A little more than five years ago, we founded FourKites with a big, long-term vision for how technology could transform our fragmented and archaic global supply chains. We envisioned a future world of interconnected, secure, intelligent networks, where supply chain partners could find new ways to optimize operations, innovate and deliver greater customer service and value through real-time visibility.
The announcement this week of our $100 million Series D growth financing represents a huge milestone in our progress toward this future, as a group of existing and new investors — led by Thomas H. Lee Partners, L.P. (THL), with participation from Zebra Technologies, Volvo Group Venture Capital AB and Qualcomm Ventures — brings not just capital, but also fresh ideas, expertise and capabilities that will propel us into a new era of end-to-end supply chain visibility. I wanted to mark the occasion with a brief reflection on how far we’ve come, and the exciting road that is still ahead.
When FourKites started, our first order of business was to solve the perennial bane of supply chain logistics professionals everywhere: Where’s my truck? While millions of consumers had grown accustomed to tracking their shipments with the click of a mouse, supply chain professionals had largely resigned themselves to doing business in the dark — literally unable to track the trillions of dollars’ worth of commercial shipments traversing the globe in pitch-black cargo containers, trailers and rail cars.
Fast forward to 2021, and the “where’s my truck” problem is becoming a relic of the past. Working with the world’s biggest shippers and their carrier and broker partners, we literally created the category of Real-Time Transportation Visibility Platforms (which has since received Gartner’s imprimatur) and then built the world’s best. Today, we track more than 1 million shipments every day, across every mode of transport, touching easily half of the Fortune 500 as either customers or partners in our network, and hundreds more of the world’s leading brands, including nine of the top-10 CPG companies and 18 of the top-20 F&B companies.
In short, task one: Check. Now what?
Having injected real-time visibility into commercial logistics, the next phase is about taking visibility end to end, connecting the physical and digital worlds of warehouses, stores and transportation with real-time data and machine learning to transform supply chains on an even larger scale.
Which brings me back to our latest funding round. Our lead investor THL shares our vision for the future of supply chain automation. Its recently announced Automation Fund supports management teams with both capital and a 20-member integrated team of automation experts, and to-date has funded several other automation platform companies, including Autostore, Material Handling Systems, Fortna and Phytech. We look forward to collaborating closely with Mike, Sam, Ravi, Gaurav and the entire THL team and its ecosystem to advance the frontiers of supply chain automation. (THL Managing Director Mike Kaczmarek will join the FourKites Board of Directors.)
Volvo Group Venture Capital is focused on trends shaping the future of transportation and makes investments that drive transformation by facilitating the creation of new services and solutions. Investment Director Dan Tram and his team view FourKites as the leader in the new de facto standard in real-time visibility, and as the trucking industry grows increasingly digital, we will work together to build the next generation of predictive products and services.
Zebra Technologies brings its tremendous leadership in enterprise asset intelligence, which strives to make every asset and worker visible, connected and fully optimized. Zebra and FourKites will collaborate to provide companies with real-time visibility into their goods and assets throughout the journey — from the manufacturing facility all the way to the retail store location.
And finally, Qualcomm Ventures. The world’s leading wireless technology innovator brings its scale and capabilities in wireless, 5G and IoT to the FourKites ecosystem, creating massive new opportunities to collaboratively shape the future of tracking devices and many other innovations that will bring real-time visibility to every aspect of supply chain operations.
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This new funding round represents both “FourKites 2.0” and the advent of a new era for supply chain management and automation, as we shift our focus from real-time transportation visibility, to real-time supply chain visibility. Answering the “where’s my truck” question is yesterday’s news. True visibility means knowing what is happening in your supply chain, anywhere and everywhere, at any given point in time. In the coming years, real-time visibility, with AI and machine learning at its core, will transform supply planning, demand monitoring, vehicle operations, warehouse and retail management, procurement and so much more.
The unprecedented supply chain challenges and disruptions of 2020 bring to mind a quote from writer and editor Michelle Dean: “Crisis forces commonality of purpose on one another.” I am incredibly excited to enter this new era in supply chain management, united in purpose with a brilliant and committed community of investors, customers and industry partners who will bring to fruition the automated, interconnected and collaborative global supply chains of the future.
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