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Ramsdell joins Emerge as chief operating officer

Former Variant president will focus on growing capacity

(Image: Emerge).

Scottsdale, Arizona-based digital freight procurement platform Emerge named Cameron Ramsdell its chief operating officer Monday morning. Ramsdell, who joins Chief Executive Officer Andrew Leto and President George Abernathy on the company’s executive team, said he plans to focus on the capacity side of Emerge’s marketplace.

Previously, Ramsdell served for nearly three years as the president of Variant, an automated digital fleet inside U.S. Xpress (NYSE: USX). Prior to Variant, Ramsdell was at Coyote Logistics for 11 years, rising from a floor-level national account manager to chief technology officer of the organization. 

“Emerge is the first legitimate marketplace I’ve seen in this industry,” Ramsdell said in a statement. “When I met the team, saw the freight procurement and operational technology and when I learned more about the mission behind what we’re building here, I knew this was a rare opportunity to make a lasting change. I couldn’t be more excited to join what is already an exceptional team.”

In a conversation with FreightWaves, Ramsdell said that he knew Emerge’s executive chairman, Jack Holmes, from Coyote’s sale to UPS in 2015 (Holmes was president and CEO of UPS from 2005 to 2016) and that they reconnected after Emerge launched. Ramsdell was most impressed by the team’s common purpose and the energy with which they pursued that purpose.

“The energy and alignment behind the mission and the value that it’s created for shippers, carriers and brokers was palpable from the second I walked in the door,” Ramsdell said. “The product itself is really the second reason. A lot of people have said they’re creating a marketplace — Emerge has really done that and solved some profound issues.”

While Emerge operates its own freight brokerage, its platform is dedicated to RFP — or what Emerge calls “reinventing freight procurement.” Emerge has built a network where shippers submit their RFPs and any carrier in the network can bid for pieces of that freight. Shippers get access to plentiful, well-vetted contract capacity in a user environment that allows them to easily manage those relationships. Carriers and brokers get access to desirable contract freight on dense lanes from the very largest shippers in the country. At its current pace, about $6 billion of freight annually is bid out through Emerge’s platform.

“The value proposition for carriers is simple: We want to be an extension of their sales force,” Ramsdell said. “We’re connecting them to shippers that they can’t otherwise get in touch with. It’s very expensive for midsize and smaller fleets to get out and pound the phone and get some contract freight that may turn out to be not exactly right for their networks. This is a very liquid contract marketplace where carriers can bid directly on freight from the largest logos in the country. This is drop-drop freight.”

Abernathy said that he would focus on bringing freight into the platform while Ramsdell would bring the capacity, spinning Emerge’s flywheel faster. Abernathy’s background in managed transportation at Transplace gave him a shipper’s mentality, he said, while Ramsdell was schooled at Coyote, an innovative freight brokerage that brought a fresh carrier-centric mentality to the industry. 

“We think that the challenges you see in the marketplace today are perfectly suited for Emerge’s model,” Abernathy added. “The more volatility the market sees, the more urgent it is for a shipper to stay out of the spot market — or alternatively, save money quickly by taking advantage of low spot rates when there’s an opportunity to do so. The Emerge opportunity allows shippers to mark their freight to market much more quickly to ensure good service, whether that’s through mini-bids, and bids based on mode, geography, and annual bids too.”

Ramsdell reflected on his tenure at U.S. Xpress, saying that he enjoyed his time, met a lot of great people and “learned a ton” taking Variant from zero to $300 million in revenue in two and a half years. Ramsdell was terminated due to differences with USX’s Chief Executive Officer Eric Fuller.

“I wanted to manage assets and gain some public company experience, and U.S. Xpress checked all of those boxes,” Ramsdell said. “USX was a fantastic part of the journey.”

Ramsdell praised Emerge CEO Leto’s vision and conviction: “We hit it off from the moment we met a couple of months ago. Andrew is one of the more unique characters I’ve met in this space, and I really subscribe to the way he thinks about the product and thinks about our customers on both sides of the market.”

Ramsdell offered some predictions about what might lie in Emerge’s future — even though he hadn’t quite started yet.

“Emerge’s technology is the best I’ve seen in the industry, and the platform is extensible to every mode of transportation globally,” he said. Ramsdell will stay in Atlanta, where he plans to build larger presence for Emerge.

John Paul Hampstead

John Paul conducts research on multimodal freight markets and holds a Ph.D. in English literature from the University of Michigan. Prior to building a research team at FreightWaves, JP spent two years on the editorial side covering trucking markets, freight brokerage, and M&A.