A serial entrepreneur, Kathryn Schifferle founded multiple successful software startups during her career before launching Work Truck Solutions (WTS) in 2012. She hasn’t slowed down since.
In 2019, she launched Comvoy, an online work truck and van marketplace built around what buyers need when shopping for a new or used commercial vehicle.
On Wednesday, Schifferle shared with FreightWaves President George Abernathy her journey navigating the venture capital world as she developed an inventory platform for the highly fragmented $150 billion work truck market.
Before launching WTS, Schifferle noticed a problem, she said during the discussion at the virtual FreightTech Venture Summit. Once the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) created the chassis, several aftermarket companies were involved in building the vehicle. However, there was no system to track the commercial truck or van once it was completed.
“We built a tool for the dealers that allows them for the first time to be able to show to their own customers what that vehicle was,” Schifferle said.
Work trucks are used by industries that comprise nearly 80% of the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP), including general contracting, electrical, plumbing, landscaping, farm and agriculture, and package delivery vehicles.
After its launch, the platform continued to expand and grow to meet commercial vehicle dealerships’ needs.
“Dealerships are hyper-focused on retail, on ‘business-to-consumer’ sales or B2C,” Schifferle said. “They have many tools, lots of deep tech stack, lots of providers, but on the commercial side, in that department, they had zero tech.”
Navigating VC funding
After Work Truck Solutions’ launch in 2012, Schifferle said her biggest challenge was fundraising for its Series A in 2014.
Only about 2% of all VC funding goes to female-run companies, she said.
“My joke was I have two things going against me — number one, I’m a woman, and number two it’s work trucks,” Schifferle said. “It wasn’t very sexy.”
Around that time, she was introduced to Golden Seeds, an early stage investment firm that only invests in female-led businesses, Schifferle said Golden Seeds was the “backbone” of the company’s funding in 2014.
A few years later, she said Autotech Ventures approached her about investing, which led to the company’s $5 million Series B funding.
Pivoting during the pandemic
In mid-March, Schifferle said her company “had just finished a virtual data room and a deck to raise a C round” when a stay-at-home order was issued in California amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Timing is everything, right, but it’s been very good for us,” she said. “During that time, we prepared and did a lot of analysis around how to grow and what to do and what extra fuel would look like.”
Looking ahead, Schifferle said her company might be looking for some kind of “extra rocket fuel” in the first or second quarter of 2021.
“But we’re pretty good right now, as far as having our moon shot set up,” she said.