CHAMPtitles’ product, software that allows businesses to digitize the process to move, transfer and store vehicle titles, launched a year ago and is already seeing solid results.
“That was the point when it started getting a lot of traction and usage that we felt like, Okay, we crossed a big chasm here of fear and doubt by knowing that we could build something that worked and solved a problem,” says Shane Bigelow, the company’s CEO.
With its product out, CHAMPtitles is getting real data from the market and is seeing its product’s impact. He says reports show a tremendous amount of days of cycle time of savings that insurance carriers, retailers and lenders can save, which has helped the product take hold.
It’s a solid start for Bigelow, who has seen the tech scene on both U.S. coasts. He started his first software company in California, and went on to work for technology companies in New York. Now leading a Cleveland-based startup, it’s clear how location affects an early-stage company.
“The difference in the Midwest is that the talent is here (but) it's much harder to find because there's not a great startup culture,” Bigelow says. “Once the startups find each other, there's a great culture within the startups that know each other, but there's not a central location where startups can go to aggregate and just have the randomness of ideas bouncing off one another.”
There’s also a related issue with talent in the Midwest — not that there is none, but rather they’re unaccustomed to the type of compensatory models that are associated with startups. He says he’s encountered people who aren’t willing to take less in salary in exchange for equity.
“(It’s) a little harder to find the people that know or understand the startup world enough to be able to say, ‘Yeah, I want to get in and yeah, I'll take a couple thousand dollar pay cut in order to get equity because the equity could be worth a lot more,’” he says.
Still, the company is driving forward. In August, it closed an $8.5 million Series A round led by EOS Venture Partners and W. R. Berkley Corporation. Bigelow says these companies invested with CHAMPtitles so that it could service each of the places where these investors come from —insurance carriers, the software suppliers to that space, and lenders — and ultimately roll the solution out not only across the country, but to rest of the world.
“I'm happy to report we were somewhat wildly oversubscribed. I think some of that is due to the market conditions and I hope a lot of that is due to the potential for success that we have. It certainly feels like it's the case. We had a number of term sheets from some great investors. Ultimately we had to make a choice and we think we chose some fantastic partners.”
Bigelow spoke on the Smart Business Dealmakers Podcast about the venture, its recent raise and progress in the market, as well as the challenges of being based in Ohio. Hit play to hear the full conversation.
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