|Times-Mirror Staff Photo/Beverly Denny
Khurrum Shakir, founder of iGrabber.com, operates the vehicle search engine designed to make car shopping easier from his home office in Leesburg. The website pulls results from multiple sites such as Cars.com, AutoTrader, eBay Motors and CarMax to aggregate listings similar to the way KAYAK does for travel deals and Indeed does for job searches.|
In 2010, when searching for a GMC Denali sport utility vehicle, Khurrum Shakir had an idea for helping people find a new car.
Why not develop a website, much like Kayak.com or indeed.com, that gathers car listings from multiple sites?
As a result, iGrabber.com, a vehicle search engine, was launched a couple of months ago out of Shakir's home office.
“The idea stemmed from my personal frustration with the repetitive and time consuming process of searching for a vehicle online,” Shakir said. “I hated having to look through multiple sites, like cars.com, Auto-trader, eBay, Carmax or others, for a car and having to input my search criteria over and over again. It was a hassle.”
“It took me literally two months of searching daily for the Denali and it is only human nature to try and find the best deal and get the best bang for your dollar,” Shakir said. “I told myself there has to be a better way of shopping for a car. There has to be a site out there that serves as a search engine for all the other car sales sites out there. And there wasn't to my knowledge.”
Shakir said websites like cars.com and Autotrader are portals, not search engines. His website serves as an equivalent of a Google for cars; they aggregate listings all in to one experience and that is what iGrabber does.
The site highlights such information as price, picture and car specifications so they are easily available for users.
iGrabber, as part of its partnership with major vehicle portals on the Internet, receives compensation for referring car buyers to dealers.
Internet shopping has been a growing industry over the past 15 years or so with the introduction of websites such as cars.com and Autotrader supplying consumers with the ability to research a product and know what they want even before they walk on to the lot.
According to Shakir, there are more than 51 million people searching for vehicles online per month. Close to 17 million of them are car buyers searching through multiple sites.
After leaving AOL in January 2010, Shakir started putting together thoughts and a plan for the site with the goal of creating a better vehicle search experience.
Without any major funding and only personal savings, Shakir and his team of five employees, which includes designers, a chief architect, an engineer and director of sales and operations, have managed to built the site from the ground up.
The website has held a number of focus groups with random samples of people to receive feedback on what consumers like and don't like.
“The focus group allowed us to see not only what consumers like or didn't like about our site, but also what they wanted to see or disliked about other sites,” Shakir said. “So we have taken those tips and added them into our site. ”
Some of the changes the site has undergone include larger preview photos, more advanced features on the left toolbar and the homepage looking more like a search engine site.
In the two months the site has been active, Shakir has been using Google metrics to monitor the Internet traffic, including who is coming to the site, when they are coming, where they are coming from and how long they are staying.
“Approximately right now, the site has grown with a little over 1,000 uniques and 3,300 page views,” Shakir said. “It's growing, but at this point, 1,000 uniques is not a lot, but we have only been live for two months and the first month was a soft launch with testing and changes happening often.”
Meanwhile, social media has grown with the company with a Facebook fan base growing from 150 fans to just less than 1,400 likes in just two weeks.
At a recent start-up conference in Memphis, Tenn., Shakir had the opportunity to speak with Scott Case, the founding chief technology officer of Priceline.com.
“It was exciting to hear Scott Case say he was looking forward to seeing the company move forward,” Shakir said. “He told me 'It's going to be a long and tough road Khurrum, but you have a fantastic concept that I see doing very well.' That meant a lot to me.”
Shakir has been working almost non-stop getting the site off the ground, often being woken up at 4 a.m. to fix an issue with the site. He is the first to admit he never thought the site would be as time consuming.
“I would have never dreamed a start-up would be this much work. It is definitely not what I expected, but I love it and enjoy what I am doing,” Shakir said. “We want our site and business concept to turn our small town start-up into the next big tech company similar to Kayak and indeed.com.”
Shakir is in the process of finding potential investors for the company, as it continues to grow and comes more into the public eye.
|Times-Mirror Staff Photos/Beverly Denny
Khurrum Shakir, founder of iGrabber.com, operates the vehicle search engine designed to make car shopping easier from his home office in Leesburg.|
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