Tom Venable, CEO of Basin Commerce, calls themselves the TMS for the bulk freight market. Their company is a much-needed solution for shippers of raw materials seeking organization and efficiency in purchasing bulk freight logistics.
Founded in October of 2016, the company launched iBookFreight in April of 2017. “We’ve done quite a bit of revenue on the iBookFreight, but we believe that Conduit is what the majority of the market wants and that’s why we’re raising capital to accelerate that business,” Venable tells FreightWaves by phone.
The business models will be different. iBookFreight serves the infrequent shipper market. They get a margin based on the bids much like a digital brokerage. Conduit, by contrast, meets the needs of frequent shippers, and will be offered as a saas service. So it’s similar to iBookFreight.com in that it streamlines and organizes the manner in which freight buyers acquire and manage bulk transportation services like barge, truck, and rail.
It’s also different in that Conduit will effectively function as a shipper’s privately branded quoting and management workflow platform for their network of transportation partners. Conduit’s goal is to help shippers save time, uncover price anomalies, and manage operational data. Shippers will be able to quickly enter transportation data once in Conduit, thus eliminating redundancy and reducing costly errors.
From iBookFreight they listened and learned from the market’s feedback. It became clear that frequent bulk shippers wanted their own platform versus using a public marketplace to find and buy barge freight and other bulk logistics services. With a vision to create the operating system for bulk logistics, shippers of raw materials that utilize Conduit will realize standardized quoting processes and business terms, operational data management and insights, along with analytics-driven knowledge to optimize their logistics budgets.
“We’re not eliminating iBookFreight. We digitally present the requests to the buyer. It acts like a broker almost. We put our margin into it. It’s for infrequent shippers who don’t have a current network of suppliers,” says Venable.
“Conduit is a saas platform for frequent shippers. They already have their partners. We’re a software company, not a freight brokerage. We want to use the tech to make the freight buyer’s life a lot easier. We imagined it sort of like an Expedia where you can go here and get multiple prices form multiple carriers and rails.”
Venable explains the kind of feedback they received. “They were saying, ‘We love your software, it’s way past due in our industry, but I’m not gonna buy freight from a broker on a website because I’ve been doing this for 100 years. I’m not gonna do it.” But the companies did like the advantages of the platform, and that led to the latest development.
It may be hard to believe that there’s not already a more streamlined solution from the century-old manual process of bidding and buying bulk freight. In fact, Basin Commerce is breaking new ground and bringing this sector of the industry into the 21st Century through its technology-driven workflow platforms. Both Basin Commerce’s platforms aim to increase efficiencies for supply chain professionals looking to source and manage their logistics activities and for industry participants to easily manage their sales flow.
“We’re coming into the marketplace starting with $500 per month plus .15 per ton,” says Venable. “So if a barge carries 200 tons that’s $300. There’s no really market standard because no one’s done this before. We came to those numbers with some potential customers and understanding how the margins are. We may change that as the months go on, but that’s our opening price. The tonnage basis relates to how often it’s used.”
“We’re in beta right now with the Conduit product, and I’m actively raising capital,” says Venable.
They plan to launch Conduit around January 1. “We get a couple more months to beta test.”
“This is for both 3PLS and for shippers. Out beta testers are 3PLS,” he adds. “Those will both be our customers in the bulk freight space. The focus is on U.S. intercoastal waterways (inland marine highways is what the DOT calls it),” he says. “We want to add bulk trucking, as well as rail to the platform next year, and by 2020 you want to add vessels for bulk freight. Not containers, but bulk. Huge, massive loads.”
The ultimate vision is that their platform can help a shipper manage and navigate from end to end.