Jesse Willms is the owner of several vehicle history websites and currently resides in Nevada.His websites provide various free vehicle history information. When using his services, you can check on the history of old cars and see if it has been in an accident, if it is reliable, if it has had any recalls, what consumers think about it, and how they have reviewed it. It started out as a concept in 2015 but it has turned into a pretty successful site with about four million people using it each month to get free vehicle information.
Even from a young age, Jesse Willms was always interested in business. When he was 15, he began to read a lot of different books on business, focusing particularly on biographies and stock investing books, but would read basically every book he could get his hands on. Jesse Willms was really fascinated by investors like Warren Buffet and others that had amassed wealth. Since he had been reading so much, he started getting involved in business by selling books online by the time he was 16. He did not feel it was worth it, as it took quite a bit of effort to make a small amount of revenue. However, it taught him valuable lessons which led him to selling computer software online. Jesse Willms enjoyed it so much that he quit school at 17 to continue pursuing his passion of selling products online and being self-employed.
What do you love most about the industry you are in?
What is most exciting to me now is how it is changing. You have companies now, like Tesla introducing their electric cars, that are changing what has historically been quite a stale industry for the last 10 to 20 years. There are new safety measures now, like automatic braking and the lane assistance. I think we are working on fixing some of the problems with pollution and vehicles are getting much safer.
Our websites put a lot of emphasis on giving consumers information about electric cars as they come out. In 2021 and 2022 there will be some pretty major companies starting to join the electric car trend, like Mazda, Toyota, and Ford. They are all coming out with their electric car lineups that we will be promoting on our site, as well as highlighting to consumers their safety features.
What keeps you motivated?
It is the opportunity to be part of a great organization and work with such great people that continues to motivate me. That has been a lot of fun for me. I love to learn from my co-workers.
How has your company grown from its early days to now?
When we first started, we were just providing free vehicle history reports. We saw some success from that, but it has evolved into much more of a community where people can leave owner reviews, ask questions about their vehicle, and get answers. It can be compared to Yelp or TripAdvisor for the automotive industry. We get a lot of user generated content, so readers do not have to rely solely on an article from just one expert.
We have a page on our site for every car. People can leave owner reviews, ask questions about it, and leave their comments about a vehicle. It is unbiased information directly from the consumer. Users will comment on vehicle performance, the fuel economy, safety issues, reliability, and so on. Car manufacturers can advertise on our page, but we focus on providing consumers with this community where they can connect with other car owners and get a sense of how good a vehicle is.
Who has been a role model to you and why?
I have really been inspired by how Elon Musk is reinventing the automotive industry. There has not been a new car company created in over 30 years that has been successful until Tesla came along. He really went all in on that. In 2007 and 2008 Tesla was on the verge of bankruptcy but he really stuck with it. His company has been a huge catalyst for a lot of the innovation we are seeing in the industry. That has inspired us to see what we can do to continue to innovate and change how consumers get their information.
How do you maintain a solid work life balance?
About two years ago I realized I was not as excited about each day. Things were going well, and business was going well, but I knew I needed to mix it up. I was inspired by a person that visited every state and climbed the highest mountain in each one. About two years ago, I started visiting each state and climbing the highest peak. I started in California, then I went to Hawaii. I have traveled the entire country with only Alaska remaining, and I have climbed the highest mountain in every state. It was such an adventure for me, especially because I am from Canada.
What traits do you possess that makes a successful leader?
A lot of people in our industry have a follow the leader type mentality. I try to look at what my competitors are doing and then figure out where the opportunities are that no one else is seeing.
What has been the hardest obstacle you’ve overcome?
Just starting out was the biggest challenge and getting through that initial moment is tough. Whenever you are doing something that has not been done before, it can be hard to sell people on the vision. It can be hard for people to see something when they cannot find a similar company that does it. Think about it, do a little planning, but ultimately you just must get out there and start doing it. We need a little pluck along the way with any new venture.
What is your biggest accomplishment?
As of last week, we had our first day where we had 100,000 people using our site in a single day. I was definitely humbled by that. It is a pretty big number of people that are relying on the information that we provide. To know that we have accomplished that as a team, that we made something that people are really using and getting a benefit from, while also saving a lot of money, seeing that level of interest in something that we’ve built has been quite exciting for us. When you start with an idea, you really never know what is going to become of it. But five years later seeing this idea become a success has been quite rewarding to us.
Outside of work, what defines you as a person?
I am someone that has a lot of passion about whatever I do. I don’t do anything halfway- I’m all or nothing. I get very obsessive with whatever it is I focus on. That is something that defines me. It is not always a great thing because sometimes I will neglect friends or family because I get so focused on something.
Where do you see you and your company in 5 years?
I really see a website that provides quality information on vehicles creating a leading automotive community online where car owners and car buyers can come and interact with each other and learn from each other. A community where they can get unbiased information about vehicles and really find out what they want to know before purchasing a vehicle. Our goal is to become a major brand in the industry so that when someone wants to see what other consumers think about a vehicle, they think of Vehicle History.
We do differentiate ourselves from Consumer Reports. Consumer Reports is a bunch of experts that review a vehicle, whereas we are really focused on consumers and the consumers’ views and experiences with vehicles. Consumer Reports is a great site, but it only gives you one perspective.