Freightwise is No. 2 on the Inc. 5000 for 2018. Amazing bootstrapping story.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s start at the very beginning of your journey. Where are you from? Where were you born, raised, and in what kind of background?
Richard Hoehn: I grew up in Switzerland. I did an apprenticeship as a machinist – the tool and die maker. After three years, I decided I wanted to go back to school and learn more about computers and technology.
At that time, there was an opening with a company where I did my apprenticeship in to go to the United States. This was in the mid-90’s. It was a dream job to come over here and work with equipment for manufacturing.
I came over here and went to university. I did a Bachelors in Computer Engineering. I did my graduate work in electronics and computer science. Later on, I went to business school and got an MBA.
Sramana Mitra: Where was that?
Richard Hoehn: I got my MBA from Vanderbilt University.
Sramana Mitra: What timeframe are we talking when you were finishing your MBA?
Richard Hoehn: I finished my MBA in 2009.
Sramana Mitra: What happens next?
Richard Hoehn: I met one of the founding partners during business school. We always said we wanted to start a business together; we just didn’t know what. We’re both pretty entrepreneurial-minded. We went our own ways in 2009 and stayed in touch. I did quite a few startups and worked for big companies.
One day, I was on an airplane from Nashville to Dallas. Chris was on the flight too. We started talking again about wanting to do something together. He had this idea of starting Freightwise – this new idea of how to manage freight and provide value to clients that needed a strong software platform. That’s how we kicked Freightwise off.
Sramana Mitra: What was the concept that you were kicking around when you decided to get into this?
Richard Hoehn: It was simple. The concept was that most of our competition was working on older platforms. They have been around a long time. We felt like our competitors were not trying to innovate. Right now, we have everything on the web with the SaaS model that makes it easy to use.
We said we need to leapfrog to a new way of working with these platforms. We realized that, over time, the younger people will be doing those jobs. They will be the managers of the future. We need to build the platform that a 20-year-old would feel comfortable using.
Sramana Mitra: So far, you’ve talked about architecture, delivery models, usage models. You haven’t really talked about functionality of what this platform enables the customers to do?
Richard Hoehn: In essence, our clients use our platform to make better shipping decisions. What our platform does very well is, if you tell us what you’re shipping, how big it is, how heavy it is, our platform tries to figure out what the best method is to ship this product. We have a very sophisticated rating engine that calculates different ways of going about transporting commodities from A to B. It’s not very sexy.
Sramana Mitra: We don’t care about sexy; we care about the fact that you solve a real problem with technology. That’s the essence of this platform.