The trucking industry is one of the oldest and most interesting in the US. It is also one I’ve always been fascinated by–partly because, for a couple of generations, it was where my family made their living. My paternal great grandfather, David Kaden, started a small trucking business in Perth Amboy, NJ at the turn of the 20th century. It began by delivering milk with horse drawn carts and moved to longer routes and automobiles as they became more accessible and, eventually, affordable. As David got older, he handed it down to his son, my grandfather Reuben, who took it over for most of his life. It was a modest business that, like many of its kind, struggled during the Great Depression, prospered after World War II, and struggled again in the 1950s. It was a year to year, and sometimes month to month, kind of business, with low predictability. My father had different dreams so it ended there, but he told us stories growing up of Kaden Trucking, a family business built with a lot of grit, heart, and pride.
The industry, like all others, has changed dramatically but the dependence of a significant part of our economy on trucking has not. Today it’s an $800B industry that employs 3.5M people and accounts for more than 70% of the total freight transported annually in the US. But it’s also unique in its continued reliance on the individual and small business. Despite increasing aggregation, 91% of trucking companies still have 6 or fewer trucks. They are very often family owned and sometimes multigenerational.
Our USV Thesis 3.0 centers on leveraging technology powered networks to broaden access–which was especially exciting when we met the SmartHop team and thought about how this might apply to the trucking industry. SmartHop provides an AI-powered “business-in-a-box” solution that helps owner-operators compete with the big carriers by reducing operational costs, streamlining load booking and providing access to the vast broker networks previously only available to large carriers. In effect, it aggregates the long tail of individual and small business trucking companies to create a network that allows them access to tools, lower prices, and more profitable loads than they’d be able to get on their own. In a market long run on pen, paper, and instinct, SmartHop infuses technology that optimizes their businesses and creates efficiency across freight dispatch and load management, back office support, fuel, leasing, load factoring, and insurance–and more to come. It is early days but the results are already exciting. SmartHop has booked more than 6,000 loads and the drivers are seeing an average increase in take home pay of 48%.
One of the most compelling elements of SmartHop is its founder, Guillermo Garcia, who combines a deep product sensibility and passion around infusing technology into the supply side of trucking with inherent understanding of his market and customer. Guillermo worked as a pet food delivery driver in Venezuela, where he’s from, before growing that business into a 500 truck company that became a dominant force in the country’s logistics ecosystem. After moving to the US and starting a trucking business in Miami, he discovered the inefficiencies of the US market and the need for better tools and advantages for the owner-operator trucking business. He’s recruited a leadership team that uniquely combines technology and logistics experience to build at its intersection.
We are excited to lead SmartHop’s Series A alongside Equal Ventures, Greycroft, and Ryder System, a leading logistics and transportation company, and work with Guillermo and his (quickly growing) team as they broaden access for the owner-operator trucking business.