TP18 panelists discuss navigating a tech company

(Photo: Shutterstock)

One of the main points of focus at the Transparency18 conference–especially as Tuesday saw 35 startups on Demo Day sharing their solutions–was technology. The TP18 panel, Navigating the Waters of Becoming a Tech Company, was moderated by Tom Albrecht. Albrecht is CFO (and chief strategy officer) of Celadon and has nearly three decades in transportation research focusing on key surface transportation freight trends. He joined Celadon in October. During the panel he said he knew full well the challenge he was getting into as they focus on rebooting the company after an accounting scandal.

The panelists were composed of Andy Moses, Robert Nathan, and Eric Rempel.

Moses is senior vice president of product management at Penske Logistics. Nathan is CEO of LoadDelivered, a company he founded in 2008, which led to his co-founding of Logistcal Labs in 2013, a supply chain software firm that provides insights through data analytics and machine learning technology. Rempel is chief information officer for Redwood Logistics. Redwood is a privately held top-100 provider of a wide range of strategically integrated services. For more than 15 years, the company has been providing solutions for moving and managing freight and sharing its knowledge across North America.

Among other things, Moses says to expect the rise of the 4PL. 3PLs have been managing companies’ operations for years, but with new data streams and technologies such as blockchain that allow disparate systems to operate in a single, unified and trusted chain, responsibility and accountability in helping the customer reach its strategic goals is becoming the new standard.

Nathan says that one of the enormous advantages of being a tech company is that “we’re able to test better and faster.”

Albrecht emphasized that we’re “awash in data.” The question is, however, “what are we doing with all these reports?”

“We’ve tried to simplify the number of reports in the short term, and develop an action plan for what to do with all the data,” he said. “While simplifying, it’s also just more effective. More data doesn’t do any good if you don’t know what to do with it.”

The panelists also discussed the most pressing standards that need to be developed to move blockchain forward.

“The standards are critical,” said Rempel. “The standards though are less important than the ecosystem you create. Uniformity, adoption, scale is the idea. Adoption is where you get critical mass. The problem of adoption right now is a people problem. We have to find the applications to get the adopters. Then the standards can be more easily developed. We need value and scale first.”

Moses was concerned with what happens to the little guys in all the major industry changes. “I’m worried about the smaller businesses,” he said.

“Any emerging technology that becomes challenging for small businesses to adopt constrains things too. Another issue is lawyers and all the legal-to-legal matters. It’s going to be an important matter.”

“Starting with little bitty projects, much like Bettina Warburg said. It might be a few years away yet,” said Albrecht.

Warburg had just completed her keynote address an hour prior to the panel, and encouraged companies to start asking the right questions.

“We all need to be a little more like Leonardo da Vinci who was an artist and a scientist,” Warburg said in her address. “Like his flying machine. We need to use technologies to design faster. We can simulate our supply chains and test and learn from them. That should be each and every one of our goals.”

In terms of moving data from one blockchain to another Nathan emphasized the bottom line of trust. “Without trust there’s not going to be any movement,” he said. “Who even knows if it’ll be called blockchain in the future?”

“Other questions we’ll be asking is ‘What about foundational practice standards and who the customers are? When you move something, who are you working for? Your logistics company, Clorox, Walmart?’”

“Every single company in the B2B world is both a technology company and a service company,” said Nathan. “You can’t just be an organization that uses technology; you will be a technology company.”

“We use technology now like we use electricity,” said Albrecht.

The question remains, how do companies strategize and adopt to the rapid flow of change and hit the opportunities as they arise?

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Chad Prevost

Chad is radio host and broadcast media specialist for FreightWaves.