SmartHop, a tech startup that helps small trucking companies grow their businesses, on Tuesday announced that it has closed a $4.5 million seed round led by Equal Ventures, a seed stage venture fund based in New York. Additional investors in the round include Greycroft and Las Olas VC.
Smarthop has also recruited a group of industry veterans and strategic angels to help the company scale.
Dozens of startups have entered the truck technology space in recent years, selling freight brokerage and marketplace services, as well as stand-alone tools like payment and quote management. Many of these services target shippers or larger carriers, putting small truckers at a disadvantage when booking loads and leveraging buying power.
Founded in late 2017, Florida-headquartered SmartHop aims to solve this problem by targeting long-haul owner-operators with one to four trucks. Its platform seeks to offer easy load booking, end-to-end back-office support, and above-market rates per mile.
“Where we see our uniqueness is we are 100% trucker centric,” said co-founder and CEO Guillermo Garcia, who started his career in supply chain for Nestle in Venezuela before founding ALCARIN, a trucking company in Venezuela.
SmartHop is neither tool, broker nor marketplace, said Garcia. “We are an SaaS platform for the trucker to make sure they are making the right decisions: which broker, which load at what price.” The company also offers an array of back office services. “We are end to end,” Garcia said.
Democratizing trucking tech
SmartHop joins CloudTrucks and a handful of other startups that are catering to the specific problems facing owner-operators and small carriers.
It’s fertile territory.
Over 90% of trucking companies in the U.S. are categorized as small businesses and operate with fewer than six trucks.
Designed for these small players, SmartHop has its roots in Garcia’s own experience running a logistics company.
After completing a master’s program at Columbia University in 2012, he decided to relocate his business to Florida. It was an eye-opening experience.
“Nobody told me it was a horrible decision to base an over-the-road company in Miami,” said Garcia. “Being so small in a massive industry, depending on [large brokers] while paying retail rates for fuel and insurance,” all took a toll, he said. “I decided to do something better for myself and thousands of owner-operators out there.”
After launching with smart booking technology, SmartHop expanded to include back office services, according to Garcia. As the company scales, it is working to help truckers lower operational costs, initially through partnerships on the insurance and fuel side.
The team will use the new funding to continue applying smart tech to fine-tune services. Its customer count clocks in at 100 trucks, a figure expected to grow to 300 by the end of the summer, Garcia said.
Among SmartHop’s investors are Alex Yeager, director at Redwood Logistics, Andrew Leto, founder of GlobalTranz and Emerge TMS, and Jett McCandles, founder of logistics company Project44.