Each year in the United States, nearly 20 billion tons of freight moves across the country on rail, through pipelines, across waterways, by air and over roads.
Trucks carry the overwhelming majority of that freight, nearly 12 billion tons of it. And yet, with millions of trucks coursing through the nation’s highways and byways, many travel empty en route to home bases or between loads.
A Tucson startup is looking to end that inefficiency and with some luck, make a profit in the process.
“We describe ourselves as a matchmaker,” said Jarret Hamstreet, chief operations officer for Post.Bid.Ship.
As matchmaker, Hamstreet said the company brings together shippers with empty trucks and people with freight that needs hauling.
Shippers create accounts on the Post.Bid.Ship. website where they post their needs to have a freight load hauled. Carriers also create accounts where they can review the posted freight loads and bid on those they can haul.
Once the company selects the shipper, usually based on the most competitive bid, the two parties agree to a contract.
“Right now we have 2,000 users,” Hamstreet said of the Post.Bid.Ship. subscription-based service.
Hamstreet and business partner Micky Thompson started the company in 2010 after both graduated from the University of Arizona’s McGuire Center for Entrepreneurship, where they were graduate students.
It was at the University of Arizona where they refined the concept that became Post.Bid.Ship.
Hamstreet grew up in a family that owned a trucking company in Oregon.
Thompson had been something of a serial entrepreneur, having started and sold numerous tech-based startups.
Not only did their idea Post.Bid.Ship. win them the Maguire Center’s “best new venture” award for 2010, it attracted interest among some influential people.
“We both had job offers from out of state,” Hamstreet said.
They both intended to accept the offers, he said, until they had an interesting request.
Paul Portney, a UA economist who at the time was dean of the Eller College of Business Administration, called Thompson and Hamstreet into his office. He asked them what it would take to get them to stay in Tucson and try to give their idea a go.
“I want to see Tucson do well,” Portney said. “For that to happen, we have to do a better job at capitalizing on the bright people who come here to study.”
Tucson has suffered from brain drain. In other words, students come to the UA, earn degrees and then leave after graduation, taking with them the knowledge and skills they’ve acquired.
Portney said he saw the opposite phenomenon occur when he taught at the University of California, Berkeley, where many of the most qualified students would turn down opportunities because they preferred to stay in the San Francisco Bay Area.
“It would be great for Tucson to have two guys like Jarret and Mickey stick around here,” Portney said. Portney was so eager to get them to stay, he invested the first $30,000 to get the company started.
Other investors have followed, including the Desert Angels group of venture capitalists; David Smallhouse, managing partner in Miramar Ventures; and Harry George, managing general partner of Solstice Capital, who even offered to provide office space for Post.Bid.Ship. in his office suite.
“We were definitely open to staying in Tucson,” Hamstreet said.
After more than nine months developing the software and website and also travelling to trucking industry trade shows across the U.S., Post.Bid.Ship got its first subscribers in early 2011.
One of them was Shamrock Foods, a Phoenix-based company that is the nation’s seventh-largest food distributor delivering to customers in 10 states. Its primary objective is delivering food products to restaurants. Trucks get filled, deliveries are made and then return — empty — to warehouses.
Hamstreet said Shamrock, and others, see the time driving empty trucks as inefficient, particularly at a time when all companies are looking for new revenue sources, not to mention the cost of fuel these days.
Now Shamrock has signed on to Post.Bid.Ship. as a way to pick up loads for return trips.
“It’s a huge market,” Hamstreet said. “There’s over 1.2 million trucking companies in the U.S. alone.”
Nearly all of those, Thompson notes, are small, mom-and-pop operations with just a few trucks.
“Basically, this is helping to drive efficiency,” Thompson said.
Today, Post.Bid.Ship. has 12 full-time employees in Tucson and Portland, Ore.
The company has a network of trucks totalling nearly 200,000 and serves most of North America, including Canada.
“There’s a huge market in front of us,” Thompson said. “We don’t want to revolutionize the industry, we want to evolutionize the industry.”
Next Generation is a monthly feature of Inside Tucson Business profiling Southern Arizonans on the cutting edge of developing their ideas. If you’ve got an idea or someone you think should be profiled, contact reporter Patrick McNamara at firstname.lastname@example.org or (520) 295-4259.