Company founder Amari Ruff believes large shippers and carriers can both benefit from service
Small carriers and owner-operators have capacity to offer, but those that need it most – larger, Fortune 1000 shippers, don’t have access to that capacity. That is because the time and effort required to bring onboard a carrier with fewer than 6 trucks for a shipper with thousands of truckloads a year is not cost-efficient.
Enter technology, and enter Sudu.
Sudu is similar to some of the recent startup freight matching services, but co-founder & CEO Amari Ruff says the company is really a “two-sided marketplace.”
“We use technology to connect large shippers to [truckers],” he tells FreightWaves. “But our focus has been minority-, women- and veteran-owned carriers, but we work with all carriers.”
Ruff says there are 270,000 carrier companies listed in Sudu’s network. The reason the company focuses so heavily on smaller carriers, particularly minority, women and veteran-owned carriers, is two-fold, he explains.
“Ninety percent of carriers have six trucks or less,” he explains. “To work with larger shippers, you have to have capacity. But these large shippers have limited access to 90% of the market.”
Secondly, he adds, many large shippers have diversity requirements. By consolidating minority, women and veteran-owned carriers, Sudu is helping shippers meet those goals and providing opportunities for the smaller carriers.
Sudu uses technology and algorithms to match available freight with available trucks. What is different from many of the other freight-matching services, though, is that Sudu does not require drivers to download an app.
“We are more of a marketplace,” Ruff notes. “The ‘Uber for Truckings’ require you to download an app. At Sudu, we don’t require you to download an app to work with us. The other thing that is different is we have focused on minority truckers and we are focused on large, Fortune 1000 shippers.”
Shippers work only with Sudu, so it is a single billing process. Loads are posted in Sudu’s system and carriers can choose the loads. “We can connect with [shippers] the same way a national carrier would,” Ruff says.
The shipper simply pays Sudu for each load moved through the Sudu system, which includes a carrier portal (there is a mobile app available, but it is not required), and Sudu facilitates payment to the carrier, “even immediately” if requested, Ruff notes.
Sudu, based in Atlanta, is part of Engage Ventures, a strategic grouping of major corporations and brands that contribute to an independent venture fund. Participants receive access to many of these brands and expertise to help them grow.
“Our mission is to strengthen collaboration and partnership between leading corporations and top entrepreneurs in high growth companies,” said Thiago Olson, Managing Director at Engage Ventures. “What makes Engage unique is the level of access and interaction with our founding corporate partners at the executive and C-suite level to help streamline partnerships and strategic relationships with these startups and growth companies.”
Engage Ventures’ founding partners contribute capital, expertise, time and resources and include AT&T, Chick-fil-A, Cox Enterprises, Delta Air Lines, Georgia Tech, Georgia-Pacific, Georgia Power Foundation, Inc., Intercontinental Exchange (ICE), Invesco Ltd., Tech Square Ventures, The Home Depot and UPS.
The company is also part of the Georgia Institute of Technology’s Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC).
Ruff, who co-founded Sudu with Michelangelo Ho, has a background in growing fleets, having led a telecommunications startup, Global Optic Telecommunications, that saw its fleet grow from a single truck to over 200. His efforts to build Sudu started with a similar plan in mind.
“I jumped into the industry with the ambition to purchase actually assets,” he explains, “but I realized it was too capital intensive. So, I took a pivot to a freight brokerage model.”
When researching his venture, he quickly found a problem in need of solving. “I realized there was truly an underserved market with minority, women, veteran and even small carriers [being represented],” Ruff says.
So he teamed with Ho, who he had known through their kids’ school, and started to build Sudu. The first product was rolled out in the first quarter of 2016.
“Initially, the ride has been awesome,” Ruff says. “I’m really big on positivity and seeing the silver lining in everything. With the team we’ve put together and the help from Georgia Tech, it’s really let me know that I am on to something great.”