The original cast of MenuVantage was, in order of appearance, Bob Steenbergh, Mark Virag, and Kim Hackett. The partnership with Superior came later. I was working on the Route One CAS system up in Chicago when Bobby called to ask about menu systems.
My first task was to engage Kim as an angel investor. I knew Kim from AutoNation and he was now running an investment group. I rented a Jaguar, to make a good impression, and drove over to Kim’s place with our business plan.
Next, Kim and I pitched U.S. Warranty on a custom menu system they could offer to their agents. We had no software yet, but I coded a few sample web pages to get the idea across. Bobby and I then hired Razorfish to do the development, handing off my specs and mockups.
Development of the initial version took four months. I rolled off the Route One engagement, recruited our first fulltime developer, and rented office space. Just as we went all in, U.S. Warranty pulled out. This was our only customer. Without them, we had no prospects for revenue.
Startups often face existential challenges like this, requiring a pivot to a new business model. MenuVantage would now sell directly to dealers, and present whatever F&I products they were using. We developed techniques to ingest, from any data source, the pricing tables of any provider.
Bobby ran the company and I ran software development. When I wasn’t designing algorithms, I was doing demonstrations, sales, and marketing. For example, I was the author of our successful “Can your menu system do this?” campaign.
Phil Battista joined, bringing professional sales skills and an existing customer base. We drove weaker competitors from the field, setting a new standard for F&I software, and then sold to CDK Global a few years later.