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One of my favorite pitches at the TechStars Demo Day last November was a tiny company called Tred that had a big idea: Transform the way people test drive and buy new cars.

Founder Grant Feek summed up the concept in one line, telling the audience that they allow car shoppers to “test drive from your driveway, and buy from your iPad.”

Now, Feek has found some big-name supporters of the concept, including Seattle venture capital firm Maveron; former General Motors CEO Rick Wagoner; angel investor Chris Sacca and others who are pumping $1.7 million into the startup.

Tred is gearing up for a Seattle launch this Spring, targeting busy families who don’t have time to load up the kids in the family cruiser to hit auto row on Sunday afternoon.

“Many shoppers — particularly families with kids, car seats and strollers — dread the logistical strains of visiting dealerships, which are often located on the outskirts of metro areas,” said Feek.

At launch, Feek said that they plan to showcase the top 10 selling models for families, including minivans, compact SUVs and midsize SUVs. He said they are currently working with local dealers on the new program.

CEO Grant Feek (left) and CTO John Wehr are trying to help consumers buy and test-drive cars via the internet.

Similar to Redfin’s approach to real estate, Tred delivers cars through concierges whose pay is not based on sales commission, but rather determined by customer service reviews. .

And just as Redfin is looking to shake up the real estate industry, Tred very much wants to do the same with the $600 billion new car market.

“Shoppers feel no pressure to disengage from a test drive, and can compare finalists side by side in their driveways,” explains Feek. “Our goal is to make new car shopping as fun as new car driving for every single customer.”

Sounds pretty cool, huh? But can Feek and his crew really change the entrenched automotive industry?

I asked him that, and here’s what he had to say:

A confluence of externalities make the timing for Tred compelling. Firstly, the era of the shopper is fully upon us. From produce to houses, we’re seeing opaque and cumbersome consumer purchase processes become more transparent and convenient for the shopper. Secondly, the era of the tablet is gaining steam, both for information retrieval and content creation, and it plays a big role in what we’re doing. Thirdly, new car dealers are hungry for a positive innovation. The internet has brought some transparency to the new car buying space, but it hasn’t always done so in a way that is positive for dealerships. We change that. Fourthly, auto manufacturers are hungry to get consumers into their cars earlier in the funnel and in a less invasive way — we help them accomplish that goal.

Here’s more from Feek’s well crafted pitch at Demo Day last fall:

Previously on GeekWireTechStars Spotlight: Tred aims to help dealers, shoppers with test drives


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