Turvo, a two-year-old, Sunnyvale, Ca.-based company, is emerging today with an idea so ambitious that investors have provided it with $25 million in Series A funding to chase it.
What it wants to do: connect people looking to have things shipped, which doesn’t sound so unlike what a lot of both traditional and newer companies want to do. Turvo is setting out to differentiate itself in a number of ways that may make it a compelling longer-term bet, however.
First, unlike companies like the freight-forwarding company Flexport or the on-demand trucking startup Transfix, which are other logistics plays with interesting businesses, Turvo isn’t looking to tackle just one part of the supply chain but rather to work across its entirety. The idea is for shippers, brokers, and carriers alike to work together in real time — using a software interface on their desktops and mobile phones that’s too simple and convenient to resist.
Toward that end, for example, it says its platform enables cross-company collaboration (think Slack, if Slack could enable employees to talk with employees of other companies about particular projects); real-time visibility (its mobile app tracks shipments from dispatch to delivery); and billing and payments (think digital invoices that can be shared instantly, and payments that can be scheduled).
Based in Sunnyvale and with offices in Hyderabad, India, the 50-person company is led by cofounder and CEO Eric Gilmore, who was previously VP of retail products Quotient (formerly Coupons.com) and earlier spent eight years at Microsoft, including as a product manager in Bing’s search business and as director of communications for then-CEO Steve Ballmer.
Though launching publicly today, Turvo is already working with a small number of companies with some reach, including Oberto Brands, a company that makes “all natural” beef jerky; Le Metier De Beaute, a high-end cosmetics company; the craft brewery Anchor Brewing; and the logistics provider Service First Logistics (SFL).
It hopes to grow quickly, in part because of its transactional business model. Customers pay a fee per shipment rather than a monthly fee, making it easy for shippers to invite other users into the business in a frictionless way.
Of course, it’s also entering into a crowded, fractured, and, in some ways, intractable market.
That’s what Gilmore likes about it, he suggests. “On the one hand, we compete with the SAPs and the Oracles and the traditional (transportation management software) companies, but they’re kind of part of the problem, too. Logistics and ERP data is the last thing to the cloud. If you build a native cloud platform and people trust it, then you can change the game.”
As for on-demand shipping or freight forwarding companies? “We partner with and we compete with them,” says Gilmore.
Turvo’s Series A funding was led by the private equity firm Activant Capital, with participation from its earliest investor Felicis Ventures, as well as Upside Partnership, Slow Ventures and individual investors who include Nest Labs cofounder Tony Fadell and Box CEO and cofounder Aaron Levie.
Worth noting: Felicis is also an investor in Flexport.