|Zeid Nasser, a fourth year Mechanical Engineering Technology major.
I don’t exactly consider myself particularly internet savvy, but I can navigate through The College Driver website with ease. With its clean and bright colors, simple layout and striking pictures, it makes a great first impression. Following link after link, I’m led through various articles about all things automotive, ranging from a Ford Fiesta car review, to “Winter Driving Tips,” to a news piece about a 300 mph electric car. Each article is informative and easy to understand, a rarity in the car world - which is exactly the point.
Mechanical Engineering Technology majors Cory Mack, a sixth year, and Zeid Nasser, a fourth year, collaborated during the summer of 2008 to create “The College Driver,” a car review website. Mack and Nasser’s understanding of the market is striking; they sound more like seasoned executives than new business owners when they explain the astonishing preparation that went into the site. Each component of “The College Driver” is used to either attract their target demographic or differentiate themselves from other car-related websites, a goal they excel at.
Primarily targeting college-aged readers, “The College Driver” typically reviews cars under $25,000 in an effort to provide their audience with sensible assessments of practical cars. These pragmatic evaluations differentiate “The College Driver” from many of the big-name car review sites, such as “Car and Driver.”
Mack says, “What I hate reading in car forums or other sites is ‘You shouldn’t get this Ford Focus because it’s a cheap Ford,’ but that’s why you’re buying the car - because it’s cheap. So now that we’ve established that you’re buying a car because you don’t have money, what else matters?”
It’s this “what else” that drives Mack and Nasser’s reviews. They critique three major components: value, safety and fuel economy. These are what they believe are important to student drivers, their target demographic. It’s clear that Mack and Nasser have a good handle on what students are looking for in a car. In addition, they’ve added a social networking aspect to their site, giving it a younger feel.
In addition to rating cars, the website also features a “dashboard” section where car owners can upload two profile pictures, one of them and one of their car. Through these dashboard accounts, members can create their own car reviews, comment on articles, and socialize by sending “tickets” or private messages to one another. It’s in this section where Mack and Nasser’s creativity and innovation shine, giving them an edge on their competition.
It all began in 2008, when Mack and Nasser were working together on RIT’s Green Vehicle Team, a challenge to build a lightweight, fuel-efficient vehicle. Both Mack and Nasser had an interest in cars that developed at a young age, and separately, they had come up with ideas for car-related websites they wished to create. Collaborating, the two merged Nasser’s car review website idea with Mack’s dream of a social network for car owners. That summer, Mack and Nasser began work on their website with “The College Driver” emerging as a result. Since then, the two have continued to improve their company with much success.
|Corey Mack, a sixth year Mechanical Engineering Technology major.
There is a clear team dynamic between Mack and Nasser, who have found a balance in splitting their increasing workload. Nasser is responsible for most of the writing and editing of the articles while Mack focuses on the design and visual aspects of the website. However, they also work together on many aspects of the company, providing input on each other’s work.
With advertisements generating all their revenue, it’s necessary that Mack and Nasser maintain the quality and consistency of their website in order to appeal to advertisers. To increase website traffic, they release new content each week. The more articles the duo publishes, the better the chance that a person looking up information on a search engine will be linked to “The College Driver.”
Mack and Nasser have determined that each article adds one-third of a page view, forever. This means that if 1,000 articles are written in one month, there will be consistently be 333 more page views than if those articles had never been written.
Another way that Mack and Nasser advertise is by appearing at auto shows. Attending these events, located near New York City and Detroit, allows the two to prove to the car world that they’re serious about their business. According to Nassar, attending these shows has its perks. “You get to meet these engineers,” says Nassar. “You see all these people [who] are always in the news; and they’re right in front of you, and you can shake their hand.”
As for the future, both Mack and Nasser plan on staying at RIT at least another year. In fact, Mack hopes to obtain his Ph.D. At the moment, “The College Driver” cannot sustain a full time salary for Mack or Nasser; therefore, their business will remain a part-time arrangement or, as Mack describes it, “a job with terrible pay and excellent fringe benefits.” One of the perks that “The College Driver” has given Mack and Nasser is the opportunity to test drive many new cars. They’ve tested and reviewed various cars, including the Nissan Sentra, the Volvo C30 and the Audi A4.
According to the company, manufactures have been generous with their cars, especially as “The College Driver” stabilizes as a business. Since most cars have to be shipped or driven from far away, Mack and Nasser are trying to borrow cars from local Rochester dealers. So far, they’ve had little luck. This surprises Mack who says, “someone you’ve never seen before 1,000 miles away will give you a car sight unseen versus the guy around the corner; it’s sort of odd.”
Owning a business, however, does not come without its fair share of problems. According to
Nasser, the company currently faces a few hurdles that are preventing its growth, including finding writers and web developers. Despite this, the business is succeeding, seeing a growth in the number of page views from only a few hundred a month to over 10,000. This growth is evident of Mack and Nasser’s dedication to their business and their love for everything automotive.
Cory Mack and Zeid Nasser can be reached via email at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org