SwanLeap leaps to #1 in Inc. 5000 rankings

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Inc. magazine has named SwanLeap as the fastest-growing private company in America. Revolutionizing the Transportation Management Software (TMS) industry with its Beyond TMS approach, SwanLeap is leveraging Artificial Intelligence (AI) across the supply chain to optimize transportation execution while helping companies turn freight into a profit center. SwanLeap uses their AI to help manufacturers and retailers manage timing and cost of shipments. The use of this new technology is allowing SwanLeap to deliver an annual average transportation savings of 26.7% to its customers, according to the company.

Debuting on the prestigious Inc. 5000 list in 2017 at #55 with $99 million in revenue, SwanLeap has shown an unprecedented 75,660.8% revenue growth over the past three years catapulting the five-year-old software company to the number one spot. SwanLeap began with CEO Brad Hollister’s vision to create a solution to provide real-time visibility and supply chain control for manufacturers and e-commerce companies. In pursuit of that goal, one of the first things Hollister did was place a craigslist advertisement seeking a programmer. That move connected him to co-founder Jason Swanson who brought the wells of technical knowledge and experience needed to disrupt the antiquated shipping industry.

In the early days, Hollister kept a piece of paper taped up on a board in the basement of his house where they worked. On that paper he wrote the number of users they would need to become a billion-dollar company. And one by one, Hollister would mark down the number as new users were onboarded. “Although I envisioned this level of success from the beginning, it has been a hard road getting here. We’re doing something new, something very different,” says Hollister, “and a lot of the market is just starting to understand that.”

SwanLeap entered the ring with what Deloitte has identified as NextGen technology. Through their rapidly deployed, custom implementation of NextGen TMS and auditing services, SwanLeap is using AI and machine learning to automate many of the manual roles in a company’s supply chain. These efforts are eliminating errors, increasing efficiencies, and improving customer relationships for businesses across the country.

“When we were researching early on our demos went great, and we were showing places that we could save them 30% on their shipping, and you know what? They loved it, but they didn’t go with us because we were too small.” Hollister was more than a little frustrated. “I took my ball and went home,” he says.

One of the keys to their success is what came next. Hollister had an idea.

“So, I went to some competitors and showed them what we could do, and where they were weak and where we were strong, and we paved a path with our competitors. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. They now use parts of our system that they like with us. That explains our growth, our trajectory, and the depth of our solution,” he says.

“An example, if you have a parcel TMS and you’re a parcel provider, you’re gonna use SwanLeap, but we’ve given our competitors and ability to upsell and stay relevant. Or an auditing company, now we can give their customers a platform. The customers don’t even know that we exist, but the company looks good and keeps the customer.”

“Basically, we’re here to offer settlement services and technology,” says Hollister. They are diversified, and it’s not always obvious (at least to the consumer) when their applications are being utilized.

“What makes us different? If you take a look at other technologies out there, we’re so different from the way that others TMS systems work. It challenges what people have known their whole career. So the way that most other tech work is that you load your rates into a spreadsheet manually. You enter the business rules on top for each instance.”

The long and short is that the process is time-consuming, and because it’s inefficient, costly.

“We don’t enter tables or business rules. All the information for a rule is in the order itself. We can see when an order needs to be a given destination. Of all the 100, 200 criteria that go into a shipment, a person can’t make these decisions for every single shipment, but our AI can. Most other TMS systems out there we’ve seen are about 74% effective. We’re 100%. We have all the data and we connect live to the carriers, which is very unique to us. We can pull all the criteria live in the moment, and all the requirements, we can tell you with 100% accuracy the best way to ship,” says Hollister.

“We’re talking about effecting earnings of multi-million dollar companies,” he goes on. “The savings is so great, earnings are effected by millions of dollars. We’re cutting truckload prices. It’s not about keeping prices down for truckers either. It’s about finding the single best shipping solution every time.”

“A lot of companies, and a lot of feedback we’ve gotten is ‘Who are you guys?’ And that’s how we’ve been able to grow so fast without any salespeople. We have about 50 employees in Madison and about 80 in total, and still no salespeople,” says Hollister.

What’s it like in Madison, Wisconsin? Is it a great place for a logistics company?

“It is. I’m very proud,” says Hollister. “2 of the top 10 made the list.” The other is a computer hardware company, Diamond Assets, placing #7.

“It’s great for family. Madison has a little tech hub here. There are strong draws. There’s Cisco, Google and just loads of programmers. It’s a wonderful place for collaboration, innovation and diversity of ideas.”

How does it feel to make the #1 spot in the Inc. 5000 rankings (a prediction he actually made to James Ledbetter the year prior)?

“It’s definitely been a pretty incredible week. Hearing from so many people that have helped over the years. It’s been fun,” says Hollister.

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Chad Prevost

Chad is radio host and broadcast media specialist for FreightWaves.