In the past few weeks, three Uber Freight co-founders left the digital brokerage and joined supply chain software startup Turvo. Charlie Bergevin and Brian Cristol took on business-to-business enterprise sales roles at the Sunnyvale, California-based tech company, while John Stauffer will handle customer success on the carrier side.
Turvo, founded in 2014 by Eric Gilmore, came out of stealth mode with a $25 million Series A round in March 2017, and followed up that raise with a $60 million Series B in November 2018 that valued the startup at $435 million post-money, according to Pitchbook.
FreightWaves spoke to Bergevin, Cristol, and Stauffer by phone about the Uber Freight story, why they decided to make the transition from automating truckload brokerage to tackling the whole supply chain, and what they’re excited about at Turvo.
Bergevin and Cristol recounted the early days of UberEverything in 2016, a strategy developed within Uber to leverage the power of Uber’s million-driver network and expand into new verticals and service offerings. Uber Everything was essentially a startup inside of a startup, an experimental program run by Jason Droege that reached out to large companies and tried to figure out how to solve their problems with Uber’s technology and network. Along with Uber Freight, Uber Eats is probably the best-known project to come out of UberEverything.
Assigned to explore and build out a last-mile delivery solution, Bergevin and Cristol spoke to scores of transportation and logistics executives at global Fortune 1000 companies. The two quickly learned about the opportunities in truckload brokerage, even though they had no idea what terms like “a 53-foot dry van” meant. Bergevin and Cristol hung out in truck stops and talked to drivers about what they loved and didn’t love about the industry, listening and learning. They soon found themselves pitching Uber’s then-CEO Travis Kalanick on why Uber should get into trucking.
A few months into the project, Uber acquired Otto, and Uber Freight got its first experienced freight executive in John Stauffer, who before his time at Otto had spent seven years at Echo Global Logistics. In our conversation, Stauffer remembered moving Uber Freight’s first ever load. The load picked up in Texas, and Stauffer, in California, set his alarm clock for 5 AM to track the load. The dispatcher gave the load back at the last minute, prompting the kind of frantic scramble all-too-familiar to freight brokers.
“There was instant interest in Uber Freight from some of the largest companies in the world,” Bergevin said. “Brian [Cristol] and I lived on the road for about six months, talking about all the problems under the sun in transportation and technology.”
“Uber’s strength is in creating liquid marketplaces,” Bergevin said.
“We were trying to help our customers, but we were limited by what we could do at Uber,” Cristol added.
Bergevin remembered hearing Reid Hoffman talk about Eric Gilmore’s supply chain software startup Turvo a few years before, when was he was “head down trying to scale what became monster that is Uber Freight.” The Uber Freight co-founders met Gilmore and had a “truly amazing experience” talking to him about logistics and the supply chain.
A fundamental problem, Bergevin realized, was in how companies in the supply chain worked together.
“I can message anyone in Japan in five seconds on Facebook, but I can’t do that with a company I’ve never shipped with before in Japan,” Bergevin said.
Turvo’s mission is to provide supply chain participants with a common set of tools, to string together data from disparate systems into one platform, and streamline processes of communication and collaboration. Turvo is platform-agnostic and meant to work with the legacy systems already used by large shippers, 4PLs and 3PLs, and asset-based carriers of all modes. After pooling data together to provide multi-party views and more efficient collaboration, Turvo wants to build predictive analytics capabilities.
“Software to drive efficiency is great, but how do you get to a predictable supply chain?” Cristol asked.
Turvo’s customer network and organization is growing rapidly, the team said, with thousands of users already on the platform.