- Transfix is an $800 million startup that connects truck drivers to retailers.
- The New York City-based company just hired Mike Brittain as its vice president of engineering. He was previously VP of engineering at Etsy.
- It shows how trucking is becoming a hub for tech’s top talent — and its investment money.
Mike Brittain joined Etsy’s engineering team in 2010, when there were just 20 other techies. Seven years later, when he left, he was in charge of more than 300 people as the company’s VP of engineering.
Brittain has become the VP of engineering at another hot marketplace startup in New York City — Transfix. He joined the $800 million startup in late January.
Transfix, which was founded in 2013, is a technology-enabled freight marketplace that connects truck drivers to shippers via its app and website. J. Crew, Target, Unilever, Staples, and Glossier use Transfix, while most of the truckers on Transfix are small carriers or independent truckers.
A startup that focuses on truck drivers and warehouses might seem like an unusual jump for a former VP at an e-commerce hub. But Brittain said there are more similarities between Etsy and Transfix than what meets the eye.
“Etsy had a very long tail of small businesses and individuals who were trying to find a way to build a business of some sort, and we were building a platform for them to make their goods available to buyers,” Brittain told Business Insider.
Read more: The US has a major truck driver shortage — but the co-founder of a trucking startup that’s attracted $80 million in funding says there are 3 other problems that are making the shortage seem worse than it is
Transfix connects truckers who need work and retailers who need drivers to move their goods. The process for small trucking firms or independent drivers to find trucking jobs is traditionally cumbersome. They must contact “voice brokers,” who call up warehouses and ask if there’s anything the driver can carry. About 15% to 25% of the time, trucks end up carrying nothing.
And the trucking industry consists mostly of small businesses or independent truckers. Less than 3% of trucking firms operate more than 20 trucks.
“We don’t look at this in terms of just how can we treat this as transactional as possible, moving one load to another, but moreso thinking of this in terms of trucks who have a homebase, and a person in them who want to go home at the end of the week,” Brittain said.
As Transfix collects more data and more users, the company can better learn how to match shippers and carriers to ensure goods can get moved efficiently and truckers can carry as few empty miles as possible.
Trucking is quietly becoming a darling of the tech industry
Brittain is one of many tech folks who have been flooding into the logistics industry as digital brokerage startups become popular. Transfix’s two founders include Drew McElroy, who has worked in logistics for his entire career, and software engineer Jonathan Salama.
Meanwhile, Convoy’s co-founders are both former Amazon product and software workers — Dan Lewis and Grant Goodale. Valued at $1 billion, Convoy counts among its investors Google’s investment arm, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, and Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff. Convoy raised $185 million in its most-recent round.
NEXT Trucking, which matches freight at the ports of Long Island and Los Angeles, has drawn $125 million in investments since it was founded in 2015.
And Uber Freight, launched in 2017, represents a keen business interest by the $72 billion ride-hailing juggernaut to disrupt the $700 billion trucking industry. It’s headed by Otto co-founder Lior Ron, who previously was a product manager at Motorola and Google.
Transfix’s McElroy previously told Business Insider the ideal trucking startup blends the knowledge of both techies and logistics folks.
“It seems that most startups are a bunch of logistics guys that are going out and trying to hire a bunch of techies to do something, or it’s a bunch of engineer-types and Stanford MBA-types who have never been inside a truck saying, ‘We’re going to fix your industry folks, don’t worry,'” McElroy told Business Insider. “I personally think both of those paths are fatally flawed.”
Brittain said the mix of logistics and tech talent in his team is “a killer combination.” What’s next from Transfix, Brittain said, is allowing shippers to self-onboard and self-quote on loads.
“There are a lot of people interested in how software can build efficiencies into industries,” Brittain said. “Trucking is a large industry that has not really made that (technological) jump yet.”