While technology has a definite role to play in streamlining communication in the shipping industry, logistics is fundamentally a relationship business.
At least, that is the thesis behind FreightFriend, a relationship-based exchange for the logistics industry founded by Echo Global Logistics veteran Noam Frankel.
“Other people are trying to create ‘Uber for trucking’ technology,” said Frankel. “But we believe in the people and the complexity of the transaction… We want to support those relationships and people rather than try to eliminate them.”
FreightFriend is an online platform where shippers and carriers can match up with each other. But unlike a public “load board,” where equipment availability and requests can be accessed by anyone, FreightFriend only displays postings to contacts the poster has already worked with.
Frankel said many businesses are reluctant to use public load boards because of the reputational risk they would run if a shipment were to be delayed, damaged or lost. Instead, many companies manually contact each other or visit private exchanges that only list availability for a limited number of companies.
By creating a centralized exchange where users are free to build their own networks, Frankel wants to provide companies with a solution that combines the best of both worlds. Similar to social networks like Facebook or LinkedIn, FreightFriend’s users can request to add others to their networks, but those connections aren’t actually made until the other user accepts the invitation.
Once a network has been established, FreightFriend doubles as a relationship management tool for its users. It also integrates automated tracking data to help companies identify potential matches between availability and needs.
A shipping industry veteran, Frankel believes the complex nature of shipping — and the fact that most major shippers don’t leave much padding in arrival times — means that the core of the transaction will remain human-centric by necessity.
“When a carrier you don’t know disappears for four days with your shipment, the cost can be way higher than the 10 percent you can save on the transportation cost,” he said. “And the requirements for each shipment are incredibly specific, as is the variety of things that can and do go wrong in the shipping process.”
The company has been bootstrapped since 2011, and Frankel said it has more than 15,000 users and an established revenue stream. The team currently has five employees, and Frankel is in the process of raising its first round of funding.
“We’ll really be focused on using that funding to build out a management team, roll out the exchange, and really market, brand and expand the network,” he said. “Within a year after that, we will expect to do another round that’s more focused on significant technology development around automation and integrations.”
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