By LAURA LOREK
Reporter with Silicon Hills News
Naval Ravikant, now CEO of AngelList, founded the company to create a better search site to help people find and discover items online. He wanted people to use technology instead of advertising to find a better match between buyers and sellers, said John Price, now Vast’s CEO.
Today, Vast, under Price’s direction, has evolved into a highly sophisticated technology platform that uses artificial intelligence, patented algorithms, big data, analytics and more to match buyers with sellers in the automotive and real estate markets.
Price, a co-founder of Trilogy in Austin, joined Vast in 2007 to help build the automotive and real estate search engine and analytics tools.
In 2011, Price moved the company to Austin. He started recruiting out of the Trilogy alumni network and rapidly created a big presence for the company in Austin’s tech scene. Vast is based at Sixth and Congress in the three-story Buttrey Building, built in 1885. They have 40 local employees, half of which are ex-Trilogy workers, Price said. They have another 100 employees in Belgrade, Serbia.
Vast markets its search tools under two brands, CarStory for automotive and HomeStory for real estate. CarStory helps consumers discover and decide what car is right for them with artificial intelligence, data and analytics. HomeStory does the same for people looking for a home. Vast distributes its products through partnerships. It serves 1,000 companies, including America Online and Southwest Airlines and powers more than 300 automotive marketplaces.
The HomeStory and CarStory apps are available in the Apple Store and are aimed at real estate agents and their customers and car dealers and their customers. An Android version is also in the works, Price said.
Vast’s 100 employees in Serbia work on the data behind the apps. They have been doing the work since 2005 and they have perfected the sourcing, classifying and cleansing of big data in automotive and real estate, Price said. Today, Vast’s technology powers more than 350 marketplaces.
“Think of how Google does ad words and they know everything and can tell you all the analytics around an ad,” Price said. “We’re doing that for cars and homes. We have all that demand data for cars and inventory for automotive. Take the demand and supply data and that allow us to build unique analytics. “
That way Vast’s technology can tell a consumer looking for a car that people like them have also looked at these other cars. Price says its technology is like Pandora, the Internet music service, it likes to suggest alternatives that the consumer might not have considered, he said.
“We think search is broken in real estate and automotive,” Price said. “We think discovery is the new search tool.”
A lot of dealerships now provide consumers with Vast’s CarStory market report which contains all kinds of data on the car they are looking it. Vast’s CarStory reports will be in more than 5,000 dealerships by June. Volkswagen of America selected CarStory for a national rollout across 48 states.
The CarStory market reports are free to all dealerships and then Vast has some add-on products that it sells to dealers that generate revenue for Vast.
Vast plans to tackle the travel market next, Price said. And the company is growing. Vast plans to double its employees in Austin this year from 40 to 80, Price said.
“We want to bring excited motivated buyers into brokerages and dealerships armed with valuable data,” Price said. “We fundamentally think the right car and the right home exist for you and they can be found at the right price.”