Lynn Fosse, Senior Editor of CEOCFO Magazine interviewed our COO and Co-Founder, Matt Tabatabai, about ZUUM Transportation and the future of logistics.
CEOCFO: Mr. Tabatabai, what is the concept behind ZUUM Transportation?
Mr. Tabatabai: The number-one problem that exists in logistics today is fragmentation. Until now, there was no solution in the market that truly centralizes and defragments the industry to deliver efficiencies of scale. There are a lot of unitary solutions and transportation is still a very antiquated industry. This is why we developed ZUUM – the first comprehensive logistics-super-platform (LSP) that delivers efficiency and value – by integrating a shipper transportation management system, broker software, carrier TMS, and mobile driver app with a digital freight marketplace.
In 2016, we started as a digital freight marketplace, automating the back-office steps between shippers and carriers. By doing so we brought efficiency to the market, while simultaneously building trust by disclosing our commission to carriers.
One of our key differentiators is that our executives and team come from the logistics industry. We are not a typical Silicon Valley tech company that doesn’t understand all the complexities of freight. Our CEO, Mustafa Azizi, came from the brokerage and carrier world. He was on the broker side for many years, and also on the carrier/trucking side with our former Chairman who owned 60 trucks.
CEOCFO: Has the industry been looking for a better way or is it more that when they find ZUUM they are going to be happy?
Mr. Tabatabai: I think the industry has been looking for a flexible and modular solution tailored to their business needs. As I said before, the problem is that there are many unitary legacy solutions, so the industry has been looking for technology that is more agile which brings unity and collaboration to the industry. There are many different moving pieces and challenges in freight and trying to solve them requires a very comprehensive solution. That is why we built a flexible framework interconnecting shippers, brokers, and carriers on one platform.
CEOCFO: Where was the challenge technologically in bringing all of this together; were there one or two areas that stood out or is it more that you and your team know what you were doing so you understood the challenges?
Mr. Tabatabai: I think it is the latter. The complexity and nature of our business requires experts from the industry that have a real understanding of transportation. Timing is important too. Because of how antiquated the industry was, a revolution started to happen in logistics during the last recession. This revolution basically created some of the legacy solutions we see today solving tracking, dispatching, load matching etc.
ZUUM is the first company to bring all solutions together on one Logistics Super Platform, in turn creating a unified platform with synergy between all three parties without eliminating American Jobs, while enhancing users’ experiences, and bringing efficiencies to the marketplace.
Digital freight marketplaces that came about recently are all trying to remove the broker. ZUUM on the other hand has built a broker-in-a-box solution, which is designed to help freight brokers optimize their operations – brokers that used to feel threatened by technology. The solution helps traditional freight brokers by digitizing and automating their business. Replacing time-consuming manual check-calls, back-office tasks, and time-consuming customer updates with automated notifications that maximize productivity and free up time.
CEOCFO: How do the different parties use the ZUUM technology?
Mr. Tabatabai: The shippers are using our shipper TMS to find capacity, access instant freight quotes and gain real-time load visibility. Through our broker-in-a-box solution, the brokers get access to software that helps them manage their shippers and carriers in a digital way. They onboard carriers fast and access their carrier network and automate everything form tracking, dispatching, load matching, document management, assessorials, and billing hence managing the full lifecycle of the freight digitally. This in turn provides management automation and salesforce optimization.
Carriers are getting low margins and are having a hard time finding shippers to deliver for, because a lot of them are smaller Mom & Pop shops. With ZUUM, they are able to use our freight marketplace and software for free. We give carriers a free transportation management software that helps them manage their fleets. ZUUM offers track and trace and optimizes their routes, including long-hauls and profitable back-hauls. The synergy we create between shippers, brokers and carriers is also creating a better planet. We are ultimately helping the environment with lower CO2 emissions by bringing efficiency to the logistics industry.
CEOCFO: Where does the quality of the carrier come in?
Mr. Tabatabai: We pride ourselves on delivering the highest service levels in the industry because of the way our technology works and qualifies carriers. We have stringent procedures when onboarding carriers through our automated platform. We have a multi-pronged approach in our system, where we look at their DOT and FMCSA and all the different systems that check their service level, safety performance, maintenance, how long they have been in business, etc. Furthermore, we have a proprietary internal scorecard system that helps provide improvement plans to carriers. We even go beyond that by bringing value to the carriers by rating the shippers, the shipping yards, and the receivers which is done by the carrier so it is two-sided and both parties are heard and work together on improvements. The truckers and carriers know the rating of the shipper, how they pay, how they are at the receiver side in terms of basically taking in the freight with no delays. The combination of what I described is why we have 99.98% service levels with some really big enterprise customers.
CEOCFO: How do you reach out to the various stakeholders to encourage participation?
Mr. Tabatabai: We have been implementing growth strategies to create a network effect. Ultimately, the most important thing is how much value you are bringing to the various stakeholders. This translates into a better inbound experience compared to outbound. Our excellent service, comprehensive solutions, and advanced products have given us a viral effect where we have been referred to new customers by some of the best in the industry. These industry leaders eventually became our investors, customers and partners. That is another key differentiation. We have created very strategic partnerships with some of the biggest players in the industry. The largest fleet company, one of the biggest brokers in the US and some of the biggest shippers – they all have invested in our company and are using our software.
CEOCFO: What has changed in your approach over time? What have you learned?
Mr. Tabatabai: When you are building a startup, you are constantly learning. However, it’s important to learn in a very agile and efficient way and to avoid too many roadblocks along the way. In the beginning we spent a lot of time learning about the true wants and needs of our different customer groups through qualitative and quantitative research. Through detailed workflow mapping and analysis, we learned that it is not just about customers they tell you; it is also about understanding and reading in between the lines to deliver what they really need. When you know that, you can adjust your strategy to acquire customers much quicker.
“ZUUM – the first comprehensive logistics-super-platform (LSP) – delivers efficiency and instant value by integrating a shipper transportation management system, broker software, carrier TMS, and mobile driver app with a digital freight marketplace.” – Matt Tabatabai
CEOCFO: How is business?
Mr. Tabatabai: Business has been excellent. We have been in a hyper growth mode for a few years now, quadrupling, 3Xing, 2Xing year-by-year and this year is no exception. The industry has faced a lot of challenges during COVID. However, ZUUM has actually been growing because of the needs and the acceleration of changes that have been created because of the pandemic.
CEOCFO: Would you tell us about your recent funding?
Mr. Tabatabai: To further accelerate growth and enable industry adoption, we have raised several rounds of funding from very strategic partners in the industry – as well as some venture capital investors. We raised the funds at a very difficult time, which confirms the belief of the industry leaders in the urgent need for unifying the industry on one platform. Our goal at this point is to scale our business as quickly as we can. A lot of the funding is going into sales and marketing to accelerate industry adoption – in turn creating value for more companies today. Being one of the most innovative and comprehensive solutions out there – and the first logistics super platform – we are going to continue to further develop functionalities for our product driven by real needs – and expand our strong partnerships. We have already integrated seven functional platforms into ZUUM, and we are going to continue to identify what the market needs and bring it to the market fast.
CEOCFO: What might you offer that your customers do not recognize as important?
Mr. Tabatabai: The movement of freight and goods is a $1.2 trillion market in the US and $8 trillion globally. Some of the solutions we are building are ahead of the game. However, our adoption rate has been positive because we are showing our customers something they have never seen before. It is just about getting the opportunity to show them that it is the real deal.
CEOCFO: What is involved in an implementation?
Mr. Tabatabai: The one thing we did is make our solution a robo-cop model. We do not believe in the philosophy of just automating and walking away. Our differentiation has always been that we believe in the robo-cop idea. The solution is always going to be controlled by the human element to make sure that everything is done above and beyond reproach, even in the early stages of AI development.
In terms of implementation, each of the carriers is different. Their adoption of an application of our software that they use that tracks them, that they have to download, was like something that was a hard thing for them, so how do you address that and make sure that they implement and actually adopt well? When you deliver software, it has to be super easy to use, it has to be user-friendly – similar to what Apple achieved with their solutions and cell phones. Today, ZUUM is easy to use and does not have a learning curve, or a big implementation process.
If you look at the other side, the enterprise solutions are more complicated so we are modular, almost like a tug boat that connects to their big ERP solutions or transportation management systems that they are not going to walk away from. That’s why we connect universally through both EDI and API. Our solution is modular and agile and we can supercharge our clients’ business operations for any implementation they need. Deployment is fast, secure, and does not interrupt operations, as we have the expertise to help out their IT departments to integrate those solutions.
CEOCFO: Why is ZUUM Transportation an important company?
Mr. Tabatabai: ZUUM Transportation is an important company because if you look at logistics today and where we are, especially in this new age of COVID, I think the world has changed. ZUUM is ultimately the piece of the company that is going to bring everybody together under one platform and it is going to create synergies that have never been seen before in the industry. We are bringing everybody together under one umbrella, while defragmenting the logistics industry, and delivering efficiencies to manufacturers, shippers, brokers, and carriers.