GRAND RAPIDS — Thornapple River Capital LLC invested $10 million in a Denver, Colo.-based company that developed a digital marketplace for private parties to buy and sell vehicles and borrow money for a purchase.
The Grand Rapids-based asset management firm’s investment will “significantly accelerate our comprehensive strategy for improving the automotive buying experience,” said Rod Buscher, CEO of the six-year-old Blinker Inc.
“We think the company’s got a lot of upside,” Thornapple River Capital Managing Partner Brandon Kanitz told MiBiz. “They make what is a really difficult process easier.”
The Blinker smartphone application uses image-recognition technology and artificial intelligence to facilitate transactions between private sellers and buyers.
Sellers can list an image of the vehicle on Blinker’s marketplace. The platform identifies the Kelly Blue Book value of the vehicle, which sellers can then use to set the price. Buyers can use the app to find a vehicle, access a Carfax report on the vehicle’s maintenance history, and buy insurance.
Thornapple River Capital also likes the Blinker management team that’s led by Buscher, the company’s founder and a 30-year automotive industry veteran. The management team also includes technology and finance industry experts from US Bank, CarMax, GM Financial and Cox Automotive.
“Our mission is to put customers in control, and provide the best experience possible for buying, selling, financing and refinancing their vehicle,” Buscher said in a statement. “I am extremely pleased that a respected, long-term-oriented partner like Thornapple shares our view about the vast opportunity ahead for Blinker.”
Thornapple River Capital previously made a smaller investment in Blinker. The latest investment involved acquiring a majority stake in the company and came after Blinker adjusted its business strategy. The company has “some very big potential partnerships,” including one with a European luxury brand to list vehicles coming off lease that dealers do not want.
Kanitz likens Blinker’s platform for selling and buying vehicles to what Uber has done for ride-hailing services. He and Ned Jannotta Jr., a senior adviser at Thornapple River Capital who also invested in Blinker, joined Blinker’s board of directors.
Thornapple River Capital specializes in private company investments. Formed in 2015, the firm manages nine private funds. Targeted industries include community banks, health care, technology, real estate, and marijuana companies in states where it’s legal.
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