The seed for ACV Auctions was planted in Joseph Neiman’s head while he was running an auto dealership in Albany.
That was about three years ago. Since then, it’s become the fastest-growing startup company in Buffalo, raising about $21 million in angel and venture capital financing and bringing home a $1 million grand prize after winning the 43North business competition in 2015.
ACV offers a digital platform for car dealers to sell cars to one another, replacing the pricey and time-consuming experience of a physical auction.
Neiman is set to discuss his entrepreneurial journey at an upcoming Startup Grind Buffalo, held at 6 p.m. this Wednesday at d!g in the Thomas R. Beecher Jr. Innovation Center. Those interested can register here.
In the meantime, Neiman shared three important lessons about the company with Business First.
ACV Auctions is a startup. But its founding team is extremely experienced.
“You hear this all the time, that somebody came up with a great idea overnight and ran with it. The reality couldn’t be further from the truth. I’m new to the technology scene but I’ve been in the car business, going to auctions, living and breathing it for 15 years. it took close to that amount of time for me to have a lightbulb moment. Dan (Magnuszewski), our CTO and technical co-founder, has been part of the Buffalo startup scene since the beginning. He’d left a good job to do his civic duty and manage Z80 Labs (technology incubator) but he’d also positioned himself in front of the dealflow and the people taking chances. And Jack (Greco) had thrown himself into this scene almost selflessly (and has done financial work for startups in Rochester and Buffalo for years). Then you have George Chamoun, (the co-founder of Synacor Inc. who was named ACV CEO earlier this year), who was part of the startup scene before there was one.”
The word “entrepreneur” is a misnomer
“I’m not an entrepreneur. I’m a ‘doer.’ You have to be doing something to make something happen. We have far too many dreamers out there and not enough doers. Dan is a doer too, he builds things and puts himself in good positions, and then it’s just a difference of talking it or walking it. Jack took, all of these guys are willing to take chances and be a bit unconventional. You’re not going to get where you want by watching opportunities go past you.”
George Chamoun took over the CEO role from Neiman earlier this year. It was fine.
“We were actively looking to bring on a new CEO, and the timing was right with George, who has an unbelievable amount of gravitas and experience in building companies. He’s more seasoned, when you’re talking about the board-level conversations you need to have with a fast-growing startup company. The worst thing a startup can have is a management team that can’t execute as effectively or as quickly as they need to. I don’t have the ego to stand in the way of the success of the company. To the degree that George can help make this company a success, that’s my only motivation. Buffalo needs more of these companies.”