Iron Sheepdog is fixing short-haul trucking from the bottom up | Tech Crunch

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Iron Sheepdog co-founder and CTO Will Lawrence likes to say that sometimes building something simple is really hard. Iron Sheepdog's mission is to build easy-to-use technology for the short-haul trucking industry. The company believes that it is this approach that has allowed it to see a level of industry adoption that its competitors lack.

The Williamsburg, Virginia-based company's software is looking to make the short-haul trucking space, which involves outsourcing short-haul jobs to truckers booked through brokers, more seamless and efficient. Companies can track their contract trucks through Iron Sheepdog, providing more transparency on where the trucks are, how long the job will take and how much to pay. Truckers themselves get an easy-to-use app that helps them accept jobs and get paid online.

Iron Sheepdog announced this week a $10 million Series B round led by SJF Ventures in partnership with Grand Ventures, Supply Chain Ventures and strategic partners. Mike Van Sickel, co-founder and CEO of Iron Sheepdog, told TechCrunch that the company will spend its first few years ensuring that it can reach customer adoption and profitability. Now looking to measure up.

“Faith is the most important quality; We have to get a subhauler to use the app,” Van Sickel said. “Any solution that forces contractors (subhaulers) to use, if they're not willing to adopt it, you're creating more problems.”

The idea for Iron Sheepdog came from first-hand experience from the three co-founders, Van Sickel said. None of them worked as short-term truckers, but for the companies that hired them. While there are software solutions for every other part of their business, Van Sickel says there isn't a great solution for hiring short-haul truckers. The current process has frustrated both parties.

Although not the first company to attempt to create software to manage these short-haul truckers, Iron Sheepdog has seen its growth double every year since its founding. Because it approaches construction differently than its competitors. Instead of focusing on contractors for adoption, they started with short-haul truck drivers.

“We chose to look at the problem from the bottom up rather than from the top down,” Van Sickel said. “We made a very simple app for the subhauler and tied it to 24-hour pay. I call it simple; They embraced it because it was deliberately simple.

Signing up truckers for the free app leads to signing up the brokers who supply their jobs, and it works like a chain reaction. Contractors also want to sign up, knowing the app gives them access to a network of more than 4,000 short-haul truckers. The company makes money as these contractors pay underlying truckers through the platform.

With a significant number of brokers and truckers on the platform, Van Sickel said companies can start making better use of them. For example, a company can rent a truck to do two jobs on the same day or drop off material at two sites, reducing the number of trucks needed. It also helps in reducing emissions.

“If you think about Uber Eats, the Uber driver doesn't leave his house, pick up a sandwich, go to your house and go home. That's not how the industry works,” Van Sickel said. “Once you get these trucks on board you can start finding ways to make better use of those trucks.”

Iron Sheepdog's round stood out for a few reasons. For one, investments in construction technology startups have increased in recent years, but this part of the system has not seen the same attention. What good is software that speeds up job site planning if coordinating trucks to get the job done slows down the process?

Innovations around trucking have largely overlooked this area. There are already companies looking to build autonomous construction vehicles and last-mile freight, but much less technology is devoted to dump trucks and the like. Other companies are looking to help solve this, including TruckIT and Loadtraxx, but Iron Sheepdog appears to be one of the few, if not the only, venture-backed startup tackling this problem.

Also noteworthy is the focus on Iron Sheepdog adoption. While it seems obvious that companies should build products that are actually used by the organizations they target, that doesn't always happen, and as a result there are many industries that are lagging behind technology-wise.

There is nothing good about new tech if no one uses it.

“It should be a crawl, walk, run approach, not a crawl, run approach,” Van Sickel said. “There's a disconnect between some of the software solutions being developed and the willingness of the people who actually use them to adopt them.”

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