Platform Science thrives on background approach to freight tech

In the 1990s, German chemical company BASF had a slogan that speaks to what Platform Science is doing today: “At BASF, we don’t make a lot of the products you buy, we make a lot of the products you buy better.”

It describes the operating approach of Platform Science, the No. 10 company on the 2019 FreightWaves FreightTech 25.

The La Jolla, California-based company’s open-platform technology streamlines transportation processes to help trucking fleets eliminate waste and save time and money. It captures and analyzes data via connected vehicle platforms to improve the in-cab experience and maximize productivity.

Since its founding in 2014, Platform Science has attracted $30 million in investment, evolving from a startup to a growth-stage company, according to CEO Jack Kennedy.

“What makes us unique is that we are here to make what everybody on the FreightTech Top 25 does easier and better,” Kennedy told FreightWaves. “They all are folks that benefit from having a common platform.”

The FreightTech 25, chosen from the FreightTech 100 initial list, highlights the most innovative and disruptive companies across the freight industry, featuring upstarts and traditional powers. The awards were presented Nov. 13 at FreightWaves LIVE Chicago. Platform Science also was recently named to the CNBC Upstart 100 list for 2019.

Flexible focus

When Platform Science started, its goal was to improve the truck driver’s quality of life. It is fulfilling that mission by integrating in-cab data purchased from vendors and homegrown creations that meet a fleet’s specific needs.

“We’re trying to create a means for customers to have as much flexibility as possible and bring whatever they want to the degree that it relies on truck data,” Kennedy said. “These things are generally bought soup to nuts from one vendor. The hallmark of our customer is one who has developed their own apps or uses apps not from a traditional provider.

“Each customer has their view in terms of what to emphasize to do that,” he said. “They are all individually flavored. It’s almost as if using telematics as the source of this connectivity is a customer relationship management tool between themselves and their drivers.”

Some large fleets are getting on board.

In September, Schneider National (NYSE: SNDR) said it would deploy the company’s products across its fleet. Less than a month later, Mesilla Valley Transportation (MVT) said it would use Platform Science’s suite of applications across its fleet of 1,500 trucks and 1,700 drivers.

“We’re at a critical stage where we see that the technology works,” said Shaleen Devgun, Schneider chief information officer. “The platform has promise in terms of the future software, web-based marketplace where we can bring our own content to bear and also leverage content built by third parties to bring them together and create value for our ecosystem.”

VC interest

FreightTech overall is attracting interest from venture capital but not just because trucking is a $700 billion industry.

“The electronic logging device (ELD) mandate was more instrumental than anything else that got people to take a look,” Kennedy said. “It allowed venture capitalists to look at an underserved market with a requirement to buy something. We’ve benefited from it, though not as much as others.”

Platform Science offers an ELD solution. It previously sold Automatic On Board Recording Devices (AOBRDs), which are being phased out Dec. 16 by federal safety regulators. Mostly, it integrates legacy ELD systems of the large fleets it serves. Schneider’s purchase included Platform Science’s ELD system.

Talent retention

About 60% of Platform Science’s 120 employees focus on product operations and engineering development. Attracting and retaining that talent is easier because of its neighborhood. Tech companies like autonomous trucking developer TuSimple, Qualcomm, Telogis, Lytx, Spireon, Shipwell, Netradyne and Tourmaline Labs are all within walking distance.

“It’s a very interesting dynamic,” Kennedy said. “It changes a lot when people realize they are joining an industry and not a company. We’re not selling a siloed opportunity in one company.”