Some of the best entrepreneurial stories are from company founders who started with an entirely different idea, then saw an opportunity to meet a market need they hadn’t initially anticipated.
For pop.capacity CEO and co-founder Matt Fain, the entrepreneurial journey was much like that. During a recent appearance on Dunvant’s podcast “The Bootstrapper’s Guide to Logistics,” Matt shared just what the experience was like sniffing out that opportunity and acting on it.
After starting a supply chain/logistics management 3PL in 2011, Matt opened an asset-based trucking company, primarily operating sprinters and box trucks for time critical freight across the country. He enjoyed managed logistics but was frustrated with the lack of communication and visibility which always led to disappointed customers. Starting an asset-based trucking company seemed to be a natural solution.
Around that time, a client asked him for help in procuring warehouse space.
“At first we didn’t want to take on that challenge,” Matt said. “We didn’t know that space.” But after doing a small amount of research he noticed an opportunity to improve the industry standard of “Googling it.”
When you Google, “Warehouse Space in Atlanta,” you don’t necessarily find a warehouse partner. Often you find a large 4PL or 3PL who has paid for the ad space. However, when you Google, “Vacation Rentals in Atlanta” you will find Airbnb and other digital marketplaces that offer all the information you need to make a good decision.
“That didn’t exist in the warehouse space so we were going to create it,” he said.
But it was hard work. Matt and his team had to personally contact hundreds of warehouses, asking them questions about their services and persuading them to fill out questionnaires that would facilitate their inclusion within the pop.capacity network.
And in response to a question from the podcast host, Matt explained that he decided to build the network of warehouses before signing up the shippers and carriers who would use them.
“It wasn’t very kind on our pocketbook,” he recalled. “We charge a minimal subscription. For 18 months we kept our heads down calling the very best suppliers in the market, pitching them that there is a better way.”
He offered an example of someone who is shipping hazardous materials and gets all the way through a warehouse tour before realizing the hazmat SKU makes for a non-fit with the warehouse.
“You just wasted your time,” Matt said. “We want to eliminate that.”
The hard work paid off, as pop.capacity built an extensive network of excellent warehouse providers – then set about signing up shippers and carriers who need access to such a marketplace. The success has also attracted prospective investors and even some parties interested in acquiring the company.
That is no surprise when you consider how many dollars are flowing into logistics startups. According to McKinsey & Co., investors poured $24.6 billion into logistics startups in 2021, more than doubling the amount of each of the previous two years.
But at least at this point, pop.capacity is not interested in receiving investment money or in being acquired.
“You start something with a goal to achieve and knowing that when you take in large sums of money you give away a bit of your baby,” Matt said. “I love our friends who raise hundreds of millions of dollars and give awareness to this industry. But the timing wasn’t good for us. We haven’t had the impact we want to have.”
And what is that impact? Nothing less than to become the industry standard.
“I go on LinkedIn and look at the questions that are asked by shippers,” Matt said. “That should be digitized, trying to get all that capacity under one roof. Not Google it. Not call a friend. Go to one source and have all the information there.”
This is the vision, and this is the focus, of pop.capacity. The drive and determination of the pop.capacity team is the reason it is coming to fruition.