startups

#28: Brad Hollister CEO of SwanLeap

Brad Hollister, CEO of SwanLeap

Brad Hollister CEO of SwanLeap

I am excited to have with us today Brad Hollister, CEO of SwanLeap.
SwanLeap is the No. 1 company on the 2018 Inc. 5000 fastest growing private companies in US. Its revenue has jumped from $110,000 in 2013 to $100 million in 2017. This year they are likely to break the $500 million mark – Which makes it among the fastest growing start ups in the world!
Through their rapidly deployed, custom implementation of NextGen TMS (transportation managemente system) and auditing services, SwanLeap is using AI and machine learning to automate many of the manual roles in a company’s supply chain. And in this way providing supply chain managers, decision-makers and entire companies with comprehensive, actionable insights into supply chain logistics and costs by generating significant savings. Headquartered in Madison, Wisconsin, SwanLeap brings unprecedented clarity and control to a fragmented shipping market through a proprietary machine learning platform that curates cost-effective and personalized supply chain recommendations in real time across all transportation modes to improve connections between sender, receiver and carrier.

A few words about Brad, he is the Chief Executive Officer of SwanLeap and under his leadership, SwanLeap delivered an unprecedented 75,660.8% growth in revenue in the past three years.
A life-long entrepreneur passionate about improving the world, Brad is the visionary behind SwanLeap’s next generation technology. With extensive experience in transportation, logistics and supply chain, his leadership and institutional expertise solidify SwanLeap’s position as the leading provider of end-to-end transportation technology. Brad is a guest lecturer for the Wisconsin School of Business at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, as well as a sought-after speaker on the advancement and disruption of the transportation industry. He is also a proud alumnus of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.

Some of the highlights from the podcast:

  • How did they achieve a 75,660% growth in the past 3 years?
  • Why do executives need to be involved from beginning to end in the process of improving visibility and cost optimization?
  • Talking about complacency and fear – Why some industry practitioners  don’t like the idea of saving 20 to 40% on cost with a solution like SwanLeap?
  • How do you protect data confidentiality all the way through for your clients?

Episode #28: Brad Hollister CEO of SwanLeap

Show notes:

  • [02:34] But before we talk about SwanLeap, let’s talk a bit about the start up you had before that. You sunk 200k USD of your own money, landed a big client – but then you decided to shift gears and start SwanLeap. Tell us more about that story.
  • [06:22] How was Swanleap started, what is its story and where is it today? As we know you were working on another start up (Freight Access) and you invested your retirement fund.
  • [11:44] The use of this new technology is allowing SwanLeap to deliver an annual average transportation savings of 26.7% to its customers. Tell us more about how this works – it seems with this kind  of numbers you don’t need sales people.
  • [18:43] What are actually the main stumbling blocks why this type of TMS is not implemented yet worldwide? Why aren’t there more companies that implement this kind of approach to cost saving?
  • [21:30] Talking about AI and data. Do your clients have the data you need to plug it in your systems and help them?
  • [24:00] Who are your main targeted customers? Are there certain criteria you use for your customers or stakeholders?
  • [31:15] How do you stand out of the competition? What makes SwanLeap unique?
  • [36:03] SwanLeap has shown an unprecedented 75,660.8% revenue growth over the past three years. What were the main attributes that contributed to this astonishing growth?
  • [42:41] How do you plan to sustain this pace of growth? Do you have plans to expand to Asia or Europe?
  • [44:40] How do you protect data confidentiality all the way through? You said somewhere: “We follow a set of core rules: We represent our capabilities honestly. We protect confidentiality of client information. We do not misrepresent our purposes in seeking information. We only make promises we can keep. We consider our actions carefully, asking whether we can defend them openly today and in the future.”
  • [48:29] What are some of the key attributes you look for in the leadership team?
  • [51:41] I know you are growing at an astonishing rate. How does your team cope with this pace of growth?
  • [56:35] Looking back at the Swanleap story so far, what are the things that make you most proud of?

Listen to all our past episodes:

AI taking over Supply Chains. Are you ready?

AI and Supply Chain

I had a very interesting talk recently with Paul Bradley, CEO of Caprica International. One of the industry leaders best connected with latest technology start-ups. One of the most interesting topics? AI! It made me realize that change is happening faster than most of us anticipate and AI is a big part of it. Listen to the podcast here.

Moving things forward – “Every aspect of learning or any other feature of intelligence can in principle be so precisely described that a machine can be made to simulate it. These were the words used in 1955 to launch the very first research project that coined the term ‘artificial intelligence.

Surveys

In a recent survey of Accenture’s clients, 70% of executives said they are increasing investments in AI compared with two years ago. One of the most obvious places to start is the supply chain, where we could see full automation.

In Gartner’s recent ‘Predicts 2016: Reimagine SCP Capabilities to Survive,’ the research firm revealed that their recent survey had found supply chain organizations expected the level of machine automation in their supply chain processes to double in the next five years

AI projects in Supply Chain and Logistics

Great examples of innovative projects based on artificial intelligence in supply chain:

  • IBM has super machine learning capabilities because of Watson. IBM has recently launched Watson Supply Chain aimed at creating supply chain visibility. Gaining supply risk insights. The system uses cognitive technology to track and predict supply chain disruptions. How you ask? By gathering and correlating external data from disparate sources. For example social media, newsfeeds, weather forecasts and historical data.
  • ToolsGroup’s supply chain optimization software has strong footing in machine-learning technology. One area of application is new product introduction. The software begins with creating a baseline forecast for the new product. The algorithm learns from early sell-in and sell-out demand signals. It layers this output to determine more accurate demand behavior. In turn, this feeds through to optimized inventory levels and replenishment plans.
  • TransVoyant is able to collect and analyze one trillion events each day. They use machine learning. With data from sensors, satellites, radar, video cameras and smartphones. In logistics applications, its algorithm tracks the real-time movement of shipments. It calculates their estimated time of arrival. It factors in the impact of weather conditions, port congestion and natural disasters. Not bad for a smart algorithm.
  • Sentient uses machine learning to deliver purchasing recommendations to e-commerce shoppers. They use image recognition. Rather than only using text searches and attributes like color or brand. The software find visual correlations with the items that the shopper is currently browsing. It does it through visual pattern matching. Visual data to the next level.
  • Rethink Robotics’ collaborative robots use artificial intelligent software. It allows the robot to perceive the environment around it. With this data it behaves in a way that’s safe, smart and collaborative for humans working alongside production lines. Robots will be very handy assistants.

The big players are already working hard on it

The major tech giants, particularly Google, have made it a major priority. They are already creating and developing such vehicles with a low accident rate. The market for self-driving cars and trucks is expected to grow to more than 10m vehicles by 2020. Representing an annual growth rate of 134%. It’s a matter of time before we see them on main roads.

In factories, Siemens is one company that is already using AI and automation . Their lights-out factory has automated some of its production lines. They can run without supervision for weeks at a time. This could work alongside autonomous vehicles to enable manufacturing. The goods can be transported to another AI-run factory. No need for human involvement whatsoever.

Danone, is already using analytics with machine learning capabilities. They use it to analyze their demand planning. Which resulted in a rapid 20% reduction in forecast error and a 30% reduction in lost sales.

Conclusions

Consider these stats from the 2017 MHI Industry report. The speed of supply-chain transactions from one e-tailer on Black Friday:

“A reported 426 orders per second were generated from the website throughout the day. That equates to over 36 million order transactions, an estimated 250 million picking lines at the distribution centers (DC), 40 million DC package loading scans, 40 million inbound sortation hub scans, 40 million outbound sortation hub scans, 40 million inbound regional sortation facility scans and 40 million outbound delivery truck scans.”

How should industry leaders respond? The answer is clear. Supply-chain companies must embed “analysis, data, and reasoning into the decision-making process. Position analytics as a core capability across the entire organization. Strategic planners through line workers, providing insight at the point of action.”

Want to stay updates with latest developments in our industry? Our Podcast is out! Stay tuned here – Leaders in Supply Chain and Logistics:

Some of my other articles (would appreciate your feedback):

About me:

I have been working in consulting and executive search roles for the last decade. My focus: helping clients get better results. And building strong teams in the process.

A fervent believer that people are the key in any business, I enjoy challenging assignments most. The ones that involve using a multitude of channels and tools to find the right senior executive to take our clients business to the next level.

I have lived and worked in several countries across the world. Being exposed to different countries and business realities has helped me mature into a rounded international business manager. And luckily over the years I have had the chance to work with and build great teams.

My focus is on end to end Supply Chain Executive Search: C-level, Vice President, General Management, Supply Chain leadership, Logistics leadership, Procurement leadership, Operations, Regional/Global Project Management appointments.

Always happy to connect on Linkedin for future interactions!

Morgan Philips Executive Search is the headhunting firm – 21st century version. We have created an extremely innovative digital model enabling you to recruit your talent better, quicker and more effective.

The fight for talent – Logistics Start-ups vs Established MNCs

This article was firsts published on my Linkedin Profile – here.

Rise of Logistics Start ups

In today’s tech-enabled world, just about anything can be ordered anywhere in the world from a smartphone. However, traditional supply chain and logistics services are yet to catch up. A shipment across continents requires multiple layers of providers, takes days and is often complicated to manage. This has provided a golden opportunity to a variety of startups, in Asia and worldwide, that have emerged to tackle the shortcomings. From intra-city delivery, to on-demand storage and innovative web-based tools and platforms, startups are now catering to varied logistics needs for all kinds of businesses.

One of the most experienced companies in growing ecommerce startups – Rocket Internet – has focused a lot on growing their Lazada and Zalora ecommerce brands. And just this week, Alibaba announced it agreed to buy a US$1 billion controlling stake in Lazada. Moreover, this investment, together with US$250 million into SingPost, Singapore’s national postal service, means Alibaba is trying to get their foot in the door into South East Asia ecommerce market.

Further looking at the start-up battleground we have a few remarkable players. Thailand’s aCommerce, has had an impressive growth. With offices and distribution centres in Thailand, Indonesia, and the Philippines and over 140 enterprise clients and 300 percent growth, things are looking up for them. The start-up is providing end-to-end services with focus on ecommerce clients. They have raised over US$20 million in funding and arranging an offline-to-online shift after an investment and partnership deal with DKSH, a major Swiss company.

Another example of a fast growing start-up, Singapore-based online grocery company RedMart is close to raising a massive $100 million Series C round. Their plan is to expand their service across Asia. They already secured over $50 million from investors like Garena, SoftBank Ventures Korea, Visionnaire Ventures, and Facebook co­-founder Eduardo Saverin.

Big players in e-commerce are also busy with expanding their footprint. Infrastructure developments in the region is happening on the border of Hong Kong and China. Over 2 million square feet of e-commerce warehousing are being constructed, that nearly triples e-commerce logistics capacity in Hong Kong since 2014. TaoBao, JD.com and others are driving the expansion as they continue to enable China’s consumer desire for genuine products and foreign-made brands in South China.

But it’s not just about ecommerce. There is a lot of excitement around the future for on-demand platforms like Uber or Grab. Uber CEO Travis Kalanick announced the company will eye logistics as its next frontier “We’re in the business, today, of delivering cars in five minutes. But once you’re delivering cars in five minutes, there’s a lot of things you can deliver in five minutes.”

So “Uber for logistics” is well on the way. In Asia, however, where the logistics industry remains less sophisticated than that of the US or western Europe, this wave is already happening. Companies offering logistics-on-demand face growing demand by the day . It’s more important to get things done than have a great plan. By doing without fancy black cars in favor of white vans and trucks, Lalamove, Ninja Van and Gogovan have beaten Uber.

Funding for Logistics Startups in Southeast Asia has been on the rise

Who will get the best talent: Startups or Established supply chain organisations?

With the startup wave rising, the logistics industry is witnessing employee movement, especially in mid- to senior-level, from established 3PLs or Supply chain organisations to new age ventures. Employees are moving to startups mainly because of the exciting work culture, sometimes even substantial pay rise and significantly larger roles. All of the above can be clearly attributed to “meaningful aspirations” employees have today from their work and workplaces. Startups are also wooing employees with stock options. This allows them to engage employees for a long term. Candidates view this as an attractive opportunity with the potential of cashing-in when a company is bought over or announces its IPO.

Additionally, established start-ups are easily able to attract talent thanks to their appealing employer brand. Top young candidates would be reluctant to go join an established 3PL or supply chain organization because of its perceived conservative culture. However, the same candidates would probably jump at the opportunity to work at Uber, Amazon, Grab or why not Red Mart.

Working as a senior executive in a MNC means making a high salary, maybe driving a sports car, using a corporate card and other perks. So why would anyone give that up to take a pay cut, network with programmers and give up the fancy corner office for a desk at a coworking space?

The answer is – to change the world!

A 2011 report commissioned by the Career Advisory Board and conducted by Harris Interactive, found that the No. 1 factor that young adults ages 21 to 31 wanted in a successful career was a sense of meaning. The Google Careers homepage sums it up in their simple yet bold headline: “Do cool things that matter.”

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As a great example, RedMart, managed to hire ex-eBay marketing director Todd Kurie last year. Take Lazada and Zalora’s management teams, who are made up almost exclusively of finance professionals, ex McKinsey and other high flying individuals who are leaving their corporate careers behind for the technology industry.

This has been the trend at Rocket Internet’s companies, as portrayed by an ex employee: “Everyone was coming from a banking or consulting background. Rocket Internet CEO asked himself where he could find the biggest overachievers. He knew that type came from Goldman, McKinsey and other consultant firms. They had the pedigree that made it easier for him to raise money – every investor respected these employees because they had the same background.”

So should established 3PLs and Supply Chain organisations be concerned?

Yes! Absolutely!

Given that top-tier people with such a broad profile are hard to find. A recent survey of 400 executives of multinational companies by Deloitte found that 71% have difficulty recruiting senior leadership for their companies’ supply chains; 74% said they would need strategic thinking and problem-solving skills in their supply chain managers, but less than half said their companies are good at it now.

Companies that don’t invest in hiring or cultivating talent now will suffer greatly 3 years down the road. This coupled with the fact that the top young graduates will continue to prefer joining a Uber or Amazon rather than a brand perceived as traditional, will spark serious trouble for a lot of companies.

As I have written before, the investment needs to be done in employer branding and building a talent pipeline. But even beyond this two points, established organisations need to walk the talk!

And their senior management needs to move beyond hierarchical and usually slow decision making and to much faster ability to respond to market conditions. And give these high flyer and overachiever profiles enough scope to make an impact. Fast!

Moreover, companies should consider injecting new blood from outside the traditional industry into their executive teams, to be catalysts for these changes. Because at the moment, the picture is not very rosy. And most established organisations failing to adapt fast enough. And this is something we are hearing again and again from our C-level candidates themselves!

Innovation is the key!

For example, an obvious question, looking at the 3PL organisations: why is there none of them implementing their own GoGoVan or UBER? When these startups were small, they could have even been an acquisition target. Though time is not lost, with more start-ups coming and growing aggressively. However courage and ability to take tough decisions is required.

And don’t get me wrong, there are some companies which can be shared as positive examples. XPO is probably one of the more aggressive and progressive out there, having allocated $400 million annual investment in technology worldwide to drive innovation.

Also, take DHL, they were the first and fastest to create the ecommerce business in response to market conditions. And subsequently, SingPost and their logistics arm, Quantium Solutions, actually built on DHL strategy, attracting their top senior management and then establishing themselves as key players in ecommerce themselves. Not to mention they also were quick to name at that point in time two key partners of McKinsey, Wolfgang Baier and Sascha Hower, as CEO respectively COO, to drive the change.

Conclusions

The market today is more dynamic and moves faster than anything we have seen ever before. Supply chain and logistics are obvious catalysts for productivity and cost improvement and are prone target of these fast changes.

Hence, in order to stay relevant and keep attracting top talent, the key questions senior executives of established organisations should ask themselves are:

  • How can we speed up our decision making process?
  • How can we attract and give freedom to take decisions to our top talent?
  • How can we leverage our top performers to to reinvent our business?

Established organisations need to pay attention to the fast pace of change that happens in the industry – from start-ups to new technology. And try to keep up! The more nimble you are, the faster you will adapt.

References:

Always happy to connect on Linkedin for future interactions!

Future of Recruitment in the Logistics Industry in 2016

This article was firsts published on my Linkedin Profile – here.

What is the future of Logistics in Asia? Is the industry slowing down or is there still room to grow? What type of skillsets are in high demand? And what new focus areas does HR need to address to attract the right talent?
With a network of 5 offices covering Asia Pacific, our team at Morgan Philips asked some of the industry experts and leaders for their feedback. These interactions combined with in-depth market research have allowed us to draw 5 trends that will shape recruitment in the industry in 2016.

#1. Consolidation impacts the job market


In the 3PL world, the last 12 months have brought about significant acquisitions. FedEx bought over TNT, Japan Post purchased Toll, DSV took over UTI, XPO acquired Con-way logistics. And the list is expected to continue over the next months and years. In the process, a number of top executives from the acquired company have left or are expected to leave, having sometimes a ripple effect in the management pool.

Moreover, some of the bigger supply chain regional organizations are increasingly looking into adding more contractual staff instead of full time employees. And moving some of the resources from regional HQs like Singapore or Hong Kong closer to the manufacturing hubs, mostly in countries like Thailand, China or increasingly Vietnam. Especially for consumer, electronics, hi-tech and even healthcare sectors.

As a result of these movements, the job market will see a pool of highly qualified and competent candidates become available. And facing the to find a suitable role that can fit their credentials in the same geographical area.

#2. Localization of the workforce

Localization will continue to be a focus throughout 2016 and organizations are trying as much as possible to find local residents to fill key positions. More and more expat contracts have been reduced in an attempt by companies to cut their costs and balance internal equity.

In Singapore for example, as the Ministry of Manpower has taken steps to restrict foreigners, employers find it harder to take on new staff from overseas and an increasing number of visa renewals are being turned down.

Even in emerging economies like Thailand, Vietnam, Philippines or Indonesia the first priority is to find local talent that can drive the business growth. Even if that means looking for them outside of the Asian continent.

In this context, Morgan Philips has been approached by 3 companies in the last 6 months to scout for local talents working in US and Europe to return home. And fill the skills gap in the job market.

#3. New technologies, specific skill sets and talent gap

Disruptive technologies such as 3D printing, advanced robotics, big data analytics, the Internet of Things (IOT) and supply chain operating networks are revolutionizing the way organizations run their supply chain. Deloitte forecasted that by 2020, 70% of companies will use advances such as predictive analytics and wearable technology in their supply chains. This shift will have a profound impact on the roles and skill sets required in the future. Companies will need candidates who bring a holistic understanding of business, IT systems and analytics to effectively integrate the emerging technologies and add value to their supply chain.

Moreover, economic developments across Asia have seen a lot of development in contract logistics and consolidated distribution centers. Let’s just look at Singapore where modern warehouses have mushroomed in the last years. DB Schenker, DHL, Kuehne Nagel, SDV, Toll, YCH, are only a few of the companies who have already built or are building mega hubs. All these facilities come with a higher and higher degree of automation. Which means highly critical skills demanded in the market are automation and industrial talent, as well as solution design experts.

Healthcare logistics skills are also quickly getting in high demand too. Especially in cold chain development, the lack of talent is wide. And this spreads across the region, in countries with a history of healthcare, like Korea, Japan, Singapore, but also emerging countries like Thailand or China.

#4. Focus on employer branding

The supply chain and logistics profession is confronted with an image that’s sometimes less than ideal. Work in warehouses, on ships or in trucks and trains tends to be associated with unpleasant working conditions and a less than attractive career path.

In 2016 and years to come, HR leaders will have to look at implementing new initiatives to make their organizations’ brand known in the market. And find attractive ways to capture the interest of the industry’s most talented individuals. Whilst usually the correlation to the business is hard to count in dollars and cents, more and more, a powerful employer brand will be crucial to attracting the best people to develop the business.

#5. Build a talent pipeline

In China, where the sector is developing fast, today there are 284 universities offering logistics management. 58 of them launched logistics labs where students get to know the advancing state of technology in logistics, such as: forklifts, high-rack stackers, high-bay racks, pick by light or pick by voice or RFID.

A couple of year ago, DHL and The Logistics Institute – Asia Pacific of the National University of Singapore (NUS) established the S$3 million Sustainable Supply Chain Centre of Asia Pacific (SSCCAP). It is the region’s first best-practice hub and intellectual property engine to drive sustainable supply chain development in the Asia Pacific region.

Companies like Apple, Heineken and Infineon have very strong internship programs designed to engage the young talent early and identify the next supply chain leaders.

This is key to building a healthy talent pipeline needed to sustain the growth most companies are experiencing in Asia.

Conclusion

We expect 2016 to bring about interesting market dynamics.
Companies have to learn to adapt faster to market changes, embrace technology to stay relevant and invest long term in their brand to stand out to ever more demanding candidates.

Candidates need to be prepared to face the reality that the supply chain world is in a phase of consolidation, be flexible to embrace new technologies and ready to shift gears. And if necessary countries.

The world is spinning faster than ten years ago. He, who adjusts his future competences to this reality, will also have most to gain.

What are thoughts be on the topic? Would welcome your feedback and opinions in the comments below.

Always happy to connect on Linkedin for future interactions!