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Flush with capital, project44 transforms C-Suite, looks to scale

In October, leading visibility solution provider project44 closed a $45M financing round led by Sapphire Ventures, the Palo Alto-based VC firm focused on growth-stage enterprise technology companies. That round doubled project44’s total capital raise to $90M. Now the company has announced a series of additions to its executive team: Chief Marketing Officer Andy Grygiel joined project44 in July; Chief Financial Officer Michael Bruns came on board last month; Chief Technology Officer Will Hansmann was added just a few weeks ago.

All three executives shared a common experience working at Uptake, an industrial data analytics and IoT startup founded by Brad Keywell and Eric Lefkofsky, co-founders of Groupon (NASDAQ: GRPN), Echo Global Logistics (NASDAQ: ECHO), and the venture capital firm Lightbank. According to Pitchbook, Uptake was the fastest company to achieve a $2B valuation ever. Prior to Uptake, Grygiel and Bruns worked at ClearTrial, a SaaS platform that helps pharmaceutical manage their clinical trials. In 2012, ClearTrial was acquired by Oracle.

In our view, project44 has reached a major inflection point, and we wanted to hear from the new executives about their roles in this stage of the company’s growth. Grygiel, Bruns, and Hansmann spoke to FreightWaves by phone.

“project44 was really at the point of having proven that the products work and provide value, and our customers were getting great ROI,” Grygiel said. “The founders, Jett McCandless and Tommy Barnes, decided that this was the time to scale the company, grow, and operationalize a number of things. The three of us have touched upon the transport industry in the past, but we’re not transport experts. We’re experts in our own specific domains—financial and operational, technology, and marketing—and we’re experienced in growing and scaling enterprise software companies.”

“The sweet spot for me from a career standpoint,” Bruns said, “is really to come in at the point where a company has impressive growth, huge market opportunity, and the founder-entrepreneur is looking to broaden the experience base across the executive team. I saw those characteristics in p44.”

“The company has had success, but really needs to build the infrastructure to scale,” Bruns added. “From Andy’s perspective that means demand generation and sales processes; from my perspective—finance and operations—it’s building out a capable team to make sure the trains are running on time in the back office. It’s a common stage for a company with fantastic growth.”

Grygiel spoke to project44’s “aggressive roadmap” and said that the company has a “grander vision” than most players in the transportation visibility space, noting that beyond track-and-trace and exception management, project44 wants to “automate the whole transport value chain” and provide “the connective tissue for that flow of information.”

Hansmann, the new CTO, explained how project44 would get there. project44 employs about 60 software engineers now, 80 between engineering and product development, and the company is actively hiring senior engineers, test engineers, and data scientists. Even as project44 accelerates its growth, Hansmann said that it will continue to emphasize individual ownership and minimize the layers of hierarchy in the organization.

“While the vision is enormous, we’re being super-practical about it as well,” Hansmann said. “The roadmap is aggressive, but we’re being very disciplined about how we’re addressing it, which means maximizing the velocity of the team while maintaining product excellence. Looking forward, our focus continues to be around increasing coverage and capabilities within all of the different modes as well as geographic coverage across the globe.”

Grygiel added that project44 is also working actively on expanding the range of processes it automates beyond tracking and exception management. 

“Everything from upfront pricing through dispatch to payment—we’re trying to automate that whole lifecycle and provide visibility to it,” Grygiel said. 

We wrapped up the conversation by asking Grygiel about his role as a marketing professional at a growthy tech startup like project44. He emphasized project44’s thought leadership role in bringing its points of view to the marketplace.

“First of all, I only work for companies where I really believe in the products. I really believe in the products here and the value that they’re providing our customers, and now it’s marketing’s mission to get the word out. We’re trying to build our brand in a number of ways, not only with getting more visibility out there, but we also have strong points of view and thought leaders within the organization, so it’s our job to get that point of view and those messages out to the market,” Grygiel concluded, mentioning project44’s annual technology executive summit, Transform. 

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John Paul Hampstead, Associate Editor

John Paul writes about current events and economics, especially politics, finance, and commodities, and holds a Ph.D. in English literature from the University of Michigan. In previous lives John Paul studied Shakespeare in London and Buddhism in India, but now he focuses on transportation and logistics in the heart of Freight Alley--Chattanooga. He spends his free time with his wife and daughter herding cats, collecting books, and walking alongside the Tennessee River.
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