This is a terrific case study of smart execution on a complex domain by an entrepreneurial team. Read on !
Sramana Mitra: Let’s go back to the very beginning of your journey. Where are you from? Where were you born and raised? What kind of background?
Matthew Elenjickal: I was born in the south of India in a state called Kerala. I did my undergrad in Chennai and then moved here to Chicago for grad school. I went to Northwestern and took Industrial Engineering and Management Science. It’s a two-year program.
Then I was hired by i2 Technologies, which is part of an enterprise software company called JDA. That’s my first job out of school. My first project was in the transportation space working for a large shipper.
From that point onwards, I got stuck in transportation projects and came to know about the industry very well and encountered the pain point that we’re solving using FourKites.
Sramana Mitra: When did you start FourKites?
Matthew Elenjickal: We started FourKites in late 2014. I quit my job in 2012. I went back to school for two years for an MBA. I graduated around June and launched FourKites right after that.
Sramana Mitra: What was the genesis of the idea? What did you think you were going to do with FourKites when you started?
Matthew Elenjickal: I was lucky because I was in the industry. I saw the pain point firsthand when I was working with my clients. My clients were the large shippers – P&G’s and Kraft’s of the world.
They’re shipping thousands and thousands of truck loads full of products every day. I don’t know how much you know about transportation, but it’s a pretty big industry in the US.
Sramana Mitra: I know a lot about transportation. My father ran a shipping company in India. So I know a ton about that.
Matthew Elenjickal: So that’s the backbone of the economy. Almost $800 billion is spent on just trucking every year just in the US. It’s a highly fragmented market. More than half a million trucking companies are out on the road.
When I was working for the large shippers, they’re shipping a lot of products every day. But once the products left their plant or warehouse, they had no idea what is happening.
Even today, if companies are not using Fourkites, you’re still picking up the phone and calling the trucking companies. You’re still waiting for an EDI or even a fax sometimes. It’s a very reactive environment because the technology hasn’t caught up in terms of real-time connectivity and communication. That’s what I saw as the pain point.
Everybody’s got a smartphone. You order something on Amazon. You know exactly what is happening. That’s the experience you are getting in the B2C space. But when it comes to B2B, the technology hasn’t caught up. It is still back by 100 years. That is the genesis or the inspiration behind launching FourKites.