Buying items online has become a regular everyday occurrence. With access to smart devices and laptops, consumers have the ability order anything from anywhere at anytime.
An issue that can arise when buying sight unseen — rather than going to see the item in person — is that it can be difficult to ascertain authenticity. While Pew Research shows 79 percent of Americans shop online, it also found that 82 percent place a high value on factoring reviews into their purchasing decisions. While online reviews seem to make or break a product’s success online, research shows that nearly 15 percent of all online reviews are fake. As a result, consumers can ultimately lose confidence or faith in their favorite brand or retailer.
One company that’s looking to remove the stigma of online purchases is Oklahoma-based startup company WeGoLook. Through its on-demand service, the company uses its employees to physically go check out items prior to consumers making a purchase to ensure quality condition and authenticity.
We sat down with WeGoLook’s Co-Founder and CEO, Robin Smith, to learn more about how the company started and its plans for the future.
PYMNTS: What’s the story behind how WeGoLook started?
RS: I started WeGoLook with the individual marketplace customer in mind (think eBay customers). I realized there was a need to verify an item’s current condition for a buyer purchasing something sight unseen. The ability to dispatch a Looker on-demand to take current photos of the auction item, video a working demonstration, answer custom questions, perform measurements and even take the item to a shipper on the customer’s behalf is a service that no other company at the time was providing. I launched WeGoLook in December of 2010.
PYMNTS: In your own words, what is WeGoLook about?
RS: WeGoLook is a mobile technology company that’s changing the way the world works. Customers utilize the combination of technology with the crowdsourcing platform of over 30,000 individual contractors (i.e. Lookers) to create faster and more efficient processes within their own supply chain workflow. Many describe WeGoLook as the “Uber of Inspections.”
A great example of how this works within the insurance industry surrounds scene inspections. Here’s how it works: The carrier submits an order for a scene inspection. Within seconds, the WeGoLook platform sends notifications to 8-10 Lookers near the property of the accident location. As soon as the Looker accepts the “Look,” they capture photos and answer questions according to business rules and requirements provided by the client via their mobile app. The data is submitted to the WeGoLook Quality Assurance Team in Oklahoma City, who review the data and create a scene diagram. The carrier receives the completed scene inspection report within an hour. This is a very cost-efficient model and speeds up the process greatly. Multiple industries, such as Insurance, Banking, Automotive and Real Estate enjoy the efficiencies gained by dispatching. Lookers for on-demand field services to supplement their own employees for low-complex tasks, such as vehicle and property photos, inspections, document retrieval and more.
PYMNTS: How does the pricing model work, and how does WeGoLook get paid?
RS: Our services are transactionally based per report or task, allowing for a variable expense allocation for the carrier or client. Pricing is based on the type of Looker (licensed drone operators, adjusters, notaries or perhaps no skill set is required), the amount of data captured (how many videos, live video feed, number of questions answered) along with order volume. WeGoLook also offers a self-service application for companies to white label.
PYMNTS: Who does WeGoLook see as its competition, if any, and why?
RS: There are certainly field service inspection companies within several verticals. However, their business model is centered around auctions, dealers, OEM fleet inspections. WeGoLook focuses on the “driveway inspection,” meeting the customer at their home or place of business. WeGoLook provides inspection services across many verticals, such as heavy equipment, property, vehicle and courier services. There are no platforms or competitors that offer the dynamic service that WeGoLook has, nor can combine the services into one trip.
WeGoLook has been focused for seven years on adding very specific types of Lookers into the community, ensuring a client can dispatch a Looker who can speak Mandarin or Spanish, install electronics, etc. at scale in order to ensure a qualified workforce for each type of task. While a software platform can be duplicated, perfecting the logistical challenges of assembling and dispatching a contingent workforce to satisfy enterprise requirements is difficult to duplicate.
In addition to our Looker community, we have a robust, scalable quality-assurance process — a service that is not offered by other custom-task providers using crowdsourcing.
PYMNTS: Since its inception, how much has WeGoLook grown year over year or since it was launched? Does it have any future projections for where it hopes to grow within the next few years?
RS: WeGoLook has demonstrated a year-over-year growth of 300 percent and 5X growth in staff at the corporate headquarters in the past year. In 2016, the company as named in the Inc. 5000, securing the number 472 spot as one of America’s fastest growing companies.
WeGoLook has also expanded its community of Lookers. Currently, we have more than 30,000 Lookers, and there has been a steady increase over time. In 2015, there were 25,000; in 2013, there were 15,000; and in 2011, there were 7,400. The company expects Looker growth to be key in the near future, as it expects to expand the community across the U.S., Canada, Australia and U.K., adding 1,000 new applicants per month.
PYMNTS: How many rounds of funding has WeGoLook received?
RS: WeGoLook finished 2015 with a $2.75 million aggregate Series A funding round, with $1.85 million at the end of 2014 and $900,000 in Q4 of 2015. In January 2017, Crawford & Company finalized the acquisition of 85 percent of the membership interests of WeGoLook for $36.125 million. Crawford & Company is the world’s largest publicly listed independent provider of claims management solutions to insurance companies and self-insured entities.
PYMNTS: What does the term “Uber of X” mean to you, and how does WeGoLook fit that mold?
RS: Many times referred to as the “Uber of Inspections,” WeGoLook uses a web-based crowdsourcing model similar to Uber, TaskRabbit and Lyft to offer consumers inspection services and customized tasking for properties, autos, heavy equipment, eBay items and more. WeGoLook’s mobile workforce of over 30,000 contractors means businesses and individuals can have information verified in person, regardless of whether they are located across town or across the country.
PYMNTS: As most startups have their fair share of hiccups, can you share a few lessons-learned anecdotes?
RS: I found that one of my challenges was working to develop a new-to-market technology platform without an engineering background. I had to learn to step out of my comfort zone, become personally innovative and work toward finding resources to make it all happen.
Another challenge was funding, because Oklahoma has fewer investment groups and funds available. I spent considerable time researching the funding that would help grow my startup into a full-fledged business.
Building the right team means being a good coach. After starting my company with a single software engineer, I recruited thousands of Lookers within the first year.
In our business, it was important for WeGoLook to scale the workload and deliver a quality product our clients are happy with. As we grow, we have been able to also increase the scale to fulfill client needs.
PYMNTS: What are WeGoLook’s 2017 goals?
RS: The Crawford & Company acquisition was a great opportunity for WeGoLook, since it provided an immediate presence in more than 70 countries and access to thousands of potential corporate clients. WeGoLook also has the resources behind us to begin incorporating image recognition and artificial intelligence into our mobile platform, along with the human resources, such as contractors and catastrophe adjusters, being added to WeGoLook’s Looker network.