For owner-operators and small fleets working in the spot market, the fragmentation within the trucking industry means many load details coming in from different load boards – data that is often outdated or redundant. Truckers have a difficult time segregating such information, and this takes a toll on their operational efficiency. It also often means their trucks run hundreds of deadhead miles due to lack of visibility into available volumes.
SmartHop, a Florida-based freight matching startup, has built a technology platform that helps truckers plan, search and book their loads in a fraction of the time it takes to sift through traditional load boards.
Guillermo Garcia, the CEO and co-founder of SmartHop, hails from Venezuela, where he founded a trucking company that grew to employ nearly 500 people. He later moved to the U.S., where he built a local asset-based traditional trucking company in Florida, which was when he witnessed the hassles that small trucking companies go through to find loads. This led him, along with fellow Venezuelan immigrants Joaquin Brillembourg and Miguel Sucre, to build a startup that would develop decision-making tools to help truckers get loads faster and more accurately.
“Between our artificial intelligence tools and load sources, I think we are a perfect blend of technology. The real difference is that we’re not a broker and we don’t get in the middle of a trucker and a broker or shipper. We only help them decide what’s best for them,” said Garcia. “We are also different from load boards, as we understand the context of each trucker so we guide them automatically towards the best load.”
Brillembourg spoke about how SmartHop intended to help small truckers be more profitable and stay clear of being bruised in volatile and rough market conditions.
“SmartHop goes deeply into the needs of how to better run a trucking business or what loads would be a perfect match their operations. A lot of people try and grab the best-paying load or make decisions on what they’re seeing in the market at the moment, without understanding market trends,” said Brillembourg. “We try to digest marketing information, work on market analysis and predictions with our technology tools, and end up translating data in plain English for the small fleets to drive better results.”
While building SmartHop, the founders spoke extensively with truckers and carriers to understand all the issues they faced. During this period of market validation, the startup realized that many of the people were Hispanics, who also had the added issue of language barriers. This led the startup to initially focus on Hispanic-speaking truckers in the U.S., as their reality reflected the team’s early struggles in the ecosystem.
“We launched our closed beta this February, and have been working with around 30 truckers, receiving their feedback on how they like it and tailoring it to what they want to see in the solution. One of the main responses we’ve heard is that they see the benefit in us aggregating multiple load sources. This is important as the industry works in silos, and brokers aren’t connected to the rest, forcing them to go into different sites. The other benefit is that they are getting loads faster with our suggestions,” said Garcia. “This is because we not only present the loads but also aggregate them and suggest what they should do to get the loads quicker.”
SmartHop is launching this week, and it has 250 signups participating once the platform goes live. Garcia mentioned that he does not see problems with gaining traction, but said the startup is conscious of making sure its market trend predictions are on point – an exercise that might be harder than it looks.
The startup has partnered with major brewer Anheuser-Busch; its loads will be matched through SmartHop’s platform. Garcia explained that this serves as a validation for their technology’s potential and that this can help kick-off similar pilots with bigger players in the market. “We have also partnered with trucking minority associations. Though we want to help everyone in the industry, we are really focused on empowering minorities, to help them scale-up to become successful entrepreneurs,” he said.