Startup Foundations: Interview with Jess Lee

Greg Miaskiewiczby Greg Miaskiewicz • 10 min readpublished September 29, 2022 updated December 4, 2023
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Jess Lee is the founder and CEO of Bitesize, a startup helping car dealerships communicate with thousands of customers at once. Jess is also an active angel investor working with the Hustle Fund.

Greg: Hello Jess, tell us what you're working on at Bitesize

Jess: Yeah, so Bitesize is a software that helps car dealerships. We help dealers communicate authentically with thousands of people who are interested in either buying or selling cars and be able to communicate in the way they would like to, which is on text message.

Greg: How did you decide upon this particular customer vertical?

Yeah, so it was a pretty long journey, to be honest, and eventually I stumbled upon it very coincidentally. But in the beginning, when I was in college, I was working on organizing protests and marches for immigrant activism. So I was Facebook messaging and texting everyone to come out to the protest and join the event, but after a while I got really tired of messaging 500 people the same message to come out and join, so I thought, "Well, how could I make a change if I'm stuck messaging people all day long?" So I came up with the tool that helps me organize protests better by reaching out to lots of people, and that was a tool that I used in political space.

But one day one of my friends, he connected me with a general manager of a dealership in Michigan and they said they wanted to use our texting tools. So then I thought, "Okay, yeah, let's give it a try." And they initially used it for this list that didn't really work out well, and people didn't really reply to many text messages, but we gave it a second try, and then that time used the lease retention list, just people who have their lease expiration date coming up, and they either want to buy the car or get in a new car, and next day they had sold 12 cars. And it just was amazing to see such a concrete result. So we kept digging in that path, but on the way I've explored so many different verticals. I've tried different consumer brands, different SaaS companies, finance, and there's so many verticals you can use text messaging for because it's kind of like... It's just a medium. It's up to the company to use it however they like. In that way it's kind of like an API, can be very flexible.

And we just found that automotive gives the most straightforward result, that people are already open to communicating on text, and for businesses one car that you sell can potentially make you 4,000, $6,000 these days. So it has a really big ROI. But now what keeps me in the automotive space, other than the fact that product works, is I just found new reasons. I think after a few pivots, sometimes founders can struggle to understand why they're doing what they're doing because it's iterated so much.

G: It's not like you had prior domain expertise about how car dealerships do marketing, I'm guessing. It just kind of happened.

I love cars, coincidentally, but I didn't have a dad who ran a dealership or whatever. And what really still resonates with me is being able to scale that authentic communication without compromising the quality of it and helping people do the, I guess, dirty work faster and easier so they can get to the exciting part, which back in the day for me was being at the protest and connecting with people. And for people in car business, it's getting people to the appointment and then actually meeting them in the store and selling the car. So I love that I can bring that kind superhuman ability to my customers and help them kind of skip the nitty gritty work of what it takes to make sales.

The other thing about car business is I feel like it's one of the few industries that really is based on merits. So if you're in a car dealership, it doesn't matter where you come from, what you look like, your performance is what really matters. So if you're selling, I don't know, 20, 40 cars as a car sales person, that's great. It doesn't matter where you came from or didn't matter if you didn't go to high school even. So I really love that merit based culture and inclusivity. And also it's a field with lots of immigrants, I think, going to car dealerships too, so as an immigrant myself, I just love being able to help people make that career advancement in their job also.

Greg Miaskiewicz

Written by Greg Miaskiewicz

Security expert, product designer & serial entrepreneur. Sold previous startup to Integral Ad Science in 2016, where he led a fraud R&D team leading up to a $850M+ purchase by Vista in 2018.


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