The Idea, The History, The Future
You could say that American Idol is responsible for the existence of TEXT2DRIVETM. Well, indirectly, that is.
Gregg Owen, CEO, and co-founder of TEXT2DRIVETM noticed while watching the hit television show in 2008 that young people showed no hesitation in paying 99 cents per text message to vote for their favorite contestants. Their passion lingered in his mind.
Not long after Gregg made this observation, he noticed a woman in her eighties text messaging on a flight. When he inquired why she was doing it, the woman told Gregg it was the only way she could get her grandchildren to communicate with her.
Gregg realized that text messaging was causing a culture shift. Senior citizens were succumbing to Millennials and taking up texting because they saw it as the only way to communicate with those family members. And the popularity of this form of communication among the younger generation showed no sign of slowing down.
“I thought to myself, if Millennials and senior citizens are both texting right now, at some point, the trend will meet in the middle and the generations in between will start doing it, too,” Gregg says.
About two weeks later, Gregg met with a man who suggested that readers of Gregg’s magazine, Auto Guide, could send texts to obtain information about vehicles featured in the publication. The dealer would text a word via a short code and it would generate a hyperlink. A short code is a number that is less than 10 digits long and is easier to remember than a 10-digit phone number. When the customer clicked to get information about the car, they would be sent pictures of the vehicle. The dealer would then receive a message including the customer’s name, phone number and the vehicle in which they were interested.
There were just two problems. People needed a link to view information about the car, and few people had smartphones at the time. To further complicate matters, the man who approached Gregg told him it was not possible for the dealer to text the customer instead of calling them. Gregg did not like this, as he had found that most people preferred a text over a phone call if the exchange had started with a text message.
About one year later, Gregg believed they may have found a solution: someone who could write code that would allow a customer and dealer to text back and forth…two-way text communication. His son, Gregg C. Owen, suggested they obtain the short code “37483” which on the keypad of cell phone spelled the word “DRIVE.” This was actually how the company came to be called TEXT2DRIVETM!
Only short code messaging existed at that time, which turned out to be very fortunate. It is possible to send millions of messages using short code, whereas this is not something that can be done with a long code based text platform. Using a short code has allowed TEXT2DRIVETM to accomplish technical feats some of their competitors cannot achieve.
Gregg had a gut feeling that text messaging was going to take off in a big way in the automotive industry.
“My first thought was, if in fact, you could communicate in a way that the dealer could get the message and contact the customer about the car in which they were interested, it could conceivably put us out of business. (Gregg and his son, Gregg C had been in the automotive magazine publishing business for ten years at this point.) If people could text to find a car, why would they need a magazine? They could get all of the information sent to them via text. If anyone is going to put me out of business, it is going to be me,” he says.