Published February 16, 2016
Volume 24, Number 2

IronPlanet is Riding a Wave of Acquisitions to New Growth
Online Marketplace Now Includes Semi Trucks, Military Surplus, More

IronPlanet President Jeff Jeter

By Jay Hipps

It has been over 15 years since IronPlanet’s founding and nearly as long since the company brought its headquarters to Hacienda, and they are still growing aggressively. Where the online auctioneer sold nearly $340 million in heavy construction equipment in its first five years of operation, they now expect to see gross sales of $100 million during a single five-day event. Thanks to acquisitions and new investors, the company has also expanded its reach into big rig trucks; surplus military assets, including Humvees; rigs and service equipment related to the oil and gas industry; and live auctions. This month, the company is assisting with an auction of a renowned collection of 40 Chevrolet Corvettes, its first contact with the world of classic cars.
The core of IronPlanet’s value proposition remains the same: win business by bringing organization and ease of use to an inefficient market by creating a trusted online marketplace. “Fundamentally, the way that IronPlanet has always done business is the most efficient way to do it,” says Jeff Jeter, the company’s president. “As a seller, if you’ve got equipment to sell, you want to enter the market on your timeline. You want to manage your inventory and your fleet when you need to manage it, not four times a year when the auction comes to town. The cost to move this equipment around is huge, as you would imagine. A lot of this equipment has to be torn down, it’s many truckloads to haul it, and you could be moving it to a live event only to resell it to somebody who’s next door to you. It’s just not an efficient way for this market to operate, which is what we’ve evangelized and preached since 2000.”
One of the things that sets IronPlanet apart is that the company inspects all of the equipment it sells. “We have what we call an IronClad Assurance that is part of that inspection, and that guarantees to the buyer that when they receive the equipment, it is in the condition that we say it is in,” Jeter says. “It’s a very detailed, comprehensive, and objective inspection report whereby we are in fact the ones that are working on behalf of the buyer, to basically make sure that we get the accurate representation of this equipment and when they look at it online, regardless of where they are in the world, they get a good representation and understanding of the condition that the piece of equipment is in, which allows them to bid accordingly. That builds the trust on the buy side of our market, to have them come into an online venue and to be able to buy with confidence.” .
While the company started and still maintains its primary focus on construction equipment, they have taken advantages of several opportunities to bring their online expertise to other areas. The company launched TruckPlanet in 2013, which brings their marketplace expertise to big rigs. In 2014, they launched GovPlanet, which sells surplus military assets that are coming back into the Department of Defense in weekly auctions. “We’re the first to get clearance from the Department of Defense to sell Humvees to the public,” says Jeter. 2014 also saw the acquisition of Kruze Energy, which auctions oil and gas rigs and service-related equipment to that industry. .
Perhaps the most important item on the company’s shopping spree was Caterpillar Auction Services, acquired last April, a significant addition to their core business and an opportunity to develop a relationship with Caterpillar and their dealers around the world. Caterpillar also became an investor in IronPlanet, joining Volvo and long-time investors Kleiner Perkins and Accel Partners.
“Part of that acquisition gave us the capabilities to do live, unreserved public auctions, physical auctions,” Jeter explains. “We’ve got an event coming up February in Florida where we’ll have a five-day sale and we’ll probably sell 2,300 lots of equipment, probably close to $100 million in gross sales, and we’ll sell over a five-day period to not only the bidders and buyers that come to Florida for the event but also to bidders and buyers that come online from around the world.” Events like these, he adds, provide the company a way of making a positive impression on buyers who may not yet be comfortable with purchasing equipment online, with the hopes of easing them into that market. .
IronPlanet’s latest move is a joint marketing effort with Leake Auction Co. to sell a world-class collection of 40 Corvettes from 1957–75, with 20 from 1967. While the company is looking at this as a one-off opportunity, Jeter says that IronPlanet’s base of 1.4 million buyers is the single largest source of referral traffic to the Corvette auction site. “The interesting thing about that is if you think about our user base of construction guys and the demographics of who our buyers and sellers are, it’s kind of in the sweet spot for the buyers of these types of collector cars,” he says. Given that statistic, it’s not hard to wonder if someday soon there will be a ClassicCarPlanet, too. .
For additional information on IronPlanet, access the company’s web site at www.ironplanet.com


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