Roughly three years into its evolution, Used Equipment Guide has moved to Chattanooga, found its niche and is looking for brighter things in 2019.
With 10 strategic investors from some of the giants in the industrial equipment field — universal company names like Caterpillar and John Deere — founder and CEO Jeremy Balog believes the online site that aims to be the Zillow or Kayak for used heavy trucks and equipment is poised to continue growing.
Job: CEO and founder of United Equipment Guide, which hosts and develops unitedequipmentguide.com, a search engine for used construction equipment.
Education: Degree in mathematics and a Master’s in Entrepreneurship from Western Carolina University.
Fun fact: Balog graduated from Midwestern Culinary Institute in Cincinnati and has been a chef in Vegas and on a touring sailboat among other stops.
"People buy from people they trust," Balog says. "We have two main goals as we move forward. No. 1 is making sure people know we exist, and No. 2 is to develop that rapport with users that they know they can trust."
If Used Equipment Guide's future traces Balog's interesting trek to Chattanooga — where 11 people work technical jobs supporting the site and enhancing it — the goal of an industry-leading web tool in the online search world is anything but far-fetched.
From cooking to clicking
While things for UEG seem to be really cooking now, the literal and figurative worlds for Balog have a real professional overlap. Balog is a classically trained chef, graduating from the Midwest Culinary Institute in his hometown of Cincinnati. He has worked at famous establishments, from renowned locales such as Las Vegas to a swanky sail boat that toured the Caribbean.
"Yeah. I guess you could say I was a foodie," Balog says. "The thing I always loved about cooking is the science and the way all of it fits together."
As he transitioned from foodie to techie, that appreciation of the science and the formulas has remained, he says.
After moving to Asheville, North Carolina, more than a decade ago, Balog went back to school and got a degree in applied mathematics and a masters degree in entrepreneurship from Western Carolina University. One could say he traded whisks and cooking for websites and clicks.
Balog took a turn as an executive recruiter for Kimmel & Associates, the largest executive search firm in construction before seeing a need to start DieselJobs.com. From there, he noticed a void for a user-friendly site for used construction equipment. So, with DieselJobs.com serving as the revenue-generating benefactor at the beginning, UsedEquipmentGuide.com was hatched.
How it works
Used Equipment Guide has faced some recent confusion and had to fight through some false information. While other competitors and the long-established magazines and online listings of equipment are out there, UsedEquipmentGuide.com is trying to do something different, Balog said.
"It's a search engine, just like Google or Bing, and we crawl websites and process a huge amount of data, and make it as easy and convenient as possible for users to find the information they're looking for," Balog says.
In an effort to clear up any confusion, Balog defined a key difference between his company and others in the field by writing on medium.com, "We do not host any content and users are required to visit an external website to view copyrighted material such as images and full item descriptions."
The seed money from some of the big names in the industry does not change UsedEquipmentGuide.com's approach, however.
"Google and others have given us two decades of legal precedent that puts guardrails on what we can and cannot do as an internet search engine," he wrote in a blog post about the company. "The big one being search neutrality — we cannot alter our search results based on financial relationships. This means that HOLT CAT, the largest Caterpillar dealer in the United States and our lead investor, has their inventory indexed and displayed the exact same way as a small mom and pop dealer who doesn't even know Used Equipment Guide exists."
Used Equipment actively crawls thousands of websites every minute of the day for its data, Balog said.
"This requires a massive amount of human and computing resources to keep updated for our users," he says. "When a seller adds, removes, or updates an item listed on a website, it could take our crawlers up to a week to update our index. To ensure new items are added, removed, and updated in a timely manner, we have established direct data feed partnerships with multiple listing sites and sellers. Since data feeds are considered higher quality, we prioritize these data sources over the websites we crawl to provide the most up to date content to users."
If the goals of UEG sound familiar, well, they should. There are other specific sites for dedicated genres and fields that are similar. Sites like AutoTrader.com.
So, when looking to expand in numbers and in precision, Balog added David Lilly, the co-founder of Autotrader.com as Used Equipment Guide's chief operating officer and to assist in the fund-raising that has generated millions in support. The goal is simple: To make UEG the most buyer-friendly website of its kind on the internet.
Balog said they have surpassed 100,000 visitors a month, which is he hopes is every bit as much a steppingstone as it is a milestone.
The mission remains to create liquidity in the marketplace for used construction equipment.
Balog wants UsedEquipmentGuide.com to be committed to transparency for the buyers as well as the sellers in terms of pricing, condition of the equipment, and numbers of visits of potential buyers.
"There a lot of sites out there that are serving the seller," Balog says. "We want to have a site that does what's best for the buyer."
While that relationship starts with trust, as Balog frequently repeats, the future seems wide open for UsedEquipmentGuide.com knowing that whether it's a 5-star meal or someone looking for used construction equipment knowing that serving the customer is always a good business plan.