Over the past two and a half years, Uber Freight, the freight brokerage division of Uber Technologies (NYSE: UBER), has already proven itself capable in two key areas for young technology companies: growing revenue fast and shipping new products at a rapid clip.
Powerloop’s trailer pool, the continuous moves Uber Freight calls “bundles,” international versions of its app and a fleet management portal for small to midsize carriers — all of these features have helped Uber Freight differentiate itself from traditional freight brokerages, keep its users engaged and find new markets.
This week Uber Freight has doubled down on its commitment to building and shipping customer-oriented solutions by hiring a head of product, Raj Subbiah. Subbiah spent more than five years at Yelp leading various product teams and then serving as vice president of marketplaces. Subbiah’s teams built food delivery and restaurant reservation products for Yelp, as well as social marketing and jobs features. Prior to Yelp, Subbiah was at Microsoft, where he worked on search technology.
Nov. 25 was Subbiah’s first day at Uber Freight — he’ll be based in San Francisco but working with product managers in Chicago and Amsterdam — but he made time to talk with FreightWaves about the new role.
“I start with trying to understand customer needs: what shippers want, what carriers want and what the industry needs and then synthesizing that into a product strategy,” Subbiah said, noting that his prior experience at Yelp, which involved building products for two-sided marketplaces, helped prepare him for Uber Freight.
“My career has been a crash course in building and scaling marketplaces,” Subbiah said. While he does not have transportation and logistics experience, spending time in Chicago with operations teams to learn the process of moving freight and talking to customers will bring him up to speed.
Part of his role as head of product will be deciding how much to invest in each area of the product (shipper, carrier, etc.) at a given time, Subbiah said. So far, Uber Freight has been skilled at timing its product releases for relevant parts of the freight cycle, promoting carrier engagement in tight markets and offering shippers more services in loose markets.
Uber Freight has been hard at work building its 2020 product road map, Subbiah said, and over the next few weeks he plans to review that plan and help his team decide how quickly each piece needs to be executed.
“The road map looks great on paper, so it’s just executing on that,” Subbiah said. “The team we have so far is amazing — I want to make sure the momentum continues and add to it where I can.”
The product team at Uber Freight numbers in the low teens today, but it will grow aggressively in 2020.
“My job is bringing in customer obsession, making sure we have the right framework and growing the team the right way,” Subbiah said. “I do believe that one of the main things that the product team does is constantly keep in touch with our customers and understand their pain points. We have a good system in place and you just add to it as much as you can.”
Subbiah said that product teams have to be obsessed with their customers, and one way to do that is to make Uber Freight’s customers’ operating metrics its own operating metrics, whether it’s related to a shipper’s transportation budget or how many loads a carrier is running each week.
“You have to get in their heads, and their operational metrics help influence our road map,” said Subbiah. “Our strong operations team and product operations team, who are constantly in touch with customers, take feedback and translate that into an actionable product road map every month and quarter.”
Uber Freight did not want to reveal too much about upcoming product releases, but said that it would continue to maintain a rapid pace of development next year. Subbiah said that Uber is investing a lot in Uber Freight, and the industry as a whole excites him because it’s so economically vital, large and complex. He’s looking forward to bringing a new level of product management and design to the company to help it solve the next challenges.