Choice: The secret ingredient to creating a cross-border marketplace (with video)

Creating a cross-border marketplace from scratch is a tough business, but Forager CEO and co-founder Matt Silver looked to tech giants like Amazon, eBay and Airbnb for inspiration.

“It’s not about thinking how we used to do this back in the day, it’s how do we do this differently now,” Silver said. “We want shippers and carriers to be able to have choice on what they do on a daily basis. We want to position this technology as a way for people to grow their businesses.” 

Forager is a freight tech startup founded in 2018 by Silver and vice president of finance and analytics Jordan Salins, with Chief Operating Officer Jessie Essman joining shortly thereafter. The Chicago-based company specializes in cross-border truckload freight matching between the U.S., Mexico and Canada.

Silver recently discussed his company’s vision and purpose with Toronto-based transportation lawyer Heather Devine of the law firm Alexander Holburn Beaudin + Lang LLP.

Their virtual fireside chat — “Forager: manically focused on cross-border with tech” — was part of American Shipper’s Global Trade Tech summit on Thursday.

Devine said as a transportation attorney, she sees people who are looking at mergers and acquisitions, and she also meets with brokers and tech companies, who are “all vying for the higher multiple.”

“You have actually structured Forager to be very different. Forager is a tech company, but you’re not really a broker. How does tech relate to what Forager does?” Devine asked.

Silver said they spend very little time researching big brokers or load boards in the freight industry.

“We spend more time looking at marketplaces like Airbnb or eBay or Amazon, and thinking about how those marketplaces became billion-dollar marketplaces, where people could operate and function and be able to do what they wanted to do,” Silver said. “The beauty that I see in more dynamic marketplaces is that it allows people the ability to have a choice.”

Silver said an example could be someone looking for NBA legend Michael Jordan’s signed rookie basketball card.

“You go into a marketplace looking for Michael Jordan’s signed rookie card and look through eBay,” Silver said. “You’re going to see a lot of different price variations, you’re going to see pictures of the different items, you’re going to see the seller, and the ratings of the seller.”

Silver said a buyer can choose the cheapest option or pay for something on the higher side.

In the freight industry, “picking the cheapest carrier, the cheapest booking option, you’re going to get what you’re paying for,” Silver said. “Or you can pay for something more valuable, the higher-valued side of it. You might get higher value from that.”

Since March, Forager has nearly doubled its team to 55 employees, while building new features that aim to add value to shippers’ cross-border experience. Forager also initially closed its Series A round of financing in March, but added several more investors in July to finish at $10.5 million.

“One of the things I say to people who are new to the transportation industry is that a broker is like a travel agent for the movement of freight,” Devine said. “What you’re describing at Forager is something that’s completely different. What’s the platform where you pull all that together?”

Scout is an operating system [created by Forager]: It’s a platform, it’s a marketplace, it’s got a few different parts to it. Underneath it all, it has the TMS component that is required to be able to make loads move from A to B.”

Silver said Scout users can bring shippers, customs brokers, the carriers on each side of the border, “all those parties online” to execute the transaction.

“The marketplace on top of it has a shipper portal, where shippers can get a rate instantly, or it’s got the load board that will be launching in the next few months, where carriers can log in and bid on loads,” Silver said. “We want to let them meet in the center and actually enable that transaction to happen.”

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