Global real-time transportation visibility provider project44 recently announced it has expanded its capabilities in China to allow shippers to track and monitor their truckload shipments within Asia.
FreightWaves interviewed the company’s chief product officer, Vernon O’Donnell, to discuss the development of this tool and the future markets the company is looking to enter.
This interview was edited for clarity and length.
FREIGHTWAVES: How important was it for project44 to bring visibility to the Chinese leg of transportation?
O’Donnell: “Project44’s vision has always been global and it has always been a matter of sequencing and timing of when the [Chinese] market was ready.
“We know it’s a critical market for the global economy and for the supply chain particularly. …The other big thing is we really knew that, as a U.S.-based company, us cold-starting there would never have worked. It would have been expensive and challenging and frankly, we’ve always been an outsider. So it was always about finding the right partner, building that level of trust and then making sure when we enter the market, we had the strength of fidelity to ensure that when they provide data to our standards and that we can ensure that the inverse was true, that we can mutually benefit from from one another.
“It’s [also] about having the right global partners, like CHNI and Lenovo and many of our other big shipper customers who have a lot of operations in China. They were pushing for this and saying, ‘We want you to help us go on this path together. Visibility in China is a huge need for us.’
“The Ocean Insights acquisition, [allowed project44] overnight to become the world’s leader in ocean visibility, so much of that is coming out of Asia-Pacific. It’s not just about China, it’s about all of the Asia-Pacific market. China is obviously the 800-pound gorilla in the room. But you know, the whole region is what matters.
“Once you start bringing Ocean Insights and the project44 land networks in Europe and in North America together, the inevitable next step is connecting that first leg of the journey in China.”
FREIGHTWAVES: What regions are next for project44 visibility tools?
O’Donnell: “We are in Latin America. That’s a big growth vector for us. We’re in Brazil and Argentina but really looking to cover the continent. That’s a big growth market for us.
“We are also in Africa, but more specifically the Middle East and North Africa including Morocco, Algeria and Saudi Arabia. We are in active discussions about sub-Saharan Africa and that is the next frontier. We are in the early days [of talks] for Australia and New Zealand, but looking to really rapidly mature and grow there.
“Japan is also a major market for us. YAMATO is a customer of ours. So we’ve already been working with them internationally, but we’re aggressively pursuing Japanese road tracking as well.”
O’Donnell: “I think we’ve built our leadership position on three core things. One of them is we are data first — we will always be data first. Data is the center of everything. That is how we build the business and how we think about the business, it’s how we think about everything we’re doing when we consider scale.
“I think another big part of our leadership position is our customer base. … We have customers across different business segments, we’ve customers across regions, we have customers [who are] 3PLs for retailers and they really forced us to get better.
“The last thing is we think internationally, we think globally, and I don’t mean that just from a distributed workforce standpoint. Genuinely, I think over half of our employees are not novices outside of the U.S. That includes executives, operations, customer success, sales and product development. They’re across Europe, South America, Asia and that is part of our DNA.”