'We Created a Priceline for Trucking': Zuum Freight-Tech Platform Raises $8.5M
Francesca Billington is a dot.LA editorial intern. She's previously reported for KCRW, the Santa Monica Daily Press and local publications in New Jersey. Before joining dot.LA, she was a communications fellow at an environmental science research center in Sri Lanka. She graduated from Princeton in 2019 with a degree in anthropology.
In an Amazon-driven ecommerce world, it's hard to fathom just how time-consuming it can be for retailers like Lay-Z-Boy to ship their inventory across the country.
Even though one-click ordering and GPS tracking are commonplace for consumers, the trucking and logistics industry that brings merchandise from around the world to store shelves relies largely on phone calls, personal relationships and Excel.
A slew of tech-fueled companies from NEXT Trucking to ZUUM are trying to modernize the $1.2 trillion transportation industry, made up largely of small fleets that serve manufacturers to large multinational enterprises.
"We created a Priceline for trucking," said Matt Tabatabai, co-founder and COO of ZUUM. "Everything you can think of [in the trucking industry] is super old school and low tech."
ZUUM isn't targeting the FedEx and Amazon fleets, but the 2,000 trucking companies in the U.S. with over 20 trucks each and the 700,000 with under 20.
Tabatabai founded ZUUM in 2016 with logistics executive and CEO Mustafa Aziz to do just that. The company already counts Home Depot, Tyson and Staples among their clients and it just scored a $8.58 million seed round that it will use to expand its reach.
The round bumps their total funding to $12.58 million at a time when global supply chains are reeling from slowed business and shipping operations.
ZUUM's app connects the three main players involved in long-haul freight — shippers, brokers and carriers — through what it calls a "logistics-super-platform." It sets pricing rates for shipments and can connect shippers with vetted truckers.
"Some software solutions exist but they do unitary things and charge an arm and a leg for it," Tabatabai said.
ZUUM's target customers are mid-market retailers and small trucking companies, which Tabatabai calls their bread and butter.
The software also automates the process: billing, payment, managing drivers and tracking shipments. Companies can also use their system to calculate freight quotes and schedule trucks.
The idea is one that companies like Uber Freight and Convoy have run with in recent years. Tabatabai said ZUUM operates a lot like NEXT Trucking, the venture-backed "FreightTech" company that laid off 20% of its workforce in March, as dot.LA reported.
Tabatabai said ZUUM stands out from competitors because it isn't "another Silicon Valley tech company," His team understands firsthand what makes freight so complex.
Matt Tabatabai is co-founder and COO of ZUUM.
While most digital freight marketplaces try to eliminate brokers to save costs, ZUUM believes brokers are essential because they already have the connections.
"The trucking industry can't be automated overnight," he said. "That human element has got to be there for some time."
Brokers emerged in the 1980s to help companies importing goods connect with trucking companies. Tabatabi said these brokers typically call truckers to find a match for their clients.
The company helps them transition to online operations through its "broker in a box" feature.
CEO Azizi came from the brokerage industry before launching ZUUM in 2016 with Tabatabai, who previously worked on the tech side of shipping.
"There's been this trend of trying to automate everything and I'm not going to name the city that ends with Valley," Tabatabai said. "Our industry is too complex for that."
Tabatabai expects the industry to keep digitizing. Eventually, he said, AI will take over many of these tasks, but rushing into that change would be a mistake, which he said the industry learned when autonomous trucks entered the market.
The raise comes during ongoing tensions between the U.S. and China that have led to a dip in imports at California ports. Companies have started to reroute supply chains from China to countries in Southeast Asia with ports on the East Coast instead of the West.
The money they've raised will go towards tech operations, sales and marketing. The recent round was backed by investors including Estes Express Lines, Plug and Play Ventures, SAIC Ventures and Holman Growth Ventures.
This post has been updated with new information about ZUUM's target market.
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Their Russian investor was dead.
On a late Tuesday night in early May, the billionaire Russian coal tycoon, Dmitry "Dima" Bosov stopped answering phone calls and messages. When his wife, Katerina, arrived at their mansion in the suburbs of Moscow, she found her 52-year old husband locked in the family's home gym, dead from an apparent gunshot wound to the head.
Editor's Note<p><em></em><em>The story is pieced together from interviews with more than 40 former employees and business associates, active and retired county officials, as well as federal and county law enforcement; state court records, arbitration, arrest and corporate records in the U.S. and Canada; other public records in six California counties; Genius Fund corporate records and emails. Some former employees and business associates spoke to dot.LA on condition that their names not be mentioned out of fear of reprisals.</em></p><p>This is first story in our "Green Rush" series. Read more:</p><p><a href="https://dot.la/genius-fund-cannabis-startup-2646866270" target="_self">Part 2: Growing Pains in Plumas County</a> | <a href="https://dot.la/cannabis-products-genius-fund-2646866366.html" target="_self">Part 3: A Line of Failed Products</a> | <a href="https://dot.la/green-rush-genius-fund-2646866354.html" target="_blank">Part 4: What Went Down in Adelanto</a> | <a href="https://dot.la/dmitry-bosov-genius-fund-2646866356.html" target="_self">Part 5: The Sudden Death of Dmitry Bosov And His Dream of a California Cannabis Empire</a></p>
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"The time for inaction is over."
Such was the through-line in dot.LA's Thursday panel discussion on "Measurably Increasing Diversity in the Workplace."
Joining dot.LA host Kelly O'Grady was Oona King, VP of diversity, equity & inclusion (DEI) at Snap and a member of the UK House of Lords, and Kobie Fuller, partner at Upfront Ventures. The conversation centered on what organizations must do to ensure that this moment of acute awareness of the societal issues around DEI does not go to waste.
"I am grateful that white people have woken up," said King, who has also worked in diversity and inclusion at the UK's Channel 4 and YouTube. "But my gratitude will turn back to rage if they go back to sleep."
Kobie Fuller, Partner, Upfront Ventures<p><strong><br></strong></p><p>Kobie joined Upfront in June 2016, bringing deep expertise in enterprise SaaS and emerging technologies including VR and AR. Over his career he has invested early in notable companies including Exact Target (sold to Salesforce for $2.5B) and Oculus (sold to Facebook for $2B). Prior to Upfront, Kobie was an investor at Accel and, earlier, was the chief marketing officer at L.A.-based REVOLVE, one of the largest global fashion e-commerce players. Earlier in his career, Kobie helped found OpenView Venture Partners and was an investor at Insight Venture Partners. Kobie graduated from Harvard College.</p>
Oona King, VP of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at Snap Inc.<p>Oona King is the VP of diversity, equity & inclusion at Snap Inc. Previously, Oona was Google's director of diversity strategy, YouTube's director of diverse marketing, and before that chief diversity officer for British broadcaster Channel 4. Oona is a member of the House of Lords (a life-time appointment as Baroness King in January 2011), and former senior policy advisor & speechwriter to the prime minister at 10 Downing Street. </p><p>Oona became a member of the House of Commons at 29, the second woman of color, and 200th woman of any color elected to the British Parliament. She became parliamentary private secretary to the minister for e-commerce, and secretary of state for trade and industry. Oona was voted by other MPs as "the MP most likely to change society." In the Lords, Oona's front bench roles included shadow education minister, shadow minister for the digital economy, and shadow minister for equalities.</p>
Chief Host & Correspondent and Head of Video Strategy at dot.LA
Chief Host & Correspondent and Head of Video Strategy at dot.LA<p>Kelly O'Grady is dot.LA's chief host & correspondent. Kelly serves as dot.LA's on-air talent, and is responsible for designing and executing all video efforts. A former management consultant for McKinsey, and TV reporter for NESN, New England's premier sports network, she also served on Disney's Corporate Strategy team, focusing on M&A and the company's direct-to-consumer streaming efforts. Kelly holds a bachelor's degree from Harvard College and an MBA from Harvard Business School. A Boston native, Kelly spent a year as Miss Massachusetts USA, and can be found supporting her beloved Patriots every Sunday come football season.</p>
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