Platform Science is one of several companies in the freight space that have been named to the CNBC Upstart 100 list for 2019. The yearly list features 100 venture-backed startups that CNBC believes are poised for breakthroughs.
“Each upstart has raised no more than $50 million in venture capital, which means valuations are still relatively low, while promise and potential are high. And although the unicorns of 2019 have represented at times frothy, fad-like market trends, the Upstart 100 companies present a broader picture of where venture capitalists are placing their bets in the more distant future,” CNBC said in a statement.
“Being listed alongside so many groundbreaking companies is an extreme honor,” Jack Kennedy, CEO and founder of Platform Science, said in a statement. “When we set out to create Platform Science, our goal was to make a huge impact on the trucking market and the lives of drivers. To have the team’s hard work honored by a nationally recognized organization like CNBC is incredibly rewarding and makes us realize that we have entered a new phase on our road to revolutionize the transportation industry.”
Kennedy told FreightWaves the honor is significant because it is not an award for companies in the freight ecosystem, but rather, one that recognizes disruption across all industries globally.
“What’s interesting from our perspective is how companies in our space are now being viewed on the same stage [with companies in other industries],” he said, noting that attention to the industry from venture capital is part of the reason. “The venture community has become very interested in this space because there are real opportunities[to solve real-world problems]
The Upstart 100 list honors companies based on a wide range of quantitative metrics, such as scalability, sales and user growth, and intellectual property. This year’s list includes companies from 10 countries, 16 U.S. states and Washington, D.C. Twenty-five are led by women and all are less than 5 years old, with 11 founded in the past year.
Among the freight-related companies on the list are Airspace Technologies, a logistics platform for time-sensitive shipments that was founded this year, and Attabotics, which offers a robotic supply chain system designed to reduce warehouse space needs. Starsky Robotics, the self-driving truck startup, made the list, as did fellow San Francisco startup Origin, a 3D printer founded in 2015.
Dispatch, a platform for real-time tracking of same-day deliveries founded in 2016 in Bloomington, Minnesota, and delivery business Renorun represent local delivery companies. Renorun, founded in Montreal in 2016, brings materials to job sites in under two hours. Urban “curbside data” platform Coord, founded in 2016 in New York, and Cylus, a Tel Aviv, Israel-based technology company founded in 2017 that protects railway and metro systems from cyberthreats, round out the freight-related businesses on this year’s list.
Founded in 2014, Platform Science’s open-platform technology streamlines transportation processes to assist trucking fleets in eliminating waste and saving time and money. The solution captures and analyzes data via connected vehicle platforms to improve the in-cab experience and maximize productivity.
Kennedy said that unlike other startups, Platform Science has been able to stay true to its original vision.
“There are a lot of reasons as to why that is the case, and I’ve not seen that happen in a startup before,” he said. “We stuck to it and eventually it worked out, and we didn’t have a lot of competitors when we got to the finish line.”
One of the keys, Kennedy said, has been the ability to develop a product that fleets could expand based on their needs.
“I’d hate to pick just one thing, but if I had to, I think it’s because we give fleets a choice and they’ve never had choice before,” he said. “[A choice to] bring their own apps, bring in third parties; … these are all choices they’ve never had.”
It seems to be working. This year alone, Platform Science has tripled its full-time headcount to 100 employees, with plans to add 20 more by year’s end. The company has also been recognized by a number of additional organizations, being named to San Diego Business Journal’s Best Places to Work and the San Diego Union Tribune’s Top Workplaces, as well as winning a Golden Bridge Business and Innovation Award this year. Last week, Platform Science finished 10th in the annual FreightWaves FreightTech 25 Awards, announced at FreightWaves LIVE Chicago.
In September, Platform Science received a big vote of confidence in its telematics and electronic logging device solutions when Schneider National (NYSE: SNDR) announced it would deploy the company’s products across its fleet. Mesilla Valley Transportation (MVT) followed suit less than a month later with its own announcement, saying it would use Platform Science’s suite of applications across its fleet of 1,500 trucks and 1,700 drivers.
Shaleen Devgun, chief information officer for Schneider, told FreightWaves that Platform Science’s approach to solutions made it a good fit for Schneider.
“We’re at a critical stage where we see that the technology works,” Devgun said. “The platform has promise in terms of the future software, web-based marketplace where we can bring our own content to bear and also leverage content built by third parties to bring them together and create value for our ecosystem.”
Platform Science’s product designs are “software-centric” to allow third parties to add apps to them to make them more efficient, something that Mesilla’s Mike Kelley, chief information officer, noted as a reason for his fleet’s choice to install the products.
“I want to get back to a world where MVT enables our drivers to drive, not just be data entry clerks who happen to drive,” he said. “Platform Science was the first company that not only brought current technology and development methodology to the marketplace, but they also brought domain expertise and a willingness to listen to the customer. With Platform Science, we are entering into a true partnership where we are building solutions together to better the lives of all drivers.”
Kennedy said the five-year journey has reached a point where Platform Science can now look to the future.
“We had to climb a number of mountains to get to where we are, but we are now in a place where we can execute on the business rather than [just developing the product],” he said. That doesn’t mean product innovation won’t continue, of course. Kennedy said Platform Science expects “increasing velocity over the next couple of quarters” in terms of fleets signing on to the platform, and the addition of more partners to continue building out options for fleets.
The award does have one additional benefit: global acknowledgement that freight is a place to be.
“One thing that is interesting to receive an award like this, is it tells all our employees it’s cool to work in freight tech now because the whole world is watching,” Kennedy said.