A roundup of freight transportation startups.
Max Lock became an entrepreneur at age 14. He left his first job as an IT admin at a pizza shop when his employer rolled out an unsuccessful ice cream flavor. Lock thought he could do better. With a homemade recipe, he founded Schoolboy Ice Cream.
Before long, Lock ran into his first supply chain struggles—ordering paper cups and bowls.
“I realized it was pretty hard to mess up manufacturing a paper cup,” he says. “The difficulty was in logistics. They’d get lost or go to the wrong place.”
Seven years later, Lock aims to streamline the shipping business as the CEO of Fleet Logistics. Using $10 million in series A funding, the company is building a Global Distribution System, an automated online platform for booking freight.
The goal, Lock says, is to make the process more transparent. Instead of relying on middlemen known as freight forwarders, “small businesses should know which airlines and trucking companies are moving their product,” he says.
Fleet GDS allows them to do just that. Customers can replace secondhand arrangements with a transparent list of shipping choices. Fleet released the air-freight version of the platform for select partners in February and will begin testing ocean-freight capabilities in March.
From the Founder: ““We give you five different trucking companies and airlines, then it’s up to you to choose,” Lock says. “The customer is in complete control.”
Move over, Amazon
Rob Dooley started a delivery service in 2011 with $2,000 and a used Prius. Now he’s carving out a niche for small-scale rural deliveries. This year the Pendleton-based company added a chief operating officer and expanded pharmaceutical deliveries to Seattle, Spokane and the Tri-Cities.
“With Amazon doing its own supply and deliveries, people view that as a threat,” says Carolyn Thompson, the new COO. “But I don’t see a huge effect on us. They don’t do pallet-type freight, and we’re so rural. Amazon is not going to want to come into Northeast Oregon.”
Rob's Speedy Delivery operates with 13 vehicles and 15 employees.
Shortly after moving to Pendleton, Dooley made pro bono deliveries of take-out food for friends. He left flyers and coupons around town, and eventually attracted the attention of local restaurants and other businesses.
“It was a lot of networking, very slow going at first,” he says. “But then calls started coming in. Local restaurants started contacting me.”
That slow start is a far cry from today. Dooley’s 13 vehicles and 15 employees deliver food, medications, office supplies, tires, checks and other goods in everything from a Honda Fit to a 24-foot truck. With the expanded service, their rural clients can deliver to major metro areas.
From the executive: “We can get something at 7 a.m. and have it to Portland by 1 p.m.,” Thompson says. “Our growth has come from being flexible and doing on-demand deliveries.”
Fueling up on the trail
While backpacking on the 210-mile John Muir Trail through the Sierra Nevadas, Spencer Holton listened to his friend talk about taking the next step in long-distance hiking: hiking the length of the 2,650-mile Pacific Crest Trail. But the friend had a problem—he didn’t have anyone to stash 20 resupply packages with extra food and gear.
“The popularity of long distance hiking was increasing,” Holton says. “We saw an issue with the way people were planning out their trips. We wanted to modernize it.”
So Holton moved to Eugene from California and founded Trail Supply Co., a startup that caters to an emerging market segment of affluent long distance hikers. Ever since Cheryl Strayed published Wild, her memoir about hiking the PCT, thousands of hikers flood the trail every year. Many are willing to pay for advanced gear and services.
“The demographics have changed quite a bit,” Holton says. “It used to be people who were super cheap but were more experienced outdoors people. Now you’re seeing people who are more affluent and taking time off their careers.”
Holton, who has a background working warehouse logistics at REI, is adept at buying goods wholesale, packaging and shipping them to post offices and other resupply points along the trail. Last year, Trail Supply served hikers from six countries along four U.S. long-distance trails.
As he expands, Holton plans to supply weekend backpacking trips and even car-camping overnights.
From the Founder: “No one else is doing this. We had to prove there were people out there willing to pay for a service like this.”
Where they are now
ScaleUp Partners is a consulting firm that helps government agencies and companies create economic development opportunities for underserved minorities. The company, profiled on these pages in 2015, defines its work as building “inclusive competitiveness,” with a focus on the competitive. “The talk of ‘inclusion’ doesn’t get at ownership of assets and the equitable building of generational wealth,” said cofounder Mike Green, in an email he sent two days before heading to Harvard to participate in a conference on municipal innovation. “Inclusive competitiveness does.” ScaleUp published a book last year and is working with the city of Jackson, Mississippi on an Innovation Summit and Hackathon, to be held in 2019. The firm is also the strategic advisor for a Center for Inclusive Competitiveness launching this spring at Temple University, and is assisting community groups working in Seattle’s Central District to prevent “complete displacement of the African-American community that once comprised 70% of the area and today represents less than 20%, with a trend toward single digits in the next decade,” Green said. (New Seasons Market plans to open a store in the Central District this year.) The Seattle project Green said, is an “opportunity to produce a pilot demonstration of how IC works at the community level to connect an underrepresented population to Seattle’s tech-driven innovation ecosystem in ways that result in economic stability, sustainable competitiveness outcomes and improved quality of life.”
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