Shift’s Founding Story: Reflecting on our History for this New “Day One”

By George Arison & Toby Russell 

Co-CEOs, Shift

We are excited to announce that Shift is now a public company, trading on Nasdaq under the ticker symbol SFT. This comes four months after we announced plans to become one of the first companies in Silicon Valley to pursue a Special Purpose Acquisition Company (SPAC) transaction by combining with Insurance Acquisition Corporation, a SPAC sponsored by Cohen & Company. 

As founders, both of us believe that the best way to build a company is charting the path to take it public. Of course for most entrepreneurs, this never happens, since so few companies, including the very successful ones, ever get the chance to be in the public market. We are so very fortunate to be reaching this milestone less than seven years since being incorporated, and just 26 quarters since selling our “first” car. 

Getting the company to this stage is an incredible team effort and we wanted to recognize and congratulate everyone whose contribution has played a part in making this happen. We owe a tremendous thank you to Shift’s current and past employees who believed in the company’s vision to transform the auto industry for good and have worked so hard to pursue our mission to make car purchase and ownership simple and accessible to everyone. We are so very appreciative of everyone keeping the eye on the ball and executing. Without you, Shift could not be where it is and today would not have been possible. 

We also owe a deep appreciation to all of our customers. There is tremendous joy in delighting users and helping them improve their lives through a purchase of something that is so consequential. A car is, after all, a means to get around, to get to and from work and school, to take family trips, to make life happen. And a car is the largest single item most Americans will ever own outright. Finding and buying the right car should be a fun and fair experience. We are grateful to all the customers who have used the Shift way to buy or sell their cars. 

Lastly, Shift would not be possible without the trust and support of the many investors who have been with us on this journey. Thank you to everyone who has been willing to put the necessary capital investments behind our project, from our earliest investors in our seed round to investors who supported our SPAC transaction, and everyone in between.

Our road has not always been easy; it has come with many ups and downs. At our core, we’ve always believed that the seemingly impossible can be made possible — that we could achieve what most thought could not be done. To do this, we’ve been helped by a lot of grit and determination. This is a great time to take stock of what we’ve accomplished and celebrate this big win.

Being public, of course, is not the end of our journey, but rather, the beginning of a new chapter in our company’s growth. In the coming months, quarters, and years, we need to continue to be laser focused on execution, on delighting customers, on hitting numbers, and on creating shareholder value, like we have been as a private company. Through this transaction we raised capital that will allow us to invest in scaling our business and ensure that more and more customers have an opportunity to experience the Shift way of buying and selling their cars. As a company, we have always been judicious about our spend, and we will continue to be so in the future, even as we invest in building a stronger brand, expanding our operations, creating new technology, and launching new markets. 

For now — we wanted to congratulate everyone who has been part of our journey. We are deeply grateful and look forward to a great future as a public company!

As we make this transition, we’re reflecting too on our founding story — how Shift all got started. 

A little over nine years ago, the two of us were having one of our regular weekend conversations about company ideas when Toby told George about the challenges he was having buying a car. Toby wanted to go to a specific dealer (a huge company he had used a couple of times before) and finance the car using the bank where he worked, but the bank would not work with the dealer, so the transaction could not go through. As it turned out, George had just gone through a very similar experience trying to get a loan to buyout his leased vehicle — all the banks directed him to a dealer to get a loan, and the dealer eventually approved him for a loan with the very banks that said no to him earlier. 

These experiences got us wondering why dealers had so much control over the auto financing process. We started to investigate, and spent nearly two years talking to dealers, auto lenders, customers who bought cars at dealerships, and individuals who engaged in private party transactions. We realized that there was a huge opportunity to use technology to transform the car purchase experience. 

In mid-2013 George started to work on the idea full time, initially contacting car sellers on Craigslist, trying to get them to engage on the first product concept: to offer their prospective buyers a warranty. It was during these interactions that sellers would ask if we’d be willing to take their cars and sell them on their behalf. The whole concept seemed crazy since the team was working out of George’s apartment, was using Toby’s and George’s savings to fund the testing, had no insurance, and would need to park cars on the street. Yet, by end of the year we had about a dozen cars parked on the street in the Castro district of San Francisco that we were trying to sell. 

Shift has come a long way since then. It has been our continued determination to build a thriving company that outlasts us that has gotten us here, and we are excited to be listing on Nasdaq. And while it was a thrilling road to get to this point, the best is yet to come. To paraphrase the great Jeff Bezos, from whom we’ve learned so much, reset your clocks, Day One starts now. 

– George and Toby 


Shift is going public this year

Shift to go public later this year by agreeing to combine with INSU today

We are very excited to announce that Shift has entered into an agreement to combine with a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) called Insurance Acquisition Corp. (NASDAQ: INSU).

As part of the business combination, INSU has raised $185MM in commitments from investors to purchase INSU equity capital, which cash would be available to the combined company following the completion of the business combination, in addition to potential proceeds from the SPAC trust, which currently stands at >$150MM.

We last wrote on our blog in late March when we had to announce some very painful decisions that affected our team and business stemming from the COVID pandemic and economic uncertainty. Facing some of the most challenging headwinds we could have ever imagined, our team nonetheless persevered, continuing to service our customers as they searched for alternative means of transportation. To be here now, announcing this milestone, is a testament to our incredible team that has worked so tirelessly to bring Shift to this stage.

Shift started selling cars in 2014 with a mission to simplify buying and selling of used cars. Offering consumers a complete car buying and selling relationship, it has combined a powerful technology platform with an omnichannel sales approach to redesign the car buying experience, especially through our patented test-drive-delivered-to-customer service. By combining its ability to quickly and accurately evaluate, price, recondition and sell cars across the entire value spectrum with its unique white glove service, Shift has seen meaningful market penetration in its core markets as customers appreciate the breadth of selections and convenience.

This transaction represents a tremendous opportunity for our company. Once completed, we expect it to significantly enhance our ability to scale our technology and operations, accelerate our growth, and continue on our mission to make car buying simple, fair and accessible to all. We are targeting to finalize the combination toward the end of Q3’2020, following the SEC review process and the completion of various conditions to closing, including among other things certain regulatory and stockholder approvals.

We want to close out with a huge shout-out to the many people who’ve helped us along the way. We’ve known each other for nearly 25 years, and each of our journeys in life and business reflect the incredible promise and opportunity of our wonderful country, in which entrepreneurship is able to flourish unlike anywhere else. None of this would be possible without the support of so many who have been with us along the way, both at Shift and in life. From our teachers and mentors, to our investors, to the hundreds of team members who have worked at Shift over the years, to our families and friends who have put up with us working non-stop hours, we owe a huge thank you.

Of course, today’s announcement is a big deal for Shift, but the hard work does not stop now. We are excited about what lies ahead. Onward!

George & Toby

Continue reading “Shift is going public this year”

Announcing Our Latest Fundraise

It was just a little over three years ago that we sold our first Shift car in San Francisco. Since that time, we’ve become the number one used car seller in the Bay Area, grown our team by 100x, and expanded to several new markets. It’s been a wild ride.

And thanks to some recent financing by leading investors, we’re in it for the long haul. Last month, BMW iVentures, DCM, G2 Ventures, Goldman Sachs, and Highland Capital invested more than $38 million in Shift’s Series C. To date, we have raised more than $110 million. Continue reading “Announcing Our Latest Fundraise”

Wondering Where to Buy a Used Car? Try Online

From the beginning, we’ve believed that car buying should be simple and fair. No matter where or how you choose to embark on this important journey, if you’re in the market and wondering where to buy a used car, there are a few reasons to check out online marketplaces and car dealers like Vroom, Carvana, and Shift.

1. Test drives delivered to you

From day one, we’ve delivered test drives to our prospective customers because seeing a car in person, on your own terms and in your own environment, is a fundamental part of Shift’s better car buying experience.

2. No pushy sales tactics

When we get there, we won’t sell you on a car. After all, great cars at great prices sell themselves.

3. On-the-spot purchasing

Why step foot in a dealership when you can finish the entire process in under an hour, from the comfort of your own driveway?

4. Better prices

Avoiding the traditional overhead of brick-and-mortar dealerships allows us to sell cars for $2,000 less than average. See for yourself: just click “compare Shift’s price” on any vehicle description page to see how we compare to the market.

Best Road Trip Cars

5. Easy financing

Shopping for a used car is only half the battle, which is why we’ve also made it easy to get a loan. With instant decisions from a variety of lenders competing to give you a good rate, now it’s not.

6. Returns

We pride ourselves on being picky. We decline to list 40% cars we’re asked to sell, and every car we do take in must first pass a 150-point inspection. Then we include a 30 day warranty and a 7-day/200-mile return guarantee. Many online car retailers including Vroom and Carvana offer similar policies that let you shop with confidence knowing you can return if it’s not the right fit.

7. Shop & Buy From Your Phone or Laptop

You’re already a pro at shopping and navigating online, so why not leverage that for cars? All three online car retailers mentioned above offer the ability to shop for a car online, buy the one you want and have it delivered to your doorstep.

Shopping for a used car doesn’t have to be terrible. That’s why we’re obsessed with finding ways to make the process faster, better and easier for our customers.

Congratulations Minnie!

It was just three years ago this month that our team sold our first car using a new platform we were creating, and boom: Shift was born. But things were a lot different back in 2014. We were working out of my apartment living room and parking cars on the street (or in the Costco parking lot), and doing the sales ourselves, all because we had this crazy idea about transforming the used car industry. Needless to say, it was a wild first couple of months.

Since that time, we have become the largest used-car seller in the Bay Area, built an incredible team, expanded to new markets, brought on board great investors, and have thousands of happy customers. It’s an awesome time for Shift and we are all incredibly bullish about where we are headed. Continue reading “Congratulations Minnie!”

30-Day Warranty now Included with Every Shift Certified Vehicle

We’re pretty committed to doing whatever we can to take uncertainty out of the decision to purchase a used car. That’s why we’re happy to announce that a 30-day, 1,000 mile limited warranty now comes standard with every Shift Certified car. Continue reading “30-Day Warranty now Included with Every Shift Certified Vehicle”

A Token of Gratitude from Shift: a Car Giveaway

A little more than two years ago, my cofounders and I embarked on a crazy mission to change one of the worst consumer experiences out there: car buying. We ran our tiny operation from the sidewalks and parking lots of San Francisco with a firm belief in customer experience and fueled by good faith.

Continue reading “A Token of Gratitude from Shift: a Car Giveaway”