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August 29, 2008

Driving the Message Home

Hootan Mahallati '07
CEO, rightpedal
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Sensitive readers be warned: this is a story about a serious childhood addiction. Many little boys love toy cars — it’s almost a cliché. But I remember thinking at age six that I loved cars more than my playmates. When other kids made simplistic “vroom vroom” sounds as they played, I would chastise them for not shifting gears with their voices.

Packing boxes upon boxes of old car magazines every time I move has made me want to kick the habit, but it’s amazing how strong a grip a childhood passion can have on your life. My love for cars led me to engineering school and the heart of the car industry, and having passed through business school and Silicon Valley, I now find myself steeped in my passion through my company, rightpedal.

Rightpedal will be a universally appealing automotive social media site for the influential and trend-setting Generation Y. In the most fundamental sense, my goal for the company is to bring accessible automotive entertainment and information to the masses. This will be done through a Web site that is a joy to navigate and that, among other features, contains entertaining video reviews of cars. The reviews are a cornerstone of rightpedal, which will live within a social environment where visitors can contribute content and also learn from one another. The aim is to spark conversation and information exchange.

Currently, all the information that’s available online is geared mainly toward car enthusiasts — people like me. But I’ve always believed that there are millions of people out there just waiting for people to talk to them in an accessible language about cars, not technical jargon.

Interestingly, I came to see many of my classmates at CBS — young, influential, interested and with buying power — as the right target demographic for rightpedal. Many who knew me as the “car guy” would come to me with car questions and express their support of rightpedal if it could to explain cars to them in an accessible manner. Rightpedal is my way of being a “car buddy” on a national and even international level.

The challenge is reaching people who are not on the lookout for this content that I’m making. To that end, I’ve been working on establishing partnerships with existing media entities that have built-in traffic — like general portals and social networking sites — and trying to get them to adopt rightpedal as their purveyor of automotive content. I can make a convincing argument in this sense by showing how our unique content would be welcomed by these sites’ target demographic.

The critical point is this: people, no matter how much interest they have in cars, form an emotional connection to cars. We have childhood memories of driving with our parents, of our first car out of college, the car we took road trips in.

It’s very exciting, because I feel that with rightpedal, I’m awakening something that’s been dormant in people.

Photo credit: rightpedal


by Adithya Jayachandran | November 16, 2008 at 6:55 AM

Hey Hootan, Good luck with your new venture. Its great that you have been able to tie your passions and career goals together. Adithya

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