Crystal Ball – What we got right from 2015 – Technology Investments

In addition to being a groundbreaking television series with record longevity, The Simpsons are famous for predicting the future.  But they’re not the only ones who can do it!

In Q1 2015, we looked to the future and advised on trends to look out for. We saw Freight Tech as the future, writing that “[t]he tech side of the logistics space is heating up (and attracting a lot of investment – nearly $100M in 2014)” and profiling a couple of companies just getting started (like Project44) and a couple who’s freight aspirations weren’t a glimmer in anyone’s eye (like Uber – announced May 2017).

Freightwaves pointed out – investment is growing exponentially. Every year is record on record. The $1.6B first quarter of 2019 ALONE eclipsed the all of 2017 (1.3B – then a record) and was more than half the $2.9B of 2019.  Not to brag, but from $100M in 2014, to $2B in the 2019 (and not even half way home!) – CarrierDirect nailed it. As   Even CNBC is saying that the next big winner will come from trucking. In the time between, many companies have exploded (Flexport Founded 2013 – Unicorn Status 2019, Convoy – founded 2015, TruckerPath – founded 2013). Others have taken on huge investment (Truckstop.com) or made enormous investments in technology (J.B. Hunt). Of course, tons have entered the market and made huge impacts – (including some of the companies we’re close with Parade AI – founded 2015, TruckMap – founded 2016, Shipwell – founded 2016, Fraight AI – founded 2017).

It’s not just about the raw dollars that are worth noting. Digging into these companies, investment is enabling them to focus on a wide range of problems. There is a group (like Convoy, Uber, Flexport) which is competing with  the established 3PLs and freight forwarders. While the Project44, Parade AI, FourKites are providing software for legacy transportation providers to serve their customers on a level they never have. A third group – like J.B. Hunt and Truckstop.com – are established companies taking a new look at offerings to differentiate in the market. Finally, you have the TruckerPath path (pun intended) of the world exploiting a changing regulatory landscape to bring efficiencies into the fold. All of these paths are meaningful: the disrupters are forcing existing providers to level-up or lose customers, the pure software companies are enabling existing providers to be better.

Why should you care? Because the digital transformation is here to stay. Since we called it , an entire ecosystem has developed around modernizing freight. Funds like 8VC (founded 2015) and Dynamo (founded 2016) have sprung up with a transportation thesis. Freightwaves, a startup itself, has roared to the forefront (and into our inboxes) to drive awareness and investment around freight tech – through their newsletter, products, and Transparency Conference. Those supporting freight in 2015 have seen the shift, and are moving toward supporting the future as well. Just look at how Transportation Intermediaries Association has shifted programming to include more about technology to educate their legacy members.

What’s next?

  1. If you are not looking to drive a better experience for your customers, carriers, drivers, and employees, you are putting yourself at a disadvantage. And the status quo isn’t good enough – everyone’s expectations are going up. Someone else is asking that question, and making those changes.
  2. More technology means more opportunity… and more decisions. Be intentional about determining which of these new entrants work for your business and your goals. Don’t be “that guy”.
  3. As the legendary John Wooden said “Be quick, but don’t hurry” – Don’t put it off working toward the future of your business, but have patience that results will take time. Know that there may be groundwork to do.