Sunday, November 28, 2010

So apparently, Land Rovers break down a lot...

I just had a wonderful conversation with Bill Cox.

Some of you don't know who Bill Cox is, so I'll fill you in..

He's a registered importer of Minis in the US and I happened to come across him in the Land Rover forums. He has one of the few sets of tools needed to change the timing belt on Land Rover FreeLanders as well as the Haynes manual that goes over the specialized engine that is not available in the US.

While our conversation started with how to post tools on AST, we delved into how the crankshafts on these suckers break, how if the cranks don't kill the motor, the headgaskets fail early, as well as the ridiculous amounts money needed to buy parts for these vehicles within the US and how he has been able to make it affordable for enthusiasts all over the world.

He also has contacts overseas that enable Land Rover owners to get parts CHEAPER than here in the US...

Join me in welcoming Mr. Cox (username werewolf) to the site. Thanks!

His equipment shall be available for rent on within a week or so.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

First tool posted by someone I don't personally know!

Username itsnickjames posted his universal clutch alignment tool seen here:

This is awesome as the idea is starting to penetrate and we're getting valuable feedback about website improvements, tool suggestions, etc.

So... to all of you out there: Try doing an inventory of your tools and spare parts over the holidays and post them up. You never know what someone might need and it won't cost you a dime!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Try before you buy!

In addition to the specialized tools you might find on AST, a new concept is surfacing... What is it, you ask?

Well, silly, it's trial use! For example, the ECU just listed allows those toying with the idea of tuning their car to try it out by only putting down a deposit and a fee of $10 to rent it for a whole month! You really can't beat that unless you know tuners personally.

This particular setup is a Honda P28 ECU equipped with Hondata s300, boost option, and VTEC control. Rent it out today!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

So we've hit 40 registered members!

We are seeing growing interest in this grassroots movement, but we're noticing that no one has posted additional tools to the database. How can we improve this process so that it's easier for you? Perhaps it's the upcoming holidays.. Who knows... In any case, we're here to help, so please let us know how we can do so!

- the Management

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Got these tools laying around??

That's right, folks! AST is interested in bringing you to the lending table. We realize that the service is essentially useless until we build the peer-to-peer tools database.

We have begun threads on all of our affiliated forums hoping to attract some initial buy-in to the concept other than Ramzi's own personal collection of specialty tools.

Just in case you didn't catch the current, hot items that are wanted, they are:

- CJ951 or similar bearing puller; wanted 12/25/2010 - 1/25/2011
- stubby, ratcheting 21mm wrench; wanted 12/25/2010 - 1/25/2011
- RTAB bushing pullers and press
- Differential carrier bushing pullers and press
- Differential bushing puller and press
- fender roller

If you have any of these, post them up on AST as they are hot items!

Monday, November 15, 2010

An automotive missionary

So Ramzi and I were talking about the AST site the other night after dinner with mom and dad, mostly telling them about the recent launch in Vegas. While discussing the enthusiasm expressed by so many folks before, at, and after SEMA for this much-needed service, we got to talking once more about the motivation behind the site.

"The goal," Ramzi insisted, "is to help people. It's less about making money and more about building a community of people sharing tools and knowledge."

"All the same, we do hope that it starts to cover the costs of setup and maintenance," I chimed in. It is a brand new start-up business after all.

"What? How is this venture going to make any money??" Dad was (almost) speechless.

An entrepreneur whose primary objective *isn't* making as much money as possible? Yes. I guess that would make my brother an automotive missionary of sorts. (Must be that Catholic upbringing....)

Current Feature Addition / Update List

So, with everything we learned at leading up to and during SEMA, we came up with the following list of planned feature additions and changes:

- Integrate the handling of deposits
- Integrate monitoring of transactions (i.e. enable uploading of pics & notes at the following points during the transaction: shipping from lender to borrower, just received by borrower, after use by borrower/shipping to lender, received by lender
- Integrate shipping estimation tied to my Fedex account directly to shopping cart (pull dimensions, weight, lender address, borrower address, etc. from Database)
- Enable the ability to book the same tool for multiple date ranges that don't overlap
- Search by zip code, availability date, price & enable combination filters (i.e. search by zip code, then filter by price, etc..)
- Tools wanted post as a standalone page of the site that users can post to if logged in
- Confirmation emails for newly registered accounts to prevent spam
- Way for users who don't have tools listed to be contacted anonymously (i.e. not just on "tool detail" pages)
- Feedback tied to lender and borrower email or username on a per transaction basis?
- Replicate listing button (for tools that have already been created), must require a different picture
- Have a "lend for free" option under the "pending approval" page so lenders can refund the borrower if they want to lend for free after the fact
- Have a "lend for free" option under the post a tool page
- Have the shopping cart automatically adjust the rental rate based on number of days requested by borrower (i.e. i list $1/month for my tool as a lender and borrower wants it for 15 days, so ($1/30)*15=$0.50
- "Tools Pending Approval" or another similar page within My Account to include tools I've tentatively borrowed from others but that havent been approved yet
- Reminder emails for: upcoming due dates to both parties (tool to be shipped out by X date, returned by X date, tool inactivity date for lenders
- Automatic resizing of uploaded photos, but keeping aspect ratio...
- Automatic invoicing of people who have held onto tools past their due date
- Rent to own option for lenders during post a tool as well as a second rent to own confirmation agreed to by both parties before deposit funds are disbursed
- Social media feed for homepage: blog, FB page, Twitter posts, YouTube

Did we miss anything?? What else would you guys like to see?

We're really trying to get folks to post up their tools when they have time as this is what needs to take place for this whole idea to work. Let us know if you have questions or concerns.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The site is fully functional!

So, with the implementation of anonymous messaging through the site and debugging of the Paypal express checkout, the site is fully functional. While we're still investigating other alternative payment methods, we realize that a lot of people recognize Paypal and have used it before. Down the road, we plan on offering other payment systems and will also show how much cash can be saved by using those methods... However, we're celebrating a bit as the initial launch is finally complete!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Paypal, in its infinite wisdom...

So we did have our soft launch at SEMA and, of course, encountered hiccups... But, to our surprise, it wasn't our math with the checkout that was wrong... It was Paypal's newly implemented fee structure (as of August 10th, 2010). They no longer allow merchants to refund customers for free... This annoyed us a great deal and as such, we're working on alternative payment processing vendors that will keep the site as cheap as possible AND bring value to the service at that cost.

I should note that the site remains ABSOLUTELY FREE for lenders. You will never get charged a dime by us. We designed it this way to encourage folks to post tools up and build the P2P database.

We have a short tutorial video on how to post tools up located here.

We learned a lot at SEMA and also discovered there was even more interest than we thought. With that said, we do have a lot of work to do to incorporate requested changes, address concerns, etc.

We hope we can still depend on your input as potential users of the site as it develops.

Thanks a ton, guys and girls!

- Ramzi

Monday, November 8, 2010

Back to reality...

Most people must have thought I was crazy when I said we were launching the site AND exhibiting for the first time ever at SEMA 2010... Well, we did it, admittedly with a few hiccups here and there.

What did we learn?

- 5 people managing a 10x10 booth is too much!
- Ergonomic flooring is an EPIC WIN (and a great investment!)
- People really like the idea and gave a few of their own!
- Switching from Paypal sandbox to "live" mode yields its own unforeseen issues (which we're dealing with!)

What does this mean?

- We're pumped that people like the idea and this fuels the fire in our hearts and minds to eliminate all of the issues associated with the site
- It also means that we have an even larger list of upcoming feature additions as this gets off the ground.

As Ibti mentioned above, the service is ABSOLUTELY FREE for lenders. This is kind of a shell shock to most people used to the Ebay-style fee structure that bills you no matter what.

In an effort to bring as many lenders to the table as possible, we made the decision a long time ago to allow fee-free posting of tool ads.

We really are dedicated to the guys on the ground level: DIYers, hobbyist racers, independant shop owners/mechanics, tool company franchisees, etc...

We are here to answer the call and help build and foster the DIY community by providing access to specialized, hard-to-find, expensive, or otherwise rent-worthy tools and associated information in a clear, concise, and user-friendly way.

I sincerely hope that this site succeeds in its goal of helping out the everyday hobbyist do what he/she loves for less money so he doesn't have to choose between fixing his/her car and going out or taking a trip, etc...

Sunday, November 7, 2010

What happens in Vegas doesn't stay in Vegas...

At least not when it's news of the launch of an amazing new peer-to-peer tool lending website!

Yes, folks, Automotive Specialty Tool is now live. In Vegas this past week, Ramzi (the company's founder) and a proud team of AST staff (working out of the goodness of our hearts and a belief in the project... and hoping for plenty of free beer and a payday some day) held down the fort at a booth at the prestigious annual SEMA conference to raise awareness about AST and build up our tool lending library.

"What a great idea!" many people commented after one of us at the booth lured them in with our conversational tractor beam (or more likely our snazzy AST stickers). I know. That's why we're going this. For my part, I became involved with the business because though I don't own a car myself (I can almost hear my credibility shrinking as you read that sentence clause again, but wait, WAIT!) I fundamentally believe in the idea of doing as much work as possible yourself -- both for the learning and the cost-saving benefits. And I like the idea of building a community of DIY enthusiasts looking to help each other with advice, information, and of course reasonably-priced tools for rare but important specialty repairs and upgrades.

I actually got halfway decent at talking with people about the company by the time Tuesday's Young Executives Network happy hour rolled around. There I was, standing by the bar with a Heineken amid a sea of socially awkward men: "Have a tool you rarely use? Want to make a little cash on it instead of tripping over it in the garage? Lend it out safely and securely to another DIY automotive enthusiast via the AST website. It's 100% free to post and browse tools. The price of the rental and refundable deposit are set by lenders, and shipping costs are worked out between lender and borrower." (See? I totally have my 30-second speech down, though really those lightning fast Hilton elevators in Vegas forced me to cut it down to about 5 seconds: "Have tools lying around in your garage gathering dust? Rent 'em out for cash through this website. Here's a card. Oh, look, it's my floor....")

It's wild when I step back and think about this idea that Ramzi had a couple of years ago for the business. He has a lot of good ideas -- and, to be fair, a number of hair-brained schemes as well -- but in this case he's actually done it! I'm so proud of him. And I can say that, being his sister -- I am the first to ask questions or give him a hard time if he's into one of his shenanigans. Like that Thanksgiving a few years ago when he insisted on making a turducken with an entire turkey, chicken, and duck that were not deboned when he bought them. Good lord. I notice he hasn't tried that again.

Anyhow, welcome to all to the Automotive Specialty Tool blog: your place for the latest chatter from the do-it-yourself automotive repair team. We may get a little punchy sometimes, especially when, ahem, certain members of the team are up late fixing friends' Integras or playing video games, but we really are a friendly bunch. We welcome comments and feedback and hope to see you at one of the racing events soon! In the meantime, I'd encourage you all to check out the site and post some tools. (Remember: it's free to post them!)