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Thursday, May 19, 2022

20 in Their 20s: Brandon Cavalier

Brandon Cavalier, 25

Company: CarPay Inc.

Title: Chief executive

Business: Online car payment portal

Location: Venice

Employees: 7

Financials: $3.4 million raised to date

What led you to start this business?

I founded a car dealership in Pensacola, Fla., at age 18. At some point, I started paying an overseas dev shop to build tools for me that would allow my customers to make their car payments via an online platform instead of calling me every time they pay.

Once I had the online tool for my dealership, I went around the country and interviewed hundreds of other independent dealerships to find out what they were doing for payments. I’d show up with a box of donuts, sit with them for a while in their office and see how they were running their businesses. I realized that every one of the nation’s 35,000 buy-here, pay-here dealerships needed better ways to manage their car loans, so I decided I’d find a technical co-founder and turn this product into a company.

How did you fund it, and how are you funding it going forward?

The development of the first version of our product was self-funded. Around the time we had a product to show, we started bringing on outside money — first from angel investors and eventually from VCs. There’s over $100 billion of auto loans in the U.S. managed by mom-and-pop lenders. Carpay is really the first mover, as a loan management software, into this niche. It’s the type of company where additional funding rounds make sense.

What are the advantages and disadvantages to starting a business in your 20s?

As with anything, it’s a double-edged sword. The same naiveté allows for optimism and foolishness. My favorite advantage of being this age and being CEO is being able to recruit smart mentors. I’ve been surprised just how eager people are to help when they see a young person trying something difficult.

How has the pandemic impacted your business?

We’ve seen a big jump in sales, payments and … metrics that we track since the pandemic began. We’ve responded by giving our current and new users up to 90% off of our monthly subscription fees in order to get any dealership online that hasn’t been able to make the jump until now. 

Where do you go for advice regarding your business?

Besides the obvious answer being our board of directors and our advisers, I use a lot of other resources to get advice and to try to give Carpay an advantage. I might listen to a Charlie Munger (vice chairman of Berkshire Hathaway Inc.) talk on YouTube, read a negotiation book by Chris Voss (former FBI hostage negotiator) or do a Zoom call with another founder to see what they’re doing.

Does social responsibility play a role in your business?

I believe business is fundamentally about social responsibility. After all, if you don’t treat your employees right, they’ll leave. If you don’t give your customers something that they want, they won’t buy. If you don’t help your partners grow their businesses, they’ll find someone else. If you don’t have a plan that gives investors a return, they won’t invest. Business is all about creating something that benefits all parties involved.

Do you feel that your business is tailored to the Los Angeles market?

As an internet company, we could theoretically be anywhere, but I don’t think we’d have the same culture if we were somewhere else.

What do you do for fun?

I have a Harley that I like to ride, and I read a lot of books. Check out “Deep Simplicity,” if you’re looking for a great book. Message me on LinkedIn, and let me know what you thought.

Keep reading the 2020 edition of the 20 in Their 20s special report.

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