Cazoo becomes fastest-ever British unicorn

Online used car retailer Cazoo has become a billion-dollar business in record-breaking time.

By Amy Lewin

Alex Chesterman, Founder of Cazoo Ltd

Cazoo, the used car marketplace, has become the UK’s latest billion dollar company in record-breaking time. It has raised an extra £25m in funding from venture capital firms Draper Esprit, General Catalyst and DMG Ventures, bringing total funding raised to more than £200m.

That’s an impressive amount; the company was founded just 18 months ago — and there’s not even any SoftBank cash in it.

It helps that founder Alex Chesterman is a serial entrepreneur; his previous businesses, property website Zoopla and film rental service LoveFilm, became household names.

What’s more, despite throwing a few speed bumps Cazoo’s way, the Covid-19 outbreak in the UK has left the business “ahead of where we expected to be”, according to Chesterman.

Fundraising journey

Before Cazoo had even launched, Chesterman managed to raise £56.5m from investors including Octopus Ventures, DMG Ventures, Entrée Capital and Fred Destin — many of whom were also investors in one of Chesterman’s previous ventures.

It wasn’t exactly difficult to convince them to back his new idea, Chesterman told Sifted in September last year: “Of course it becomes easier, as it should. I’m an investor myself, and I’m much more likely to back someone with a demonstrated track record.”

In March this year, just after lockdown began in the UK, Cazoo raised another £100m in funding from DMG Ventures, General Catalyst, CNP, Mubadala Capital, Octopus Ventures, Eight Roads and Stride.VC.

Cars during Covid

Cazoo, which launched last December, says it has sold and delivered thousands of cars to date — and has seen “record sales levels over the past few weeks” (although it won’t disclose exactly how many cars it has sold in total, or during the past three months of lockdown).

“Covid has had an accelerating impact on a lot of digital delivery businesses — groceries and other sectors — and has been very positive for us,” said Chesterman.

It hasn’t been a smooth few months, however. “We had a very difficult period during April, when effectively things shut down almost entirely,” said Chesterman. “We were unable to buy new cars — auctions and suppliers were closed — and unable to buy parts for the same reasons. It was not easy to move cars around from place to place.”

When the business began retailing again in April, it focused on delivering cars to key workers. “We had a discount for NHS workers, and hundreds of people took us up on that,” said Chesterman.

Meanwhile, at its refurbishment site in the Midlands, mechanics were able to keep working. “Even if you have two people working on a car at once, at different ends of it, they’re socially distanced by the size of the product.”

Cazoo also implemented extra safety measures for customers; its website currently notifies users that “All our cars have been thoroughly sanitised and all handovers take place at a safe distance for your safety”.

Investors clearly feel that Cazoo’s offer — enabling customers to buy a used car online (no need to visit a dealer) and get it delivered for free “in as little as 72 hours” — is fairly pandemic-proof.

And Chesterman thinks the outlook for the online used car market is looking rosier than ever. “[The used car market] is the single largest retail market in the UK — bigger than food in value, at over £50bn per year,” he said.

Just as people have adopted online grocery shopping in droves, Chesterman hopes many will also have had a similar “lightbulb moment” with buying cars online. “I look at what consumers are saying about our service: ‘Now I’ll never buy a car any other way’.”


This piece was updated on 23 June to include comments from Alex Chesterman. 

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Good morning, pls are dealing heavy trucks too?
Hope to hear you back bye.

Mark L
Mark L

How is this business so different to that of the crooks at WeBuyAnyCar (when selling your car) or the excellent CarWow (when buying your car)? Interesting that a natural Google search doesn’t even bring them up when you type in “sell my car” ….

Jay E
Jay E

This business model looks like a money burning machine. Unless the real business is not selling cars but intermediating between car buyers and lenders therefore getting high commissions in the way. As pointed before my comment, spread on actually selling used cars is quite thin not enought to make this business fly. Again, unless the whole point is capturing market and users and sell the data to interested third parties (lenders, retailers, etc…).

car compass
car compass

Ominous – needing a new injection of cash. Forecasting error? seems an expensive mistake.

Clive Goodman
Clive Goodman

Sorry to burst your balloon but this is just nonsense, pure Emperor’s New Clothes! This is not a viable business. We know the used car business after 30 years of working with dealers up and down the country and nothing here makes any financial sense. Sales are 20-30 cars a day at best (same as a mid size single site dealership in any UK city) so the business is draining money at an alarming rate with its vast marketing spends. Margins are a couple of hundred per vehicle at best even after commissions from add on sales. Investors have no… Read more »