When Jim Handoush was growing up in Silicon Valley, he envisioned one day working for the growing startup down the street. A job at Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) never materialized for Handoush, but technology turned out to be his calling, even if it meant heading into logistics rather than computers.
“I always thought watching the tech industry develop and evolve that that was where I’d end up,” Handoush, the recently named president & CEO of dexFreight told FreightWaves. Handoush explained that his father, who was in the supermarket business, told his young son that if he got a “job in the food business, you would always have a job, because people have to eat.”
“It’s the same thing in freight,” he said.
A professor in college turned Handoush on to the industry, helping him secure an interview with Consolidated FreightWays, whose headquarters were based in Palo Alto, California. The company was just starting up a division that would ultimately become Con-way and Handoush took the job, eventually becoming the fifth employee at Con-way Transportation Services.
By 1996, he took a job on the East Coast as CFO at Landstar Logistics Group, eventually becoming president of that group before being promoted to co-chief operating officer of Landstar Systems (NASDAQ: LSTR). Along the way, he helped build up Landstar’s brokerage business and learned a lot about the inefficiencies in the trucking space during that time.
Putting his love of technology to work, Handoush moved to Rising Sun Systems before joining Optym in early 2017. While at Optym, he co-founded Axele by Optym, a transportation optimization system for carriers.
“During that time I ended up meeting the dexFreight team,” Handoush explained. “As I got to learn more about dexFreight, it led me into blockchain and smart contracts, which is the foundation of our solution. I thought it was a way to bring together the industry.”
dexFreight is a blockchain-based logistics platform that aims to handle everything from booking to payment. It was named one of FreightWaves’ FreightTech 100 companies in both 2018 and 2019. The FreightTech 100 recognizes the most innovative and disruptive companies in freight. The company is a member of the Blockchain in Transport Alliance (BiTA).
Handoush said he is excited about the opportunity dexFreight has before it.
“There’s so much room to bring in other solutions such as optimization, for [participants] to collaborate together, and improve what is going on,” he said. “From a blockchain and smart contract standpoint, when you have that kind of information being consolidated from the shipper and carrier, that information is of higher quality.”
dexFreight recently completed a pilot project with cooperation from Centrifuge and the Maker Foundation using a decentralized finance (DeFi) blockchain. The project turned freight invoices into collateral to allow the carrier to be paid within minutes of making the delivery.
In the pilot, a third-party logistics (3PL) provider agreed to pay on 45-day terms for the invoice, but the carrier opted to finance the invoices using dexFreight ‘dexFi’ feature. Once the carrier pressed the dexFi button on the dexFreight platform, it took less than a minute for it to receive the funds at less than a 1% borrowing rate with little or no paperwork involved, dexFreight said.
It is an example of the type of change Handoush believes is possible through deployment of blockchain.
“Most of us come out of logistics so we know there is so much more that can be done for the industry in general, and that’s what drives us each day, it’s these new technologies [that can change industries],” he said.
Handoush likened blockchain to the development of the Interstate Highway System that completely altered the way people and goods moved across the United States.
“The more research I did, the more I understood that what we are creating here is a digital highway,” he said. “This is a digital structure that allows everybody to move commerce… and as that became clearer and clearer to me, I started to understand how massive the impact could be. I saw dexFreight as being cutting edge, and its vision tied into the vision I had of cutting waste and improving efficiencies.”
Right now, dexFreight is onboarding two early adopters to its platform and expects to announce a larger participant in the coming weeks that will “really stretch the system,” Handoush said. “Like any beta, you go through pain points as you test the system, and you get feedback and make changes to it.”
Handoush replaces co-founder Rajat Rajbhandari as CEO and president. Rajbhandari, who holds a Ph.D in transportation, remains with the company, moving into the chief information officer role. He continues to focus his efforts on the optimization and data marketplace sides of the business.
“This group of founders doesn’t have any egos,” Handoush said. “They have a plan; they are not about titles and roles; they are about making this platform as successful as possible. To me, at this stage of my career, it’s very important to work around people that you feel great about and that you enjoy working with.”
Naturally, Handoush sees great things for both blockchain and dexFreight and believes that as more use cases roll out, blockchain will move beyond the hype stage and into reality.
“It’s not every day you get to be on the front edge of something like this,” he said.