Welcome to the ‘Logistics Bulletin’ with Emma Callahan, a Q&A focused on changemakers and leaders in the logistics and e-commerce technology space.
These interviews dig deeper into what differentiates the players in the space and where the vertical is predicted to head in the coming months or years. The industry leaders will share insights into top technologies, changes in the space, and what finding talent looks like in the current market.
PartRunner is marketplace for the last-mile & middle mile “big & bulky”. They connect companies to a network of hundreds of independent truckers via their mobile, web, and API applications.
Tell me a little bit more about PartRunner.
PartRunner is building a logistics marketplace for B2B organizations specifically catering to the Trades, Construction, and Services Industries. We enable businesses to place on-demand through a mobile and web-based application. We move any type of product, part, material, or equipment that is needed 24/7. We found that in logistics, the small parcel has been commoditized. Companies are already very good at shipping small parcels, due to the fact that it is very easy to just hire someone who can pick up the parcel from a location and no further information is needed.
Additionally, if it is smaller it is easier to handle and lift. However, the question comes when the product is large, heavy, or difficult to transport. Or even if it is a specialist product, the person might need to have experience. In the construction, retail and manufacturing space, it is very challenging to move these products on demand.
Historically, companies solve this problem by hiring their own drivers and building their own logistics processes. They do not use any third parties for transporting these materials or goods. However, recently there has been a migration of moving away and depending upon third-party logistics, or courier services. This is due to the increased demand for next-day delivery and the expectations of receiving these goods on a faster timeline. From this, there are several gaps that they’re not able to fulfill. That is where companies like ours, PartRunner, come into the picture. We are striving to fill this gap for these industries.
How did you come up with the idea for this organization?
I met my Co-Founder, Yosh, at an entrepreneurship event at Northeastern University in Boston. At the time, I was working on another idea and we met at the event check-in desk and started discussing the concept. After a few months, he reached out to me further asking if I would like to join the venture, of what would eventually become PartRunner. I have a construction management background and experience in civil engineering. I, at the time, was working in data science and had taught myself development. I was very willing to jump on board, to be honest. When we started it, we didn’t really know much. It’s a very industry-specific problem, right? It’s not a consumer problem, it’s a business problem. It took us quite a bit of time to understand the space we are in. On top of this, we were all first-time founders. So it was kind of naïve in a way to just jump in and start something like that. Generally, I think these kinds of companies would have been started by people who are a part of the industry and have first-hand identified this gap. From there, they would develop it. We were just 20-year-olds coming out of college, with a few years of experience who were interested in doing something to change this industry. That is how PartRunner was started.
Tell me a bit more about the technology solutions you implement and how they differentiate from competitors in the space.
The example I like to use is the comparison of Uber and Lyft, the ride-sharing companies. At the core of these businesses, they are very similar. There is a pickup location, there is a drop-off location and in the middle, something (rather in this case someone) is being transported. This is transferable to what we do at PartRunner. If someone needs a material/machine, there is a pick-up location and then a drop-off location. The core aspect is kind of the same, right? A lot of people when comparing Uber and Lyft would say they are the same. But if you dissected each service/product a little bit, there are tiny, tiny elements that are different. Whether that be how they communicate with the customer, how they explain their different services, and how they are explaining their pricing. This is what we wanted to focus on at PartRunner, the minuscule but important details. I think that is where our differentiator lies. We really focus on who can communicate faster and more efficiently. Additionally, it’s building trust as well. For example, if a customer can make it cost less to get their delivery done, and it delivers, then it’s a scalable solution, right? Because then things can be automated. I would put it that way. Differentiation wouldn’t be in terms of ideas, but more service and delivery. Because at the core aspect of it, there are many companies doing the same thing, i.e. FedEx, UPS, Uber, and Lyft, but you can make a difference in ease and convenience to the customer that makes you use your product over a competitor. That is the ethos of PartRunner.
Have you seen any challenges in expanding talent within your teams? How have you overcome these challenges as you continue to expand?
PartRunner is currently operational in both the US and Mexico, and we are at a very early stage. From this, we have a global reach and our technology is scalable to be implemented in different countries. When it comes to hiring, we tend to approach it two ways. One is the hiring for base-level skills and also for culture. For example, it’s easy for us to hire in Mexico due to the cost-effectiveness, and that is where a lot of our back office teams sit. They are keeping the business running with admin and things that businesses need behind the scenes. For any role that is customer-facing, we prefer to hire in the US from the service elements. For all of these roles, if the candidate does not have a 100% perfect fit with the skill set, we can dedicate time to training. The challenge with hires came when hiring Senior Sales Managers or a Head of Sales. Those candidates had to be a perfect fit for our stage of growth and were much more specialized. We went through a lot of our own applications. Then we went through some consulting firms that specialize in hires like that. It took us a while and we decided to go a different way with our structure. However, it was around three months of rigorous involvement. Still, we were not getting the right applicant. I feel like, especially in startups with leaner teams and involved founders, whenever you’re trying to recruit someone whom you do not know into an organization ,if you don’t meet them in person for an interview, it’s very challenging. This is because you need them to have so many different skill sets, and also need to match the culture. Additionally, for a smaller company, the cost is very high to bring in people who are very experienced, right? Additionally, there is equity and several other factors. However, I think recruiting the right team is fundamental for any startup to succeed. After the Founders the employees are naturally the first line of success. Organizations and Founders must come together to create a sustainable hiring practice that can be replicated. Additionally, bringing in new talent can make product improvements. If each of your employees comes with their own optimized ways of doing things and keeps experimenting, right, you will see that there’s a 10x improvement in your solutions. These are all reasons finding the best and right talent is important and some good challenges we have had at PartRunner.
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