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Year in review: Outlining rise of FreightTech standout

2021 has been a banner year for Emerge

(Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

This year has proven challenging for companies across the logistics industry. Elevated rates and constrained capacity have stressed shippers and brokers, while equipment delays and driver shortages have made it difficult for carriers to navigate surging demand. Changing consumer behaviors — including the swift rise in online shopping — have affected companies across the board. 

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has either caused or exacerbated all of today’s industry headwinds. Over the past couple of years, pandemic-related challenges have created something of a sink-or-swim environment for logistics companies. While some companies were pushed to the point of demise, others responded with innovation and resourcefulness.

Players in the FreightTech space, specifically, have continued to thrive despite challenging market conditions. In fact, the unusual stressors facing shippers and carriers alike have given many of them a chance to showcase just how useful their solutions actually are. Second-generation FreightTech startup Emerge led the pack in growth and ingenuity throughout 2021. 

Emerge has had a banner year, including everything from a $130 million funding round to an exciting new partnership with household name DHL Supply Chain. The company has gained serious traction with customers and investors over the past 12 months, and FreightWaves has detailed its rise. 

Hacking growth and retention 

Logistics is a high-pressure industry infamous for its high turnover. Unaligned and undervalued employees tend to burn out quickly in fast-paced, sometimes stressful jobs. This problem is especially potent right now, as virtually all industries grapple with labor shortages. 

A few companies across the logistics space — including Emerge — have figured out how to attract and hire the right people, allowing them to grow their staff and make existing employees feel valued. Emerge added 193 employees in 2021.

Emerge is well known for its innovative technological solutions, but the company has also created a standout culture. Emerge leaders recognize that building a strong culture in 2021 goes beyond video game consoles and cold brew; the team places an emphasis on shared values and employee appreciation.  

“It doesn’t matter what technology you build in the logistics space, this industry is still very relationship-driven. That’s why we put so much emphasis on culture. When you can make every employee feel just as important as the next, and do the little things to keep them happy, they will go to bat for the company and build amazing relationships,” Michael Leto, board member at Emerge, said in a February interview. 

Funding gains

Emerge didn’t just add more employees in 2021; the standout startup also added investors to its roster. The company closed a $130 million series B funding round — led by 9Yards Capital, Tiger Global Management and The Spruce House Partnership — this past September. Existing investors New Road Capital Partners and Greycroft also participated in the round.

“Logistics is the hottest industry in the world right now, and we have one of the biggest opportunities in that industry in front of us,” Andrew Leto, Emerge’s co-founder and CEO, said in a September interview.

Emerge has set out to remove spreadsheets and emails from the freight procurement process and completely reimagine RFPs. The company’s platform aggregates shipper volumes and transportation capacity and provides shippers, brokers and carriers with visibility into each other’s networks, effectively working toward the goal of eventually getting every shipper on the Emerge platform.

This fresh funding round will allow the company to scale its digital freight marketplace and allow Emerge to triple its research and development spend, according to Leto.

New president appointed 

Fueled by a fresh funding round, Emerge welcomed longtime industry standout and former FreightWaves President George Abernathy to its team of senior executives this past fall. 

Abernathy helped build FreightWaves from the ground up, developing one of the finest sales organizations in FreightTech. Before joining the FreightWaves team in 2017, he served as president of the well-respected 3PL Transplace. Today, Abernathy is putting his hard-earned knowledge and skills to work as president of Emerge. 

“Bringing George onto the team at Emerge is a perfect fit,” Brielle Patterson, director of brand marketing at Emerge, said in a September Emerge blog post. “Pairing our technical expertise with George’s vast industry experience can help us improve the customer experience across our funnel so we can continue to surprise and delight shippers of all sizes.” 

Abernathy served on Emerge’s board of directors for a year before joining the team as president.

Award-winning operation

It is easy to see what Abernathy saw in Emerge. FreightWaves recognized the company as one of the most transformative companies in FreightTech last month during its annual 2022 FreightTech 25 awards.

“FreightWaves is the absolute gold standard in FreightTech knowledge, content and industry impact — being recognized and included in this esteemed group is a serious accomplishment,” Abernathy said in a November Emerge blog post. “It’s exciting to see Emerge grow so rapidly.  I’m proud to be part of this team and see the platform evolve as we add new customers and partners into 2022.”

Each year, FreightTech 25 award winners are selected by notable CEOs, industry leaders and investors actively investing in the freight space. They represent the best of the best. 

Emerge ranked No. 8 in the 2022 FreightTech 25, climbing six spots from No. 14 in the 2021 awards thanks to its astounding growth over the last year. 

Major partnership announced

True to form, Emerge ended 2021 with a major announcement. DHL has integrated with Emerge to provide its customers with live spot market coverage. Emerge had to prove itself to secure the partnership; Jim Monkmeyer, president of transportation for DHL Supply Chain North America, told FreightWaves the company researched more than 100 digital freight marketplaces before deciding to pursue a relationship with Emerge. 

“There’s more opportunity in the spot market that we traditionally have not taken advantage of because we didn’t have the technology to do real-time pricing without the network of carriers that Emerge has now built,” Monkmeyer said in a December interview. “There are going to be lanes and more challenging shipment volume issues that are going to require a much more dynamic marketplace.”

DHL has tested the integration through a small number of retail customers with historically high volumes and will slowly begin offering Emerge’s spot marketplace to its other customers, according to Monkmeyer.

This major partnership further illustrates Emerge’s growing presence in FreightTech. Armed with plenty of funds, inspiring leaders and strong partnerships, the company’s influence is only expected to grow in 2022. 

Ashley Coker

Ashley is interested in everything that moves, especially trucks and planes. She covers air cargo, trucking and sponsored content. She studied journalism at Middle Tennessee State University and worked as an editor and reporter at two daily newspapers before joining FreightWaves. Ashley spends her free time at the dog park with her beagle, Ruth, or scouring the internet for last minute flight deals.