More than five years ago, when the co-founders of Hard Core Technology found out that many NVOCC and freight forwarders in L.A. area became tired of all existing freight forwarding software, which they use for daily shipment operations, invoicing, management, accounting, and even sales. Moreover, none of them can find one that can satisfy them on the market. Every freight forwarder needs a system to key-in all the shipment-related data, generate all kinds of documents, issue invoices, and so on. However, the system users still use file folders to manage their tasks, print out documents to put in the file folders, use excel to generate different reports, use email to send the documents.
GoFreight is designed to solve the three basic problems:
Since all the data are input in the system, it should be able to do all of the above management tasks for the users. I came from the semiconductor industry, where these are the most basic requirements for a management system like this, such as to-do lists, reminders, alerts, approvals, and error detecting, which could easily save much time and money for them.
Most freight forwarding systems on the market were designed more than 15 years ago. The old programming language, coding structure, and on-premise service lead to bad performance, lack of API connectivity, and data analytic/ visualization. Moreover, web SaaS has been covering every industry and specific domain, such as CRM, B.I., communication, marketing, and etc. It will be crucial if a software can be connected to those SaaS via APIs in the near future.
With a good UI/UX/workflow design, the efficiency can boost more than three times compared with most existing solutions. Jobs like data entry, management, accounting, sales, and all kinds of reporting functions also need better designs. In the end, workflow automation needs step by step revolutions. It will take many many years to let machines replace time-consuming tasks. Before that, it needs a practical way to design a semi-auto workflow, which can save users’ time.
“It’s always the most important to define the correct business model and find the product-market-fit based on it”
With the concept of Digital Forwarder coming out, traditional freight forwarders are aware of what they are missing from a software solution. Beyond the three mentioned problems, we are now trying to solve some problems that are much more important, especially for large-size forwarders.
Nowadays for freight forwarders, it doesn’t matter how good your product or service is, what customers are most likely going to remember is the experience they have with your company. UX standard has risen since the personal end-users can easily access to services like Uber and Airbnb, and it shifts to the business service side with no time. When you order a $25 book from Amazon, you would know exactly the delivery status and ETA. A large importer, freight forwarder’s customer, can pay $1M a month to its freight forwarders without a well-designed mobile app or website for the cargo visibility, booking workflow, real-time delay alert, and analytics, even until now.
The journey of company
At first, our office was just a meeting room sublet from a small company. Now we already have a team with 25 awesome folks and is expected to expand to 50+ people next year. I remember when we estimated the production schedule of the first version of GoFreight, one year with only two software engineers was our original plan. However, it ended up took us almost two years with four engineers, and we are still working on this product after five years with many more people. Building up a great software for large-size global freight forwarders is surely a very difficult job. This is exactly why we are expanding now, to complete this task within two years, so that GoFreight can be happily used by heavy-weight international freight forwarders very soon.
What has been changed in the forwarding industry in the past five years is ten times more than the last two decades. Because of the backgrounds of Bruce and me, hiring the most talented and passionate people has been our philosophy and advantage since day one. Not just software engineers, every character in the product team, including product manager, UI/UX designer, and Q.A. engineer, is equally important in order to build up a great solution for our customers, and their customers. Our joy comes from collaborating with our customers, studying the real problems behind problems, and bringing out solutions that make them “Wow”.
Advice to budding entrepreneurs
It’s always the most important to define the correct business model and find the product-market-fit based on it. I spent most time on thinking about how to solve existing problems for our customers by becoming one of the freight forwarding software users. I studied deeply not only for freight forwarding operations, but also freight forwarding sales, accounting, pricing, rates, and businesses. Eventually, I can think like an owner or G.M. of a small freight forwarder to a large-size one.
Now we always think about how to delight our customers in the ways that they can’t even imagine. This will require very deep domain knowledge, creativity, and technology. Artificial intelligence, blockchain, IoT, and big data will be the game-changing factors for the next decades. I’m very excited to apply all the advanced technologies into GoFreight. There are still many problems that need to be solved in the industry. The most important thing is to find a practical way to solve the existing problems, and we already know how to do it.
Jeff Bezos said, “Stubborn on vision and flexible on details,” and Steve Jobs said, “Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish.” In my opinion, vision is how you see this world in the future, and execution is how you get there. Never stop learning to acquire knowledge, improve how we process the information, be more efficient, and eventually, make better decisions. Repeating these steps will help us find the vision and execute better to achieve the goal.