gasoline junkies stayed in contact for another year and found several more overlapping likes and interests. Fast forward to 2014, when an opportunity arose to collaborate in a new business launch—RxSpeed.com—a search engine for aftermarket parts.
What kind of SEMA resources have you found to be valuable?
Chapin: Besides the obvious fact that we met while networking with YEN, Eric and I use SEMA’s market reports and resources to convey to the outside world the scale and dynamic of this marketplace. For most non-car people, it’s an industry that hides in plain sight. Few expect to hear that 24 million Americans spend $33 billion annually. The market segmentation reports draw clear lines in the sand to help people understand who buys parts for necessity and who buys them for fun.
Coomer: The background and education SEMA provides on the industry’s data revolution, and more specifically the SEMA Data Co-op, have by far been the most helpful in educating myself and others about the need for standardized product data. It wasn’t very long ago that every small business was told they needed a website in order to survive, and now in 2014, getting your products seen and sold online carries that same message. Clear business communication doesn’t end with conversation, but continues with every file and piece of data you exchange.
Chapin: Above all else, it’s the people. Attending social events in any industry can be the ultimate time suck, which usually ends up being a plethora of sales and business development folks snagging your card and forever following up with their services. But SEMA is different, and guys like YEN’s liaison, Bryan Harrison, are genuinely concerned about helping your company become successful. That mentality trickles through each group. Even with competitors, it’s like we’re all working together to support the industry, hobby and niche.
Have you always been into cars?
Chapin: I think my mother knew I had a problem when the hood of my ’92 GTI ended up in her living room, but the bloodline traces back to my great grandfather. He traded a horse for a Cadillac to start a taxi service, which ended up becoming a successful Hudson dealership in the ’40s. I keep one of his original newspaper ads on my desk—his phone number was 930, just three digits.
Coomer: My grandfather was a seasoned mechanic who taught me to wrench and weld, among other things. It satisfied my curiosity to take everything apart and understand the systems, likely one of the reasons I love computer systems and hardware. My father’s company was ahead of its time building advanced data-logging hardware and software that was used by top IndyCar and Motocross teams. As a Formula Mazda racer myself, anything with a motor excites me.
What is data standardization?
Coomer: If you’re living in France and your car breaks down, the nuts and bolts you need are governed by an ISO Certification. Any hardware store will know exactly what drawer holds the M8x1.25 bolts and it’s easy to exchange this information store to store, distributor to distributor, and finally to the customer. When dealing with performance aftermarket products, parts manufacturers have typically kept their product numbers, names and fitment information in different formats. The goal of the SEMA Data Co-op is to help manufacturers enter this data in a standardized format so any shop, distributor or consumer speaks the same language.
What is “The Lab” on RxSpeed.com?
Chapin: Growing up, I always enjoyed reading the latest magazine features. It showed me custom builds I was interested in, then inspired me to do new and unique things to my own car. One of the most frustrating things was to find a picture in a magazine or online and see something I loved, but then not find any information on that part or where to buy it. We wanted to take that same concept of feature-build articles and make them interactive in a state-of-the-art format. Just like seeing a car at a car show and walking around it with the owner, the goal of “The Lab” is to take a virtual tour of a modified vehicle and provide readers not only with information on the part or customization, but also a direct link to purchase.