Auto Informant stakes out a big piece of Web turf
The launch of a social media hub by the National Automobile Museum didn’t draw much media attention last week, but it marks the coming-out party for a Reno company that expects to top $50 million in annual revenues within four years.
Auto Informant LLC founder Bill Atalla has spent more than two years developing a Web site that positions itself as a one-stop-shop for connecting automotive enthusiasts.
It ties together dealers, auctions and individual sellers, along with automobile clubs, museums and concours events. A sharing feature allows users to develop pages that show off photos and details of their vehicles.
The guiding philosophy, says Atalla: Web search is on the decline. Instead, users want a single platform from which they can easily reach sites of interest with a single click.
From AutoInformant.com, one click brings up a nationwide list of dealers, many of them specializing collectible or much-desired vehicles.
Another click brings up a list of automobile clubs such as the 1938 Ford Street Rod Register of Lambertville, N.J.
And another click takes users to Reno’s National Automobile Museum, which just launched the digital experience developed by Auto Informant.
Along with an online link to the museum’s collection, Auto Informant developed a mobile program that allows museum visitors to get — and share — information about each of the museum’s 200-plus vehicles on their smartphones. Visitors who use the free app can see photos, for example, that show how some of the automotive treasures in the museum appeared before they were restored.
“This is our give-back to the community,” says Atalla. “There’s an opportunity for us to make a difference in this town.”
The mobile application is designed to bring a hard-to-attract younger audience into National Auto Museum and similar institutions across the nation.
“It’s bringing a new level of technology into the museum,” says Executive Director Jackie Frady.
The subscription fees paid by the Reno museum and others are expected to provide only a small segment of Auto Informant’s revenues, Atalla says.
Larger sources are traditional digital advertising on the site, commissions on sales transactions — including parts and services — brokered by the site, and the $20 annual fee that users will pay for pages that show off their cars.
Atalla says the three-employee team behind Auto Informant has sought to roll out full-blown Web sites and mobile sites that don’t give others an inch of turf upon which to build competitors. So far, the company has been financed by its founders, but Atalla says Auto Informant may look for outside capital so that it can grow large enough, quickly enough, to keep competitors at bay.
Once the automotive concept is firmly established, Atalla says the company believes it can replicate it with sites specific to boat owners, motorycle enthusiasts and aircraft owners.
The company has used a cadre of a dozen contractors to develop the site and the related mobile application.
Atalla, who moved to Reno about four years ago from northern California, also serves as chairman of TriStrata Inc., a Bay Area company that develops sophisticated Internet security systems for big companies.
His three-decade career in technology included a stint as chief operating officer of the company that developed the PIN systems that are the basis for the security of many financial transactions.
And along the way, he took a five-year break from technology to launch a successful publisher of children’s and parenting books.
The agreements are designed to split the costs of improvements such as traffic signals between Carson City and developers whose projects generate the traffic increases that trigger the need for improvements.