KeepTruckin, the freight tech unicorn that leveraged an electronic logging device software business into end-to-end visibility technology and a freight-matching marketplace, told employees today that it was shutting down One Point Logistics (OPL), the freight brokerage it acquired in April 2019.
About 30 employees will be reallocated to fleet sales inside KeepTruckin’s organization, but the majority will be laid off. KeepTruckin briefly considered selling OPL, but decided against it in order to retain its best people, KeepTruckin CEO Shoaib Makani said.
The OPL shutdown came amid a wave of large cuts at other freight brokerage companies, including C.H. Robinson and Coyote Logistics. The Passport Research’s team study of fourth quarter earnings revealed that across the freight brokerage space, earnings were down 22.4% on average year-over-year.
Venture capitalist investors have also become more risk-averse and sensitive to valuation, re-emphasizing unit economics and gross margins. VCs are less willing to value low-margin, non-recurring revenue at tech multiples.
But KeepTruckin never intended to scale a freight brokerage, Makani said. Instead, KeepTruckin needed to capture data and decision-making processes from real-life brokers to train its matching algorithms and machine learning models. KeepTruckin also needed OPL to feed the first version of its marketplace with freight. But once the tech stack was built out and KeepTruckin was ready to invite third-party brokers and shippers to its load board, it made sense to remove the conflict of interest that came from operating a marketplace and participating in it at the same time.
“In April 2019, we wanted to build an open marketplace where any broker or asset-based carrier could post loads and get access to our capacity, and we believed our data would allow us to build a fundamentally differentiated marketplace by matching intelligently and pushing loads to the right carriers,” Makani said. “We announced that we acquired One Point Logistics so we could learn how to move freight and build matching models to power the marketplace.”
Still, KeepTruckin invested in OPL, more than tripling the brokerage’s headcount and hiring high-powered executives and salespeople from Coyote, GlobalTranz, and FourKites. OPL was adding new account executives as recently as last month. Makani said that, ultimately, freight brokerage proved to be operationally intense and distracted from KeepTruckin’s core mission of building its technology and marketplace.
Makani acknowledged that KeepTruckin’s extensive carrier network needed more freight than OPL could provide, and that the key to getting other 3PLs into the marketplace was by making it truly neutral.
“Now that the marketplace is ready, our intention is to invite the market in, including all 3PLs, large brokers, and asset-based carriers with 3PL arms, and as part of that it didn’t make sense to continue operating OPL,” Makani said. “It’s not ideal to have to shut it down, but if we want to actually realize our mission, we have to remove the conflict and we have to allow all parties to participate on a level playing field.”
In the coming weeks, KeepTruckin will open its marketplace to a wider swath of the 3PL segment, validating and vetting new brokers who will pour loads into the marketplace. Makani said KeepTruckin is already engaging a number of 3PL partners who will participate in the public version of the smart load board.
“We’ve always known that if we could bring trucks online, we could change the way freight moved,” Makani said. “We came across the universal application—electronic logs. We believed that by giving away a free app to drivers, we would build connectivity that would allow us to build the marketplace. Fast forward six and a half years and we have 60,000 carriers, and 300,000 trucks using our ELDs, dash cams, and fleet management. We’ve built this incredible network and now we have the opportunity to build the freight marketplace of the future.”