Mark Buffington was stunned by the purity of the pitch. And even more so by the kid making it—a student presenting at Georgia Tech’s Create-X program for aspiring entrepreneurs. The managing partner of Panoramic Ventures in Atlanta, Buffington had heard a million pitches during his career as an investor.
This one was special. “Simplicity is really hard to obtain,” he explains, “and the way he articulated the solution was so elegant I thought, ‘This is going to be a massive winner.’ ” Buffington knew immediately that he wanted in.
That Georgia Tech student was named Sean Henry. And what he outlined that day in 2016 was the concept behind Stord: a cloud-based distributed logistics platform designed to connect companies in real-time to the hundreds of thousands of nodes that constitute the nation’s supply chain. That includes disparate and disconnected manufacturers, suppliers, retailers, third-party logistics providers, freight forwarders, warehouse operators, freight brokerages, truck drivers, and ultimately you, the customer.
With his co-founder and CTO, Jacob Boudreau, what Henry envisioned wasn’t so much a supply chain company as it was a supply change company—a single distributed network that would allow customers of all sizes to shape-shift, to expand or contract their warehouses on demand, for example, without having to build their own or enter into long-term contracts with third-party logistics companies. Essentially, Stord can form an orchestra from scattered soloists.
In many industries, disrupters compete against the established order. Such order didn’t exist in the logistics space. “More than anything, they were competing against no one,” says Daley Ervin, the managing director of Engage Ventures, a venture platform for some of the largest corporations in Atlanta and an early investor. “When you go into an industry that has nothing, whatever you build is better than sheets of paper and faxes. They were competing against sticky notes.”
For Henry and Boudreau, their 20- something ages and their grand vision might have been, to some, their biggest barriers. Unencumbered by industry experience, they set out to create something revolutionary.
IF YOU’VE TRIED to order dumbbells, lawn furniture, or even a Chevy Silverado in the past 18 months, you know one thing, for sure: that the global supply chain has been bonkers. The pandemic has exposed the fault lines under such concepts as just-in-time manufacturing and global sourcing. A chip shortage in Taiwan has hobbled automobile production in Michigan and Mexico; a shipping container shortage in Hong Kong has slowed the delivery of all manner of goods; when ships do arrive, they overwhelm ports on both U.S. coasts. Once goods are unloaded, a shortage of trucks and truck drivers exacerbates the slowdown.
That has spelled opportunity for a number of Inc. 5000 companies. At Emerge (No. 530 on this year’s list), Andrew Leto is applying technology to connect shippers with carriers in a segment of the industry that has relied on emailed spreadsheets. Today, even large companies don’t know how much capacity is available on any given day or for the next month; they send out email blasts asking for RFPs. To solve for that, Emerge has created a platform to allow different segments to have a real-time view of available trucking. It’s Leto’s second, logistics-based Inc. 5000 company—he also founded GlobalTranz, which made the Inc. 5000 in 2008 (No. 326), 2009 (No. 175), and 2010 (No. 724).
In Jackson, Tennessee, specialty hauler Iuvo Logistics (No. 446 on this year’s list) is growing fast by keeping truckers happy. Instead of the traditional pay scale of 50¢ a mile—or nothing if a shipment is delayed by, say, bad weather—Iuvo guarantees them $65,000 annually plus benefits and incentives that can add $13,000. No one works weekends. In a field where the turnover is 100 percent every 36 months, employee attrition is just 9 percent. Co-founded by James Dowd, whose previous two logistics companies got wiped out by a hurricane and the Great Recession, Iuvo landed at No. 310 on the 2019 Inc. 5000 and at No. 246 in 2020. The company now owns 40 trucks and is on the way to 100 by year-end.
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