Dara bootstrapped BuyAutoParts to $54 million in profitable revenue and sold the company to private equity. Yet another story of success in the niche e-commerce domain.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s start at the very beginning of your personal journey. Where are you from? Where were you born, raised, and in what kind of background?
Dara Greaney: I was born and raised in Ventura, California. I was the first one in my family to be born in the US. My family is all Irish. My grandfather got a visa and came to New York. My father immigrated in ’78 and I was born that year. I’m a first-generation American. I went to school in Ventura. I enjoyed beach, surfing, and soccer. I was always fascinated by technology and marketing. I went to University of San Diego for undergraduate studies. I got a degree in Marketing and Finance there. Then I went to San Diego State’s entrepreneurship school and graduated there in 2002. At that time, I did a startup with an e-commerce company that quickly got bought by a bigger company, but I didn’t want to move to Chicago.
I ended up meeting and partnering with a company called Meridian Auto Parts that was a small-time company. The owner wanted to start something in e-commerce. We partnered to launch BuyAutoParts.com. At that time, there were very few businesses in auto parts online. It’s a pretty exciting space and there wasn’t a whole lot of structure there. Building our own websites and databases, and running servers was all new for us. On the upside, we were selling good products and had some background on what the products were. We essentially bootstrapped the business. We did have a line of credit that we paid off every year.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s go back to 2002. This person that you decided to start the company with, how well did you know him?
Dara Greaney: I didn’t know him very well. We had been introduced by someone else and had a number of conversations around this. We talked around what the opportunity was. We knew that there were a lot of opportunities to sell auto parts online. We knew that there was market demand for the stuff that we were selling. We had the access to go and get more types of parts. For us, it became our resource.
Sramana Mitra: But you felt comfortable enough starting a company with this person?
Dara Greaney: It was a leap of faith. I was young and I was willing to take risks. It seemed like a good opportunity that he had some connections to find the product and I had the ability to sell those products. It was definitely a leap of faith on my part, and probably a leap of faith on his part as well to invest in a new thing that had no proven ground. It definitely was not a quick overnight decision. There were definitely some conversations on how what needed to be done and how much it was going to cost us. I was lucky that I was single and living in an apartment. I could take a risk and could live on very little at that time. That would be not something I’d be comfortable doing now.